A Woman Named Salome

While doing my Easter Bible study, I came across a name I had never noticed before. It is the name of one of the women at the tomb. Two of the women were named Mary. That is something I have known for a long time. The third woman’s name is Salome, pronounced Sal-o-may.

I decided to try to find out something more about her. All kinds of books have been published about women in the Bible, and you can even Google biblical women. Now that women have started making a point to find our place in the world of biblical studies, we are trying to give biblical women back their names as well.

Men are identified by name much more often than women. There are important cultural and historical reasons for this; and when I teach about the Bible I think it is important to preserve this information. If we lose that perspective, we lose some important light that we can gain from studying the text.

On the other hand, it is also possible to trace paths through the text and learn the identity of some of these women in the Bible. We need to be careful when doing this–we don’t want to assume things about a woman that are not true because we are so anxious to find out who she is. If we don’t know, it is better to allow her to keep her dignity and remain anonymous than to give her a false identity for the sake of naming her. Names have a way of sticking.

There is certainly a lot of rumor about who Salome is, but not much real evidence. I had to go nearly down to the end of the first 100 results and read a page in French to put together the story of how these rumors came to be formed!

Mention is made in Mark 15:40 and 16:1 of a woman who accompanied the two Marys at the tomb whose name was Salome (pronounced Salomay). Rumors have her being the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee. After much searching, I finally found that in Mt. 27:56 the woman at the tomb is identified as the mother of James and John. It is easy, then, to draw the conclusion that Salome is this woman.

Other rumor pages identify Salome (perhaps another Salome) as the daughter of Herod. This was a little harder to track down. A French page says that Josephus mentions Salome, the daughter of Herod, in The Antiquities of the Jews. There is actually quite a lengthy narrative about Salome in The Wars of the Jews. That is all I am able to find to back up this claim. There is biblical text about Herod’s daughter; but she is not identiried by name.

It is intriguing to consider what Salome, the mother of James and John, may have been experiencing on that morning. Consider:

Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.

“What is it you want?” he asked.

She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”

“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”

“We can,” they answered.

Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.”

When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave– just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

(Mt. 24:20-28)

What does she think Jesus’ kingdom is going to be? Why were the others indignant with the two brothers?

We don’t read anything about Salome other than that she is present at the tomb and prepared to care for the body. What kind of reaction do you suppose she might have had, considering what is evident about her ideas for her sons here?

About Sarah Blake LaRose

Sarah Blake LaRose is a freelance writer and a professor of Biblical Hebrew at Anderson University School of Theology in Anderson, Indiana. She is one of three blind academic scholars who received the Jacob Bolotin Award from the National Federation of the Blind in 2016 in recognition of innovative work in the field of access to biblical language texts and tools for people who are blind.

About Sarah Blake LaRose

Sarah Blake LaRose is a freelance writer and a professor of Biblical Hebrew at Anderson University School of Theology in Anderson, Indiana. She is one of three blind academic scholars who received the Jacob Bolotin Award from the National Federation of the Blind in 2016 in recognition of innovative work in the field of access to biblical language texts and tools for people who are blind.

2 comments:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *