Thursday, November 9, 2017

Mary Salome

Mary Salome was the wife of Zebedee, and the mother of the apostles James and John.  She is the mother in Matthew 20:20 who petitions Jesus to let her sons sit on his right and left hand in the kingdom.  She is not the same as Salome who asked for the head of John the Baptist’s on a platter.  The name Salome derives from the Hebrew word shalom and was a fairly common name in that time.  

Mary Salome is one of the women present at the crucifixion along with Mary Magdalen and Mary, the wife of Cleophas (Mark 15:40).  She is omitted from mention in John’s account of the crucifixion.  In Mark 16:1 Mary Salome appears with the women who go to the tomb after the Sabbath to anoint Jesus with spices.

In Matthew 28:1 only two women are mentioned at the tomb: Mary Magdalene and the “other Mary” which most scholars believe to be Mary of Cleophas rather than Mary Salome.  Salome is included among the influential women who supported the Apostles from their own means in Mark 15:41.  She is mentioned in several of the non-canonical sources where she appears to have caused some serious disruption in the early church.  The apocryphal Gospel of Thomas mentions Salome and Mary Magdalen as disciples of Jesus.  Clement of Alexandria quotes a passage from the Secret Gospel of Mark that says when Jesus came into Jericho, “The sister of the young man whom Jesus loved was there with his mother and Salome, but Jesus would not receive them.”

The non-canonical Gospel of the Egyptians, written in the early 2nd century, mentions a disciple of Jesus named Salome who asked the Lord how long death would hold sway.  To which Jesus replied, “So long as women bring forth, for I come to end the works of the female.”  Salome remarked, “Then I have done well in not bringing forth.”  This was used to support a tenuous theory that Mary Salome was unmarried, contradicting the prevailing opinion that Salome was the wife of Zebedee and the mother of James and John.  

In the non-canonical Protoevangelium of James, Salome meets the midwife of Mary of Nazareth and makes the bold request to test her virginity with her own finger to prove the miracle of the Virgin Birth. Her hand withers as soon as the words are out her mouth, but is restored after she touches the infant Jesus.  Due to the popularity of this absurd tale in the Middle Ages, Salome was depicted as Mary’s midwife in art of that era.