C. Professor Riedel’s Theory of Argaman

In a recent contribution to the etymology of Tekhelet and Argaman, the writer, Dr. Riedel, reaches the novel conclusion that Tekhelet should be rendered by purple and Argaman by Indian-red (Indisch rot)1. Thus Argaman according to him is not purple at all but a vegetable dyestuff. He refers, of course, at the very beginning of his essay to the Greek versions, but Iakinthos he misunderstands and Porphyra for Argaman he simply rejects.2 For the present suffice it to remark that Riedel has reckoned without the host. It is all very well arguing the incorrectness of this or that rendering in the old versions, but in a case like the present one, any amount of argument and dialectic is so much empty talk. The authors of the LXX, Philo and Josephus, all lived in times when both Tekhelet and Argaman were used in the temple. Josephus indeed officiated himself in the Sanctuary. Their renderings are not merely renderings; they are unimpeachable testimonies that Tekhelet and Argaman in the days of the Second Temple were known as, and designated by, Iakinthos and Porphyra respectively. The worst that the most sceptical mind could do would be to doubt whether the priestly authorities of the Second Temple rightly interpreted these terms, and whether they had not been better advised had they consulted some Biblical scholar who might have taught them to adopt “Indisch rot” instead of purple for the Argaman of the sacerdotal vestments and of the temple curtains.



  1.  A vegetable dye obtained from Rubia and Morinda citrifolia. Cf. Alttestamentliche Untersuchungen. Heft I (1902), p. 63899.
  2.  “Die alten Übersetzer verstehen unter ארגמן … unter Tekhelet den roten Hysginpurpur der Hyacinthuspflanze.” The arguments by which Riedel tries to show that Tekhelet denotes red purple resembling the colour of blood are indeed too futile to need refutation. A mere glance at the chapters dealing with Tekhelet and hi/lazon in the present work will, I am sure, convince the reader of the justice of this condemnatory remark.