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The Meaning of White in the Bible: A Study of Symbolism

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The Symbolism of White in the Bible

The Bible is rich with symbolism, and the color white is one of its most evocative and significant symbols. Throughout biblical texts, white conveys purity, righteousness, holiness, and divine presence. This blog post will delve deeply into how the color white is symbolically used in the Bible, exploring its meanings and implications across different contexts, stories, and teachings.

The Bible is a rich tapestry of symbols and imagery, each element carefully chosen to convey deeper spiritual truths and moral lessons. Among these symbols, the color white stands out as one of the most profound and multifaceted.

White is frequently used in the Bible to represent purity, righteousness, and the divine. This post will delve into the symbolism of white in the Bible, exploring its various connotations and how it plays a crucial role in biblical narratives and teachings.

I love studying symbolism in the Bible and even learning the Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic words for biblical terms (you can find the list of translations for white in those languages below). 

The color white is the presence of all the light in the visible spectrum. When it enters our eyes, it stimulates all of our cone cells that God made light-sensitive. Snow and clouds appear white because almost all of the light from the sun is reflected by water (either frozen or liquid), with only a small amount of the visible spectrum absorbed.

In the King James Version (KJV) Bible, the word ‘white’ occurs seventy-five times, twenty-nine of which are in the New Testament. It is the most frequently mentioned color in the Bible(The second most mentioned color in the Old Testament is blue, which occurs fifty times, and next, red, which occurs forty-seven times.

image of white stones for the post on white in the Bible

The Symbol of Purity and Innocence

One of the most prominent symbols associated with the color white in the Bible is purity. Throughout both the Old and New Testaments, white is often used to describe things that are clean, unblemished, and pure. This symbolism is evident in various passages.

For example, in the book of Isaiah, the prophet declares, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18). This verse uses the color white to symbolize the purity that comes from divine forgiveness and the cleansing of sin.

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
    they shall become like wool.

Isaiah 1:18 (ESV)

Similarly, in the New Testament, the color white is frequently associated with innocence and moral purity. In the book of Revelation, those who have been redeemed are described as wearing white robes, signifying their righteousness and purity before God. Revelation 7:9-14 describes a great multitude standing before the throne of God, clothed in white robes and holding palm branches.

When asked who these people are, an elder replies, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14). Here, the white robes represent the purity and righteousness granted to believers through the sacrificial death of Lord Jesus Christ.

 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

Revelation 7:14 (ESV)

What has several biblical meanings or representations is often used to depict purity and the redemption of sin as in Psalm 51:7 below and Isaiah 1:18.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Psalm 51:7 (ESV)

In the Bible, the color white frequently symbolizes righteousness, purity, and holiness. This symbolic use of white is woven throughout the scriptures, providing a vivid representation of divine sanctity and moral integrity. From the Old Testament to the New Testament, white serves as a visual representation of a state of being that is free from sin and in alignment with God’s will.

One of the most notable instances of white symbolizing righteousness occurs in the book of Isaiah. In Isaiah 1:18, it is written, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”

This passage illustrates the transformative power of God’s forgiveness, turning the stain of sin into the purity of snow. The imagery of white snow and wool emphasizes the complete cleansing and renewal that comes from divine mercy.

In the New Testament, the symbolism of white continues prominently, particularly in the Book of Revelation. Revelation 3:5 states, “The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.”

Here, white garments represent the victorious and righteous life of believers who have remained faithful. The white garments reward their perseverance and symbolize their purity and acceptance before God.

Additionally, in the vision of Jesus’ transfiguration (Matthew 17:2), Jesus’ face shines like the sun, and his clothes become as white as the light. This moment underscores Christ’s divine nature and absolute righteousness.

The dazzling white light signifies his purity and unique status as the sinless Son of God, further cementing the association of white with holiness and moral perfection.

And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.

Matthew 17:2 (ESV)

Overall, the color white in the Bible is a powerful metaphor for righteousness. It encapsulates themes of purity, holiness, and divine approval. This symbolism encourages believers to strive for a life that reflects these qualities, embodying the moral and spiritual integrity that white represents.

Through the consistent use of this imagery, the Bible communicates the ideal of a life cleansed from sin and aligned with the divine, ultimately pointing towards the hope of eternal righteousness in the presence of God.

The Bride of Christ

In the Bible, white is often used to symbolize purity, holiness, and righteousness, which are essential qualities of the bride of Christ. The concept of the bride of Christ refers to the collective body of believers, the Church, who are depicted as being in a covenant relationship with Jesus.

In Revelation 19:7-8, the Church is described as adorned in “fine linen, bright and clean,” representing the saints’ righteous acts. This imagery underscores the idea that the Church, as the bride, is purified and made holy through the sacrifice of Christ.

Let us rejoice and exult
    and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
    and his Bride has made herself ready;
 it was granted her to clothe herself
    with fine linen, bright and pure”

Revelation 19:7-8 (ESV)

White garments signify the transformation from sin to sanctity, reflecting the spiritual purity that believers attain through their faith in Jesus. This symbolism emphasizes the sacred relationship between Christ and the Church and serves as a reminder of the call to live a life of holiness and devotion.

The Holy Spirit

In the Bible, the color white often symbolizes purity, righteousness, and holiness, closely associated with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is depicted as a dove in the Gospels during Jesus’ baptism, a bird commonly associated with the color white, signifying peace and divine presence. In Revelation, white garments are granted to the righteous, symbolizing their sanctification and purity through the Holy Spirit’s work.

As part of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit embodies holiness and purity, which the color white aptly represents. White also denotes light and guidance, aligning with the Holy Spirit’s role as a guide and illuminator of truth for believers. By embodying these attributes, the color white in the Bible encapsulates the essence of the Holy Spirit’s purity, guidance, and sanctifying power, reinforcing its significance in the Christian faith.

Below are some of the many Bible verses which use white to denote righteousness:

As I looked,
thrones were placed,
    and the Ancient of Days took his seat;
his clothing was white as snow,
    and the hair of his head like pure wool;
his throne was fiery flames;
    its wheels were burning fire.

Daniel 7:9 (ESV)

His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.

Mark 9:3 (ESV)

You can also find references to white in the Bible as related to righteousness in Revelation 1:12 – 146:1119:8, and 20:11). The color white represents righteousness because of its purity of color and light. Fully light and without stain, the color white reminds us of the righteousness of Christ. He is pure light and pure righteousness, and when a sinner comes to Him in faith, He washes them clean.

White, as denoting purity, can be found abundantly, as well:

Daniel 11:3512:10Psalm 51:7Isaiah 1:18Revelation 3:187:913 – 14

White in the Bible Psalm 51_7

Divine Presence and Holiness

White is also used in the Bible to symbolize God’s divine presence and holiness. In several instances, God or His messengers are depicted with white garments or in a radiant white light, emphasizing their divine nature and the holiness that sets them apart from the profane.

For example, in the account of Jesus’ transfiguration, He is described as having a face that shone like the sun and clothes that became as white as light (Matthew 17:2). This transformation underscores Jesus’ divine nature and the holiness that emanates from Him.

Angels, as messengers of God, are also frequently depicted in white. In the Gospel of Matthew, after Jesus’ resurrection, an angel of the Lord appears at the tomb with an appearance “like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow” (Matthew 28:3). This description emphasizes the angel’s divine origin and the holiness of the message he brings.

His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow

Matthew 28:3 (ESV)

Moreover, the vision of the Ancient of Days in the Book of Daniel presents a powerful image of divine holiness. Daniel describes the Ancient of Days as having clothing “as white as snow” and hair “like pure wool” (Daniel 7:9). This imagery shows not only God’s purity and righteousness but also His eternal and unchanging nature.

White in the Context of Angels and Heavenly Beings

The color white is frequently associated with angels and heavenly beings throughout the Bible. In many biblical accounts, angels appear dressed in white, symbolizing their purity and their role as messengers of God. For example, in Matthew 28:3, the angel who announces Jesus’ resurrection is described as having an appearance “like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow.” This imagery reinforces the angel’s divine origin and the purity of the message he brings.

Moreover, in Acts 1:10, two men dressed in white appear to the disciples as Jesus ascends into heaven. Their white garments signify their heavenly nature and their role in conveying divine revelation. The consistent use of white in these contexts emphasizes the holiness, purity, and otherworldliness of angels and heavenly beings.

Light and Revelation

Another significant aspect of the symbolism of white in the Bible is its association with light and revelation. White, as the color of light, is often used to represent illumination from divine truth and wisdom. In the Gospel of John, Jesus declares, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 8:12 (ESV)

Here, light symbolizes the revelation of God’s truth through Jesus, and the color white, as the embodiment of light, carries this connotation of divine revelation.

The book of Revelation frequently uses the imagery of white to symbolize the light and clarity that come from God’s ultimate revelation. For example, in Revelation 1:14, Jesus is described with hair that is “white like wool, as white as snow,” symbolizing His divine wisdom and the purity of His revelation.

Additionally, the New Jerusalem, the ultimate realization of God’s kingdom, is described as being filled with the glory of God, with light that is “like a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal” (Revelation 21:11). This radiant white light represents the fullness of God’s revelation and the clarity of His truth.

Victory and Triumph

White is also a color of victory and triumph in the biblical narrative. In the book of Revelation, the victorious Christ is depicted riding a white horse.

Revelation 19:11-14 describes the scene:

“I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice, he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean.”

Revelation 19:11-14 (ESV)

This powerful image associates white with divine victory, justice, and the ultimate triumph of good over evil.

The white garments of the redeemed in Revelation also symbolize their victory over sin and death through the blood of the Lamb. In Revelation 3:5, Jesus promises, “The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the Book of Life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels.” Here, white symbolizes the eternal victory and reward that await those who remain faithful to God.

Sanctification and Transformation

The symbolism of white in the Bible extends to the concepts of sanctification and transformation. Sanctification is the process by which believers are made holy and set apart for God’s purposes. The color white, with its connotations of purity and holiness, is often used to represent this transformative process.

In the Old Testament, the priests who served in the Tabernacle and later the Temple were required to wear white linen garments as part of their sacred duties. These garments symbolized their consecration and purity as they performed their priestly functions. Exodus 28:39-43 details the instructions for making these garments, emphasizing their importance in the sanctification of the priests.

In the New Testament, the concept of sanctification is closely tied to the work of the Spirit of God in the lives of believers. The apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 5:25-27, “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” The imagery of being made holy and blameless, without stain or blemish, is closely associated with the symbolism of white.

Sacrificial Lamb and Redemption

The color white is also symbolically linked to the sacrificial lamb and the theme of redemption. In the Old Testament, lambs that were sacrificed as part of the sin offerings were required to be without blemish, symbolizing purity and innocence. This requirement pointed forward to the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.

In 1 Peter 1:18-19, the apostle Peter writes, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” The imagery of the unblemished lamb, often depicted as white, underscores the purity and perfection of Jesus’ sacrifice on behalf of humanity.

The theme of redemption through the sacrificial lamb is further reinforced in the book of Revelation, where the Lamb is depicted in a victorious and exalted position. Revelation 5:6-10 describes the scene in heaven where the Lamb, who appears to have been slain, is found worthy to open the scroll and execute God’s plan.

The multitude in heaven sings a new song, saying, “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals because you were slain, and with your blood, you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). The color white, associated with the purity and innocence of the sacrificial lamb, is a powerful symbol of the redemption and salvation that Jesus provides.

​White Streaks and Leprosy

White streaks in the Bible can refer to the concept of leprosy, particularly in the Old Testament. In the Book of Leviticus, Chapters 13 and 14 detailed descriptions of how priests were to diagnose and treat skin diseases, including leprosy, which often manifested as white patches or streaks on the skin. These passages highlight the ancient Israelites’ concern with ritual purity and the community’s health. (See this post for the physical and spiritual leprosy of Naaman)

Leprosy, in biblical terms, was not limited to what is known today as Hansen’s disease but encompassed a variety of skin conditions. The appearance of white streaks or patches often led to isolation until a priest could declare the individual clean or healed. This practice underscores the blend of health, spirituality, and community care in ancient times, illustrating how physical ailments were deeply intertwined with religious and social structures.

White in the Context of Cleansing and Renewal

White is also emblematic of cleansing and renewal in the Bible. This is particularly evident in the rituals and practices of the Old Testament. For example, in Leviticus 14, the priestly purification rites for individuals healed of leprosy involve washing with water and wearing white garments, symbolizing their restored purity and renewed status within the community.

In the New Testament, the concept of cleansing and renewal is further emphasized through the sacrament of baptism. In Acts 22:16, Ananias instructs Saul (later Paul) to “Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.” The act of baptism, often associated with wearing white robes, signifies the washing away of sins and the start of a new life in Christ.

White as a Symbol of Wisdom and Age

Another symbolic use of white in the Bible is to represent wisdom and age. This is evident in the description of the Ancient of Days in Daniel 7:9, where God’s hair is described as being “white like wool.” This imagery conveys God’s purity and his eternal wisdom and experience.

In Proverbs 16:31, white hair is explicitly linked to wisdom and righteousness: “Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness.” The association of white or gray hair with wisdom and honor highlights the value placed on experience and righteous living in biblical teachings.

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The Symbolism of White Stones

In the Bible, white stones hold profound symbolic meaning, often representing purity, innocence, and divine favor. In the Book of Revelation (2:17), a white stone is mentioned as a gift to those who overcome, symbolizing a new identity and divine approval. This white stone is inscribed with a new name, known only to the recipient, signifying a personal and unique relationship with God.

White stones are also associated with judgment and acquittal. In ancient times, jurors used white stones to signify a verdict of innocence, contrasting with black stones for guilt. This practice highlights the biblical metaphor of white stones as symbols of forgiveness and redemption.

Overall, the symbolism of white stones in the Bible encapsulates themes of purity, victory, and a fresh start, reinforcing the message of hope and renewal that is central to the Christian faith.

Martyrdom and Witness

The color white also holds significance in the context of martyrdom and faithful witness. In the book of Revelation, those who have been martyred for their faith are depicted as wearing white robes, symbolizing their purity, victory, and faithful witness to the truth. Revelation 6:9-11 describes the souls of the martyrs under the altar, crying out for justice.

They are each given a white robe and told to wait a little longer until the full number of their fellow servants and brothers and sisters are killed as they had been.

The white robes of the martyrs signify their righteousness and the honor bestowed upon them for their faithful witness, even unto death. This imagery reinforces the idea that those who remain steadfast in their faith and bear witness to the truth despite persecution will be rewarded and honored in the presence of God.

Hidden Manna

White manna holds deep symbolic significance in the Bible, particularly in the Israelites’ journey through the wilderness. Manna, described as small, white, and round, miraculously appeared each morning to sustain the Israelites after their exodus from Egypt. This “bread from heaven” is often seen as a symbol of God’s providence and care, illustrating His ability to provide for His people in times of need.

Beyond physical sustenance, manna also embodies spiritual nourishment. In the New Testament, Jesus refers to Himself as the “true bread from heaven” (John 6:32-35), drawing a parallel between the manna given to the Israelites and His own role as the spiritual sustainer of humanity.

This connection emphasizes the idea that just as manna sustains the body, faith in Jesus sustains the soul. Thus, white manna is a profound emblem of divine provision, faith, and the sustaining power of God’s word.

White in the Bible Isaiah 1_18 White In The Bible_ Purity Righteousness And Gods Love 1

White in the Context of the New Jerusalem

The Book of Revelation also uses the color white to describe the New Jerusalem, the heavenly city that represents the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promises and the churches of revelation. Revelation 21:18-21 describes the city’s walls and foundations adorned with precious stones and its streets made of pure gold, transparent as glass. The pervasive imagery of whiteness and brightness in the description of the New Jerusalem symbolizes the purity, holiness, and glory of God’s eternal kingdom.

In the Bible, the color white is deeply symbolic, especially in the context of the “Marriage of the Lamb.” This event, described in the Book of Revelation, represents the union between Christ (the Lamb) and His Church. In this context, white symbolizes purity, righteousness, and divine glory. Revelation 19:7-8 speaks of the Bride being clothed in “fine linen, bright and pure,” reflecting the sanctity and holiness of the Church, cleansed of sin and made righteous through Christ’s sacrifice.

This imagery of white linen underscores the transformative power of Christ’s love and redemption. It signifies the Church being presented in a state of spiritual purity, ready to unite with Christ in eternal fellowship. Thus, white becomes a powerful emblem of the divine, illustrating the ultimate purity and perfection achieved through faith and grace in the Christian narrative.

(White clothing, including a long white robe, is also, for many denominations, the official color of the church and is worn on holy days and the days surrounding Easter and Christmas)

White, in the Bible and even today, is associated with purity, good things, innocence, honesty, cleanliness, and eternal life.

Note that not all translations show the word or words for white, but the meanings remain.

When Jesus washes us clean from sin, He makes us “white as snow” by giving us His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). We are then set on a path of growing in faith.

For serious Bible study, you may wish to gain a deeper understanding of the many words used for white, including Greek word, Hebrew words, and Aramaic words.

Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic Words for White in Bible Translations


 Original WordTranslation
TransliterationPhonetic Spelling
   ܚܽܘܪlook, behold, white
 λαμπρόςclear, fine, goodly, gorgeous, white, bright, splendid, shining, gay
 λευκαίνωmade…whitewhiten, white, make white
 בּוּץwhite linen, linen, fine linen, fine…linen
 דַּרmother-of-pearl, white
 חוּרַיwhite cloth, Hurai
 חַלָּמוּתegg, white of an egg
 חֹרִיwhite bread, white
 לָבַןmake bricks, become white, purified, be whiter, make, make white, make them pure, make brick, be whitewhiter, white, making brick
 לָבֵןwhite ones, white
lâbân, lâbênlaw-bawn’, law-bane’
 צַחclearly, plainly, dry, clear, dazzling, white, scorching
 רִירflow, spittle, white, saliva
 תִּנְשֶׁמֶתmole, white owl, swan, chameleon

The symbolism of white in God’s Word is multifaceted and deeply significant, encompassing themes of purity, righteousness, divine presence, victory, cleansing, wisdom, and eternal glory. From the vivid imagery of white garments and angels to the promise of white stones and the dazzling vision of the New Jerusalem, the color white is a powerful visual representation of God’s holiness and the transformative power of faith.

Understanding the symbolic meanings of white in the Bible enriches our interpretation of biblical texts and deepens our appreciation of the spiritual truths they convey. Whether reflecting on the purity of God’s forgiveness, the glory of his divine presence, or the ultimate victory of good over evil, the color white invites us to contemplate God’s work’s profound and enduring significance in the world and our lives.

Isn’t color symbolism fascinating? White in the Bible is so beautiful and impactful. It may be my favorite “color” we have studied.

For more on Bible symbolism or white in the Bible, consider this recommended resource:

The Meaning of White in the Bible: A Study of Symbolism 1

ESV – “Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

NIV – Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

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