A “nearly 2,000 year-old fabric” has been identified as preserving a special blue color that was important to such noble purposes as making blue-fringed priestly garments and special adornments in the Tabernacle. The book of Exodus has many references to the use of “blue” items in its description of how Tabernacle adornments and priestly garments should be made. If this fabric is 2,000 years old, then it dates to the approximate time of Jesus Christ’s life.

Ezekiel 27:7 also mentions blue and purple together among noteworthy trading goods exchanged in the ancient Phoenician city of Tyre. The color blue is mentioned jointly with purple in Jeremiah 10:9 along with gold and silver indicating that these colors were associated with wealth and high rank. This connection has existed through a long period of ancient history. A quick check with the 1943 edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica indicates that purple was so rare and costly that being “born in the purple” referred to being born into royal or imperial rank and that “promotion to the purple” is a euphemism in the Catholic church to one being promoted to the rank of Cardinal. I can also recall reading historical accounts of the Roman Empire that the phrase “to assume the purple” was connected to someone being elevated to the rank of Caesar. The rarity and costliness of the color purple has also been traced to the Phoenicians, the name given to the empire/alliance of the Israelite tribes with the smaller city-states of Tyre, Sidon, etc. that began in the reigns of Kings David and Solomon (II Samuel 5:11, I Kings 5:1-18, 9:26-27) and continued until the Israelite tribes were scattered into exile. 

The New Testament has one reference to the color purple. A woman named Lydia was a “seller of purple” (Acts 16:14) which meant she was a member of a privileged caste of merchants who dealt in purple-colored garments and adornments. The New Testament does not even mention the color blue.

The reason I mention the regal connections for the colors blue and purple is that I hope that forensic scientists will analyze this ancient fabric carefully to see if its original color was blue or purple. After all, do we know whether the ancient purple dye will fade into a bluish hue after two millennia have passed? A lot may depend on the temperature and humidity in which the ancient fabric was stored and preserved. The ancient fabric was found in the 1950s, but the article doesn’t specifically state where it was first found.

I thought readers might find a discussion of this well-preserved ancient fabric dating to the time of Jesus to be of interest. Whether its original color was a deep blue or a shade of purple, the fabric likely belonged to someone important.