After being flogged with a dreadful Roman scourge, Jesus was taken by Pilates soldiers
into the governors headquarters where the whole garrison gathered around Him. It was here
that the soldiers placed a crown of thorns on His head, a reed in His hand, and a robe on His
body. Skeptics maintain that a contradiction exists between the Gospel accounts because they
describe the color of the robe differently. Whereas Matthew says that the soldiers put a
scarlet robe on Jesus (27:27-28), Mark says that they clothed Him with purple
(15:16-17), and John states that the soldiers put a purple robe on
Him (19:1-2). These differences have lead some to believe and advocate that the Gospel writers
wrote under their own power with no help from a Higher Being, and thus they contradicted one
another in their narratives. Because increasingly more people are swallowing such allegations
blindly and rejecting the inerrancy of the Scriptures, logical answers are required. The question
is, do such valid answers exist for the differences in the Gospel narratives concerning the robe
placed upon Jesus after His scourging?
All would agree that we oftentimes see colors a little differently. What one person calls blue,
someone else may be more specific and call navy blue. A die-hard football fan may refer to his
teams color as dark red, whereas someone else who sees the teams faded uniforms for
the first time at the end of a grueling season may conclude that the teams color is more
maroon. While coloring pictures for their parents, one child may color an orange-yellow Sun, while
the other draws a Sun that is bright yellow. Surely no one would accuse these individuals of lying
or being deceitful because one was more specific than another. Likewise, skeptics have no solid
ground on which to stand when they disregard common sense and create biblical contradictions that
do not exist. The simple fact is, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John wrote from different perspectives;
they did not participate in collusion. The same way that individuals today look at colors and see
different tones, shades, and tints, the Gospel writers saw the activities surrounding the life of
Jesus from different angles.
The garment placed upon Jesus after his brutal scourging likely was similar to the faded
football uniforms mentioned above, but in His case we read of a scarlet robe...faded to
resemble purple (The Wycliffe Bible Commentary). [It is difficult to imagine Pilate
arraying Jesus bloody body with a new robe. More likely it was one that had been worn and
cast off as useless (Barnes).] According to A.T. Robertson, there were various shades of purple
and scarlet in the first century and it was not easy to distinguish the colors or tints (1997). In
fact, the ancients (especially the Romans) used the term purple when speaking of various shades of
red (McGarvey, 1875, p. 361; Barnes, 1997). Consequently, these different colors sometimes would
be called by the same name.
As one can see, there is no discrepancy in the Gospel narratives concerning the color of the
robe Jesus wore. Just like others of their day, the Gospel writers simply used the terms scarlet
and purple interchangeably.
Barnes, Albert (1997), Barnes Notes (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
McGarvey, J.W. (1875), Commentary on Matthew and Mark (Delight AR: Gospel Light).
Robertson, A.T. (1997), Robertsons Word Pictures in the New Testament (Electronic
The Wycliffe Bible Commentary (1985), Electronic Database: Biblesoft.
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