Salome: Disciple of Jesus

Salome: Disciple of Jesus

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.

Since it was late in the afternoon on Preparation Day, just before the Sabbath, Joseph from Arimathea dared to approach Pilate and ask for Jesus’ body. (Joseph was a prominent council member who also eagerly anticipated the coming of God’s kingdom.) Pilate wondered if Jesus was already dead. He called the centurion and asked him whether Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that Jesus was dead, Pilate gave the dead body to Joseph. He bought a linen cloth, took Jesus down from the cross, wrapped him in the cloth, and laid him in a tomb that had been carved out of rock. He rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was buried.

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they could go and anoint Jesus’ dead body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they came to the tomb.

-Mark 15:40-16:2, (CEB)

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series about Salome the disciple of Jesus. We discuss her prominence in extra-canonical literature, and the significance of the early church recognizing her leadership and discuss what this means for us today. Here is a sample below:

A Disciple of Jesus

Salome was among the disciples of Jesus in Galilee, she followed him to Jerusalem, watched the crucifixion, and although she isn't named at the burial of Jesus, she is one of the women who witnessed the resurrection at the tomb on Easter. In the bible Salome is only mentioned in the Gospel of Mark, however in extra canonical works and early Christian literature, Salome is named extensively.

Salome was the second most common name of women in Jewish Palestine, after Mary. Both names together made up nearly half the names of all the women at the time.  Some consider Salome the disciple to be the sister of Jesus, other scholars argue Jesus’ sister and the disciple Salome are two different women.

The early church believed Salome was one of the many people Jesus visited and spoke to after the resurrection and we have various early writings that record their discussions. This week we will unpack what we know about Salome as Jesus’ disciple and learn what we can from historical writings and traditions in both the eastern and western church to best honor her legacy as a church mother.

Whose stories get told?

In the ancient world, women were considered untrustworthy and their testimonies were widely regarded as unreliable. We know from the Gospels that Jesus chose women to be the ones to witness the resurrection and spread the good news first. In addition, after the resurrection, Jesus repeatedly visited with his disciples, including women, to instruct and empower them. Jesus trusted women, and the early church saw them as important witnesses. We only have highlights of a few in the bible, but early church literature offers up much more and is worth considering for those of us interested in women’s influence in the first centuries.

Tower Builder

The Gospel of Thomas is a non-canonical gospel written between 60 and 140 AD. It was discovered in 1945 near Nag Hammadi, Egypt. Salome is mentioned as a “tower builder” in Psalm 16 of the Gospel of Thomas. This is thought to be in reference to her apostolic nature as a builder of the church after Jesus’ resurrection:

“Salome built a tower upon the rock of truth and mercy. The builders that built it are righteous, the masons that hew stones for it are the angels... That they go into it rejoice,that they come out of it, —their heart seeks after gladness. She built it and gave it a roof, Salome gave a parapet to the tower.” - Psalms of Thomas, 16.

About Extra Canonical Books

Uncovering information in non-canonical literature from the early church sheds light on new aspects of life and ministry in the first centuries. As the church was becoming established, letters and documents quickly traveled around as leaders needed the support of each other and their communities. Ideas were shared, and some works, like the Gospel of Thomas, are thought to have been deliberately buried so not to become official. Some felt the ideas in it were too close to gnosticism. Although we don’t consider the Gospel of Thomas scripture, we can appreciate that at least two thirds of it is in line with the other gospels in the Bible and the historical mention of Salome is validation of her prominence.