Notes to the Biblical Origin of the Red, White and Blue

J. Richter

Fig. 1: Widukind's Tomb at Enger (D)
Widukind dressed in purple, red and blue and covered with white stars

This report document some notes to the Biblical Origin of the Red, White and Blue by Reginald H. W. Cox, based on the Source: 'Wake Up!' magazine, November/December 1992 Recent correspondence from one of our American readers has revealed that Charles W. Stewart, superintendent of naval records and library of the United States Navy Department, made the following observations in the Geographic, concerning the origin of the colors used in the national flag of America: "The flag may trace its ancestry back to Mount Sinai, whence the Lord gave to Moses the Ten Commandments and the Book of the Law, which testify of God's will and man's duty; and were deposited in the Ark of the Covenant within the Tabernacle, whose curtains were blue, purple, scarlet, and fine-twined linen." "Before the ark stood the table of shewbread, with its cloth of blue, scarlet and white. These colors of the Hebrew Tabernacle were taken over by the early Western Church for its own and given to all the nations of western Europe for their flags. When the United States chose their flag it was of the colors of old, but new in arrangement and design, and they called it "The Stars and Stripes."

"Our flag is of the colors red, white and blue. Red is for courage, zeal, and fervency; white is for purity, cleanness of life and rectitude of conduct; blue is for loyalty, devotion, friendship, justice and truth. The star is an ancient symbol of India, Persia and Egypt, and signifies dominion and sovereignty."

Notes
Although the first two paragraphs of the statement belong to a mythical background the description of the Tabernacle's curtains may be based on historical backgrounds. The ancestry of the colors blue, purple, scarlet, and the fine-twined linen materials however may be much older than the event at Mount Sinai. In fact the color scarlet is not the standard red, but according to Wikipedia's entry Scarlet a hue between red and orange. To be precise the American flag should be defined as the exact versions of blue, scarlet and white. The early Western Church most probably inherited the colors of the Hebrew Tabernacle for its own but merely gave it to some nations of western Europe for their flags. Exceptions for this inheritance will be illustrated in the following chapters. When the United States chose their flag it was of the colors of old, but new in arrangement and design, and they called it "The Stars and Stripes. The last chapter assigning red is for courage, zeal, and fervency; white is for purity, cleanness of life and rectitude of conduct; blue is for loyalty, devotion, friendship, justice and truth is disputable. The assignment for the colors purple, red, white and blue have been made as a divine command without further explanation.

Exception for the inheritance of the colors blue, purple, scarlet 1
In 1545 Martin Luther published a translation 2 of the Bible, in which he described the colors for the Covenant Tent and the Temple. His translation of the Bible into the language of the people (instead of Latin) made it more accessible, causing a tremendous impact on the church and on German culture. The translation of the entire Bible into German was published in a six-part edition in 1534, a collaborative effort of Luther, Johannes Bugenhagen, Justus Jonas, Caspar Creuziger, Philipp Melanchthon, Matthäus Aurogallus, and Georg Rörer. Luther worked on refining the translation up to his death in 1546: he had worked on the edition that was printed that year. The translation fostered the development of a standard version of the German language, added several principles to the art of translation, and influenced the translation into English of the King James Bible. The 2nd Book of Moses - Exodus 25-3 applies the words for red colors scarlet and rosin-red. Instead of the traditional color blue Luther however erroneously uses yellow. The multiple, repeated3 error is a systematic error and may have influenced the public opinion of the symbolic colors yellow and blue. In the Middle Age yellow had been a stigmatic color to be used for lower-class people, but now it must have been upgraded to a divine symbol instead of blue. This prolonged error sustained for a long time and has been found in other Bibles dated 1741. The replacement interrupted the idea of blue as a divine command and replaced the blue symbol by yellow.
1 Info from Wikipedia Martin Luther 2 Source for the Luther-Bible published in 1545 3 See the appendix for quotations

In the Middle Age German royals and emperors were as eager as any other ruler to apply red and blue in their coats-of-arms and clothes, but after the Reformation Germany seems to have lost the idea of blue as a respected symbol. The Hermetic Codex describes a number of Frankish, Saxon and German emperors, kings and dukes who dressed themselves in purple, red, white and blue such as: • Emperor Charlemagne is being crowned at a solemn ceremony on Christmas Day, AD 800, by Pope Leo at Rome. The Pope is wearing a purple garment, Charlemagne is dressed in blue and the surrounding persons are wearing purple, blue or red robes4. Otto I (the Great), Roman emperor (962-973), wearing garments in red, blue and golden5. Henry II (973–1024), called the Holy or the Saint, was the fifth and last Holy Roman Emperor of the Ottonian dynasty, from his coronation in Rome in 1014 until his death a decade later. His garments are orange and blue with red & blue decorations.6 Conrad II (c. 990 – June 4, 1039) all persons are wearing red, blue and purple garments .. Holy Roman Emperor from 1027 until his death. 14th century miniature of Conrad II. 7 Conrad III (1093 – 15 February 1152 in Bamberg) the first King of Germany of the Hohenstaufen dynasty. (miniature from the 13th century) . The Garments are in red, orange and blue8. Widukind at his Tomb at Enger (early 11th Century, colours reconstructed according to a description made 1578 by Reinerus Reineccius) 9 Barbarossa and his sons King Henry VI (left) and Duke Frederick VI (1155 - All dressed in red & blue garmentsin the Welf Chronicle )10 Henry VI (Roman-German emperor, 1190-1197) in a blue garment and red-purple overcoat11 Roman-German Emperor Frederick II (king between 1212-1250 and emperor 1220-1250) wearing a red overcoat and blue robe.

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4 reference: Red and Blue in the Middle Age 5 reference to: Blue and Red in Medieval Garments 6 reference to: Blue and Red in Medieval Garments 7reference to: Blue and Red in Medieval Garments 8 reference to: Blue and Red in Medieval Garments 9 Source: Westfalian History - reference: Widukind's Tomb 10 References to: A compact Overview of Bipolar Symbolism and Blue and Red in Medieval Garments 11 Reference: Blue and Red in Medieval Garments

The list seems to end close to the end of the Middle Age, but strange as it may seem the color yellow had already reached Germany before Luther started the Bible's translation.

Fig. 2: Banner for the Holy Roman Emperor (after 1400).

In the meantime other countries such as England, France, the Netherlands and may others proceeded to define their flags in red, white and blue...

The Evolution from Scarlet to Crimson
A number of Bible-translations differentiates between the hues in the divine commands for the Covenant Tent and Solomon's Temple. The Wycliffe translation defines the colors as “red”, but the King James-Bibel (from 1769) applies Scarlet for the curtains in the Covenant Tent and Crimson for Solomon's Temple. In the English Wikipedia however Scarlet is a hue between red and orange, whereas Crimson is a straight red color. We might now expect some more orange hues in early versions of the banners, paintings and sculptures. Indeed orange has been found in several early symbols. In Fontevraud Abbey, where the early English royals have been buried in brightly colored tombs, the sculptures for Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine are colored orange or scarlet (?).

Fig. 3: Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine in Fontevraud Abbey in Scarlet/Blue or Orange/Blue In the Netherlands, where the standard Bible-translation Statenvertaling 1637 in analogy to the King James-Bibel (1769) applies Scarlet for the Covenant Tent and Karmin for Temple of Solomon, the first version “Prinsevlag” of the Dutch flag has been defined as a blue-white-orange tricolor. The original color orange has also been used for South Africa's national flag, 1928-1994:

Fig. 4: South Africa's national flag, 1928-1994. A version of the original Dutch flag had been used as the flag of the Dutch East India Company at the Cape (with the VOC logo in the centre) from 1652 until 1795. The South African addition to the design was three smaller flags centred in the white stripe. The smaller flags were the Union Flag (mirrored) towards the hoist, the flag of the Orange Free State (mirrored) hanging vertically in the middle and the Transvaal Vierkleur towards the fly12.

12 Info from: Flag_of_South_Africa

The Quality of Bible-Translations
There is one Bible and there are may translations in various languages. Translations are human activities, which may modify the divine symbols... In only a few lines two translation errors have been identified. Martin Luther made a mistake in applying the color “yellow” instead of “blue” and others used the simple color “red” whereas others identified two different hues “scarlet” in the Covenant Tent respectively “crimson” in Solomon's temple. A web site Colors in the Bible and their Meaning 13 explains the words in the Hebrew and Greek languages for the original manuscripts, which in the course of time must have been copied numerous times. Many people have been killed by misinterpreting biblical quotations. I can imagine some may have been sacrificed on misinterpretations caused by wrong translations and bad copying. I tried to find the cause for the mistakes in the translations, but these studies require a full comprehension in Hebrew and Greek languages. Blue The Hebrew word for blue is 'tekeleth' and the Greek word for blue is 'huakinthinos'. Blue is frequently associated with garments, tabernacle and temple furnishings such as in Exodus 26:1. Red Several Hebrew words are used for red, e.g. respectively 'cuwph' (red, reed). 'adam' and 'admoniy' (dyed red)

In the original Bible Adam had been androgynous (formed male and female simultaneously). "And the LORD God formed man (Adam) of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being." Genesis 2:7 In Greek 'purrhos' translates to red as the color of fire. Purple The Hebrew word for purple or red-purple is 'argaman'. The Greek word 'porphura', refers to purple and the purple fish or shell from which the dye color had been derived. In ancient eras purple has always been associated with royalty e.g.: "So Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal apparel of blue and white, with a great crown of gold and a garment of fine linen and purple; and the city of Shushan rejoiced and was glad." Esther 8:15 "And they clothed Him with purple; and they twisted a crown of thorns, put it on His head, .... And when they had mocked Him, they took the purple off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him out to crucify Him." Mark 15:17&20

13 Colours in the Bible

Appendix 1 - The Error of Martin Luther in the Bible-Translation (1545)
In 1545 Luther published a translation14 of the Bible, in which he described the colors for the Covenant Tent and the Temple.

In The 2nd Book of Moses - Exodus
The 2nd Book of Moses - Exodus 25-3 applies the words for red colors scarlet and rosin-red. Instead of the traditional color blue Luther however erroneously uses yellow. The multiple, repeated error is a systematic error and may have influenced the public opinion of the symbolic colors yellow and blue. In the Middle Age yellow had been a stigmatic color to be used for lower-class people, but now it must have been upgraded to a divine symbol instead of blue. Das ist aber das Hebopfer, das ihr von ihnen nehmen sollt: Gold, Silber, Erz, gelbe Seide, Scharlaken, Rosinrot, weiße Seide, Ziegenhaar, Also in Exodus 26-1,31,36 he applies scarlet and rosin-red, yellow and white: Die Wohnung sollst du machen von zehn Teppichen, von weißer gezwirnter Seide, von gelber Seide, von Scharlaken und Rosinrot. Cherubim sollst du dran machen künstlich. Und sollst einen Vorhang machen von gelber Seide, Scharlaten und Rosinrot und gezwirnter weißer Seide; und sollst Cherubim dran machen künstlich. Und sollst ein Tuch machen in die Tür der Hütte, gewirkt von gelber Seide, Rosinrot, Scharlaken und gezwirnter weißer Seide. In Exodus 27-16 as well he applies scarlet and rosin-red, yellow and white: Aber in dem Tor des Hofes soll ein Tuch sein, zwanzig Ellen breit, gewirket von gelber Seide, Scharlaken, Rosinrot und gezwirnter weißer Seide, dazu vier Säulen auf ihren vier Füßen. etc..

The Second Book of Chronicles
The Second Book of Chronicles (Chapter 2, 7 & 14, and Chapter 3, 14) refer to scarlet and rosin-red and yellow: So sende mir nun einen weisen Mann, zu arbeiten mit Gold, Silber, Erz, Eisen, Scharlaken, Rosinrot, gelber Seide und der da wisse auszugraben mit den Weisen, die bei mir sind in Juda und Jerusalem, welche mein Vater David geschickt hat. So sende ich nun einen weisen Mann, der Verstand hat, Huram-Abif, der ein Sohn ist eines Weibes aus den Töchtern Dan, und sein Vater ein Tyrer gewesen ist, der weiß zu arbeiten an Gold, Silber, Erz, Eisen, Stein, Holz, Scharlaken, gelber Seide, Leinen, Rosinrot und zu graben allerlei und allerlei künstlich zu machen, was man ihm vor gibt, mit deinen Weisen und mit den Weisen meines Herrn Königs David, deines Vaters. Er machte auch einen Vorhang von Gelbwerk, Scharlaken, Rosinrot und Leinwerk; und machte Cherubim drauf.

14 Luther-Bible published in 1545

Appendix 2 – Equivalent lines in Wycliffe's Bible (1382)
Exodus 25-3 applies Purple Red (→ reed), and Hyazinthe (blue). Forsothe these thingis it ben, whiche ye schulen take, gold, and siluer, and bras, iacynt, 4 and purpur, and reed silk twies died, and bijs, heeris of geet, and `skynnes of wetheris maad reed, and skynnes of iacynt, and trees of Sechym, Exodus 26-1,31,36: 1 Forsothe the tabernacle schal be maad thus; thou schalt make ten curtyns of bijs foldyd ayen, and of iacynt, of purpur, and of reed silk twies died, dyuersid bi broidery werk. 31 Thou schalt make also a veil of iacynt, and purpur, and of reed silk twies died, and of bijs foldid ayen bi broideri werk, and wouun to gidere bi fair dyuersite; 36 Thou schalt make also a tente in the entryng of the tabernacle, of iacynt, and purpur, and of reed selk twies died, and of bijs foldid ayen bi broidery werk. Exodus 27-16: 16 Forsothe in the entryng of the `greet strete schal be maad a tente of twenti cubitis, of iacynt, and purpur, and of reed selk twies died, and of bijs foldid ayen bi broideri werk; it schal haue four pileris, with so many foundementis.

Second Book of Chronicles
2 Paralipomenon (chapter.. 2, 7 & 14, and chapter 3, 14) applies Purple Red (→ reed), and Hyazinthe (blue). 7 Therfor sende thou to me a lernd man, that can worche in gold, and siluer, bras, and yrun, purpur, rede silke, and iacynct; and that can graue in grauyng with these crafti men, which Y haue with me in Judee and Jerusalem, whiche Dauid, my fadir, made redi. 14 my fadir, the sone of a womman of the lynage of Dan, whos fadir was a man of Tire; whiche Iram can worche in gold, and siluer, bras, and irun, and marble, and trees, also in purpur, and iacynct, and bijs, and rede silke; and which Iram can graue al grauyng, and fynde prudentli, what euer thing is nedeful in werk with thi crafti men, and with the crafti men of my lord Dauid, thi fadir. 14 Also he made a veil of iacynct and purpur, of reed seelk and bijs; and weuyde cherubyns therynne.

Appendix 3 – Equivalent lines in the King James Bible (1769)
Exodus 25-3 applies Blue, Scharlet, and Purple: And this is the offering which ye shall take of them; gold, and silver, and brass, and blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goats' hair, Exodus 26-1,31,36 Moreover thou shalt make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet: with cherubims of cunning work shalt thou make them. And thou shalt make a vail of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen of cunning work: with cherubims shall it be made: And thou shalt make an hanging for the door of the tent, of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen, wrought with needlework. Exodus 27-16: And for the gate of the court shall be an hanging of twenty cubits, of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen, wrought with needlework: and their pillars shall be four, and their sockets four.

Second Book of Chronicles
2 Chronicles (Vulgate 2 Paralipomenon) (Chapter.. 2, 7 & 14, and Chapter 3, 14) applies Blue, Crimson,and Purple: Send me now therefore a man cunning to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, and in iron, and in purple, and crimson, and blue, and that can skill to grave with the cunning men that are with me in Judah and in Jerusalem, whom David my father did provide. The son of a woman of the daughters of Dan, and his father was a man of Tyre, skilful to work in gold, and in silver, in brass, in iron, in stone, and in timber, in purple, in blue, and in fine linen, and in crimson; also to grave any manner of graving, and to find out every device which shall be put to him, with thy cunning men, and with the cunning men of my lord David thy father. And he made the vail of blue, and purple, and crimson, and fine linen, and wrought cherubims thereon.

Appendix 4 – Equivalent lines in the Dutch Bible - Statenvertaling 1637
Het tweede Boeck MOSIS, genaemt EXODUS. 25-3 in der die Statenvertaling 1637 applies skyblue, scarlet and purple: Dit nu is het hef-offer, ’t welck ghy van hen nemen sult, gout ende silver, ende koper. Als oock hemels-blaeuw ende purper, ende scharlaken, ende fijn linnen, ende geyten [hayr]. 1 DEn a1Tabernakel nu sult ghy maken van tien gordijnen: van fijn getweernt linnen, ende hemels-blaeuw, ende purper, ende scharlaken [met] Cherubim van het alderkonstelicxte werck sult ghyse maken. 31 Daerna sult ghy eenen evoor-hanck maken, van hemels-blaeuw, ende purper, ende scharlaken, ende fijn getweernt linnen: van het alder konstelicxte werck sal men-se maken met Cherubim. 36 Ghy sult oock aen de deure der Tente een decksel maken, van hemels-blaeuw, ende purper, ende scharlaken, ende fijn getweernt linnen, geborduert werck. 16 In de poorte nu des voorhofs sal een decksel zijn van twintich ellen, hemels-blaeuw ende purper, ende scharlaken, ende fijn getweernt linnen, geborduert-werck: hare pilaren viere, ende hare voeten viere.

Das zweite Buch der Chronik
Het tweede Boeck der CHRONIKEN (chapter.. 2, 7 & 14, and chapter. 3, 14) sky-blue, crimson and purple: 7 So sendt my nu eenen 15 wijsen man om te wercken; in gout, ende in silver, ende in koper, ende in yser, ende in purper, ende karmesijn, ende hemels-blauw, ende die wete graveerselen te graveeren, met de wijse die by my zijn in Iuda, ende in Ierusalem die mijn vader David beschickt heeft. 14 Den soon eener 23vrouwe uyt de 24dochteren Dan, ende wiens vader een man geweest is van Tyrus, die weet te wercken in gout, ende in silver, in koper, in yser, in steenen, ende in hout, in purper, in hemels-blauw, ende in fijn lijnen, ende in karmesijn, ende om alle graveersel te graveren, ende om te bedencken allen 25vernuftigen vont, 26die hem sal voorgestelt worden, met uwe wijse, ende de wijse mijns heeren uwes vaders Davids. 14 Hy maeckte oock cden 26Voorhanck van hemels-blauw, ende purper, ende carmesijn, ende fijn linnen: ende hy maeckte Cherubim daer op.

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