A. Samuel Bochart as a Pioneer in the Study of Tekhelet and Argaman,· His Treatment of the Zoological Aspects of the Subject of Johannes Braunius’ “De Vestibus Sacerdotum Hebraeorum”

Long after Rondelet had furnished the starting point for the scientific study of ancient purple dyeing in general, the investigation of Semitic purple in particular was allowed to remain an uncultivated field anxiously awaiting some energetic labourer to pass his plough over the desert-land overgrown with briars and brambles.

Such a one finally arose in the person of Samuel Bochart. In his Hierozoicon,1 a monument of vast learning and industry, Bochart devotes considerable space to the discussion of תכלת and ארגמן, paying special attention, in conformity with the plan of his work, to the zoological aspect of the subject. He makes no attempt, it is true, to identify the species furnishing Tekhelet and Argaman respectively with actual species inhabiting the mighty deep, but he does try to rediscover them in Pliny’s feeble and shallow descriptions of the purple molluscs: 

 

“It is proven that תכלת Tekhelet, and ארגמן Argamman, are two kinds of sea purple, of which the former is blue of shellfish, the latter is properly purple, and is made of the so-called purpura”  “Probatur תכלת Tekhelet, et ארגמן Argaman, esse marinae Purpurae duo genera, quorum ille caeruleum ex conchylie, hoc proprie purpureum fuetit, ex Purpurae proprie dictae sanie factum.”2

 

Bochart maintaining that the Purpura conchyliata was produced from a particular species distinct from those used in the dyeing of Purpura properly so called, identifies Tekhelet with the dye obtained from the former and Argaman with that extracted from the species yielding Purpura in the strict sense.

His identification of Tekhelet is grounded upon the following reasoning: Tekhelet according to Jewish tradition was a blue colour produced with the dye of a certain species of marine-shell-snail. A certain variety of conchylium purple was of a blue colour: ergo Tekhelet is to be identified with that particular variety. It goes without saying that the argument ultimately rests upon the assumption that Iakinthos of the LXX is identical with the Tekhelet of the Talmud and of Maimonides. Bochart’s grounds will be examined later.

The next worker in the field of Semitic purple was J. Braunius.3 His contribution to the investigation of the subject exhibits little that might be characterised as a distinct advance upon Bochart.

 

 

  1. Bochart. Samuel, Hierozoicon, London (1663), part II, chs. 9-11.
  2. Idem, p. 736.
  3. Braun, Johannes, בגדי כהנים id est Vestibus sacerdotum.