Thoughts on ancient gospels and the like

2 October 2007

Salome: goddess, saint, disciple, herodian

Filed under: Desposynoi,Female characters,Herodians,hypostasis,Mark — markandmore @ 19:05
  1. There are two Salomes in Josephus: Salome, the sister of Herod, called the Great; and Salome daughter of Herod son of Herod “the Great” and Mariamne daughter of Boethus. On her mother’s side, this second Salome was daughter of Herodias, daughter of Aristobulus who was son of Herod “the Great” and his other wife also called Mariamne who was one of the last survivors of the Maccabean dynasty. Also note that the second Salome was first cousin to Berenice, wife to two kings, to the Alabarch of Alexandria, and lover of the Roman emperor Titus.salome1.jpg
  2. In Mark 6.22 or Matthew 14:6-8, an unnamed daughter of Herodias dances for the brother of her father, her step-father, King Herod (not be confused with Herod “the Great” although neither Mark nor Matthew make this clear) in exchange for the head of John the Baptist. Given that the second Salome in Josephus is the daughter of Herodias and Herod, it is not unreasonable that the dancer is widely assumed to be Salome.
  3. The execution of John the Baptist as described by Josephus in Jewish Antiquities, 18, 5,2 mentions neither Herodias, nor Salome nor any other daughter.
  4. If there is a historical basis to the Mark/Matthew story perhaps it is found in Cassius Dio, Roman History, 66.15.3-5: “[Berenice] dwelt in the palace, cohabiting with Titus. She expected to marry him and was already behaving in every respect as if she were his wife.; but when he perceived that the Romans were displeased with the situation, he sent her away. For, in addition to all the other talk that there was, certain sophists of the Cynic school managed somehow to slip into the city at this time, too; and first Diogenes, entering the theatre when it was full, denounced the pair in along abusive speech; for which he was flogged; and after him Heras, expecting no harsher punishment, gave vent to to many senseless yelpings in true Cynic fashion, and for this was beheaded”.
  5. The dance that Salome performed is often taken – again with no Biblical basis – to be the dance of the Seven Veils. While in modern striptease and belly-dancing the concept of the Seven Veils has become a cliché, it is associated with the ancient sacred dance by Ishtar as she descended into the underworld.salome2.jpg
  6. The Seven Veils of Ishtar concept is promoted by Barbara Walker in The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, 1983 and Wendy Buonaventura in her book Serpent of the Nile, 1989. However two belly dancers, DeAnna Putman (here) and Shira (here) make a persuasive argument that a) the daughter is described as a korasion which is a small girl, and the word for dance is orkheomai which means jumping as well as dance, and therefore we should assume that Salome was pre-pubic at the time; the earliest translation of the myth of Ishtar into a modern European language was in 1872; the number 7 is not even mentioned in Mark or Matthew with relation to the death of John; the first association of Salome and the Dance of the Seven Veils is probably Oscar Wilde’s play Salome, 1891; the things that Ishtar surrendered were not veils but symbols of kingship, such as crown, measuring rod, breastplate and robe.
  7. In Mark (15:40, 16:1), and only in Mark, Salome is is one of three women, the other two both being called Maria, who were present at the Crucifixion of Jesus and visited his tomb the next day. Nothing else is said about this woman, and nothing is said which would justify assuming that she is the dancing daughter of Herodias. If the Salome at the death of John is a little girl, then she could not be an adult woman at the death of Jesus – not if she is mortal
  8. In the parallel passage of Matthew (27:56), the third woman is described as “the mother of the sons of Zebedee” and by a logic that some Bible readers adopt, Salome is therefore taken to be the mother of James and John Zebedee.
  9. Salome is venerated as Saint Mary Salome, also known as Irene. Feast day 22 October. After the crucifixion of Jesus she is said to have gone to Veroli, Italy and stayed there as an apostle.
  10. The English of Mark 15:40 in the King James translation is “There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome”. Robert Eisenman in his James, The Brother of Jesus, p 772 and 845 reads this to say that Salome is ‘explicitly identified as the sister of James the Less and Joses’. He also reads Mark 16:1 “Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices” in the same way. The problem with the English of 15:40 is that ‘of’ is not repeated before the name Salome. Let us look at the Greek: In 15:40 Salome is written Σαλωμη which is nominative not genitive. Where English uses a preposition to mean possession, Greek uses a different word ending. In the Latin: “Maria Magdalene et Maria Iacobi minoris et Ioseph mater et Salome”, the word mater (=mother) follows Iacobi and Ioseph but precedes Salome, meaning that Maria is the mother of the two men, but not of Salome.
  11. In the Gospel of the Egyptians, Salome is again a disciple of Jesus. She asks him how long death would hold sway, and he says to her, “So long as women bring forth, for I come to end the works of the female.” To this Salome replies, “Then I have done well in not bringing forth.”
  12. In the Gospel of Thomas, Salome and Mary Magdelene are listed among the disciples of Jesus. Jesus shares Salome’s couch at the meal. ‘Who are you sir,’ she asks him, ‘that you have taken your place on my couch and eaten from my table?’ And Jesus says, “I am he who is from the One, and the things that belong to the Father have been given to me.” Salome replies, “But I am your disciple”, and Jesus answers, “When the disciple is united he will be filled with light, but if he is divided he will be filled with darkness.”
  13. In the Protevengelion of James, 14, we find:
    “14 And the midwife went out from the cave, and Salome met her. 15 And the midwife said to her, “Salome, Salome, I will tell you a most surprising thing, which I saw. 16 A virgin has brought forth, which is a thing contrary to nature.” 17 To which Salome replied, “As the Lord my God lives, unless I receive particular proof of this matter, I will not believe that a virgin has brought forth.”
    18 Then Salome went in, and the midwife said, “Mary, show yourself, for a great controversy has arisen about you.” 19 And Salome tested her with her finger. 20 But her hand was withered, and she groaned bitterly, 21 and said, “Woe to me, because of my iniquity! For I have tempted the living God, and my hand is ready to drop off.”horae8930.jpg
  14. Salome = ‘peace’ (Hebrew Shalom). Greek for peace is Eirene. Eirene is one of the second generation of Horae(=hours), goddesses who controlled orderly life. Eirene is third as Salome is third in Mark 15:40. The Horae had the task of closing and opening the gates of heaven. Such goddesses would be present at the sacrificial deaths of divine kings, as they had been at the birth of Aphrodite. Eirene had been the nurse of Demeter.
  15. In Robert Graves’ The White Goddess, he analyses the riddle poem Hanes Taliesin. Line 26 is, in the English translation, “I have been in the firmament with Mary Magdelene’. Graves proposed ‘Salome’ as the answer to that line.
  16. In his same book, p 372-3, Graves discusses the ancient goddess, Salma-ona, a name associated with easterlyness in contrast to the goddess Tar-Annis who had a name associated with westerlyness. Solomon, Salmon, Absalon and Salome are derived form the theonym Salma. Salma was the deity to whom the hill of Jerusalem was originally dedicated as Uru-Salim.
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1 Comment »

  1. Thank yoi for your help as the number 586 gematria Jerusalem has been on the news today re the violence and love in. Las Vegas. Don’t know if my email still works apologies. Tried to start a blog but very absentminded.

    Comment by Liz — 3 October 2017 @ 8:45 | Reply


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