*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***
It is the 22nd of October 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I’m Dan van Voorhis.
If there is a character in the New Testament who is only mentioned once or twice, you can bet we have apocryphal legends about them. Think about the soldier that struck Jesus with a spear- he has become known as Longinus. You can think of the Ethiopian Eunuch who would by tradition become known as Bachus. And of course, those Magi have names and all sorts of legends.
Some have names and that’s about it- but the author wanted to make sure somebody knew that it was that specific person- consider:
- The prophet Agabus in Acts
- And we’ve talked about the Mary/Martha dilemmas on this show before (who is who? Why are there so many other Mary’s)
Today is the feast day in some church bodies for another one of these seemingly minor characters that had post-canonical legends ascribed to their lives. Let’s read from Mark 15:
“Some women were watching from a distance, including Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James (the younger one) and Joses, and Salome. When Jesus was in Galilee, these women had followed and supported him, along with many other women who had come to Jerusalem with him.”
First, we have to notice the women. Everywhere. Witnesses, followers, and disciples. And you may have heard “Salome” and thought- that sounds familiar. But it Isn’t Salome the daughter of Herodias who does the dance that gets John the Baptist beheaded. This Salome is only named here. But there is reason to think that she might be the mother of the disciples John and James.
This comes from Matthew’s account of the women at the crucifixion. He lists the Mary’s and then lists the mother of the Zebedees where Mark lists Salome. This lends credence to this theory. Salome would then be the woman who asked Jesus, rather boldly, for her sons to sit at his right hand.
But if you do the same thing with John’s account, Salome could have also been Mary the wife of Clopas who is mentioned specifically.
Of course, it could be that each Gospel writer wanted to point out someone that their community would have known.
In post-Biblical literature, Salome has become one of the “3 Marys” after the accounts in John and Mark.
In the Infancy Gospel of James Salome is a midwife who doesn’t believe that Mary gave birth while remaining a virgin. When Salome went to inspect Mary her hand began to burn and she repented from testing God and believed. If this is supposed to be the same Salome the author is cleverly placing this woman at the beginning and end of Jesus’ life.
Perhaps the strangest part of her post-Biblical apocryphal life is as one of the founders of the Carpocratians- a gnostic sect which Origen wrote against. Little is known of this sect except they may have denied Jesus’ divine nature and they may have held that you need to commit every obscene act in order to be saved (the reason why is complicated and dumb)
But what’s the takeaway? The churches that commemorate her (Orthodox, Catholics, and Lutherans specifically) do so in honor of her serving Christ. If she was the mother of James and John she can be remembered for, perhaps foolishly, asking Jesus for the moon by putting her sons at his right hand. Perhaps, more importantly, is the fact that she was at the crucifixion and Mark makes it clear to his audience that she was there. He is creating a witness list and the fact that he would include women attest to their devotion to Christ and what he believes makes them trustworthy eyewitnesses.
And despite the legends perhaps this makes her most worthy of remembrance- that in doing so we remember her service and devotion to our Lord. Today we remember Salome- not the dancer, and possibly Mrs. Zebedee.
The last word for today comes from Matthew- just after Mrs. Zebedee asks for her boys to get the top spots:
24 When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 26 It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 22nd of October 2021 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by Christoper “Boanerges” Gillespie.
The show is written and read by a man who wants to tell you quickly that city of San Dimas’ name comes from name of the penitent thief! That’s where Raging Waters is and where the 10, 210 and 57 meet. I am Dan van Voorhis.
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.