Last month I posted a blog about Mary Magdalene, which included included a conversation between her and Salome from the Pistis Sophia (Link: https://culminationofwisdom.org/2022/07/20/the-feast-day-of-mary-magdalene-july-22/ ), and it got me thinking, we don’t hear much about Salome! (and no, I am not referring to the Salome in the John the Baptist beheading story)
In the canonical gospels, she is mentioned in the Gospel of Mark as a witness to the crucifixion. In the Gospel of Matthew, she is not mentioned by name but rather the group that was at the crucifixion is mentioned and the phrase “The Mother of Zebedee’s children” is used. So it is presumed that person is Salome. Are they the same? The Diatessaron actually lists them as separate people. Personally I am going with the separate person theory, but really, it’s up to the reader. Back to the main point, Salome is barely in the Christian Bible. However, she shows up a few times in the Gnostic texts! She is supposedly a teacher for Marcellina (click for more info), a “Gnostic” teacher from the Carpocratian sect.
I have assembled some of the Salome stories from various texts for your reading enjoyment:
Up first, from the Gospel of Thomas, saying 61:
Jesus said, "Two will recline on a couch; one will die, one will live." Salome said, "Who are you mister? You have climbed onto my couch and eaten from my table as if you are from someone." Jesus said to her, "I am the one who comes from what is whole. I was granted from the things of my Father." "I am your disciple." "For this reason I say, if one is whole, one will be filled with light, but if one is divided, one will be filled with darkness."
This next bit comes from the GREEK Gospel of the Egyptians, not to be confused with the COPTIC Gospel of Egyptians that was found in the Nag Hammadi library. Let it be known that only fragments exist of this text and are found in the writings of Clement of Alexandria.
The Lord said to Salome when she inquired: How long shall death prevail? 'As long as ye women bear children', not because life is an ill, and the creation evil: but as showing the sequence of nature: for in all cases birth is followed by decay. For when she had said, 'I have done well, then, in not bearing children?' the Lord answers and says: Every plant eat thou, but that which hath bitterness eat not. When Salome inquired when the things concerning which she asked should be known, the Lord said: When ye have trampled on the garment of shame, and when the two become one and the male with the female is neither male nor female.
The biggest source of Salome sayings come to us from the Pistis Sophia. She is featured several times in the discussions. They are as follows:
CHAPTER 58 Jesus sent forth a light-power to help Sophia. And Jesus continued again in the discourse and said unto his disciples: "It came to pass then, when Pistis Sophia had said these words, that the time was fulfilled that she should be led out of the chaos. And of myself, without the First Mystery, I dispatched out of myself a light-power, and I sent it down to the chaos, so that it might lead Pistis Sophia forth from the deep regions of the chaos, and lead [her] to the higher regions of the chaos, until the command should come from the First Mystery that she should be led entirely forth out of the chaos. And my light-power led Pistis Sophia up to the higher regions of the chaos. It came to pass then, when the emanations of Self-willed had noticed that Pistis Sophia was led forth into the higher regions of the chaos, that they also sped after her upwards, desiring to bring her again into the lower regions of the chaos. And my light-power, which I had sent to lead up Sophia out of the chaos, shone exceedingly. It came to pass then, when the emanations of Self-willed pursued Sophia, when she had been led into the higher regions of the chaos, that she again sang praises and cried out unto me, saying: Sophia uttered a song of praise. "'1. I will sing praises unto thee, O Light, for I desired to come unto thee. I will sing thee praises, O Light, for thou art my deliverer. "'2. Leave me not in the chaos. Save me, O Light of the Height, for it is thou that I have praised. "'3. Thou has sent me thy light through thyself and hast saved me. Thou hast led me to the higher regions of the chaos. "'4. May the emanations of Self-willed which pursue me, sink down into the lower regions of the chaos, and let them not come to the higher regions to see me. "'5. And may great darkness cover them and darker gloom come over them. And let them not see me in the light of thy power, which thou hast sent unto me to save me, so that they may not again get dominion over me. "'6. And let not their resolution which they have formed, to take away my power, take effect for them. And as they have spoken against me, to take from me my light, take rather from them theirs instead of mine. "'7. And they have proposed to take away my whole light and have not been able to take it, for thy light-power was with me. "'8. Because they have taken counsel without thy commandment, O Light, therefore have they not been able to take away my light. "'9. Because I have had faith in the Light, I shall not be afraid; and the Light is my deliverer and I shall not fear.' "Now, therefore, let him whose power is exalted, speak the solution of the words which Pistis Sophia hath uttered." And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished speaking these words unto his disciples, that Salome came forward and said: "My Lord, my power constrained me to speak the solution of the words which Pistis Sophia hath uttered. Thy power hath prophesied aforetime through Solomon, saying: Salome interpreted the song of Sophia from the Odes of Solomon. "'1. I will give thanks unto thee, O Lord, for thou art my God. "'2. Abandon me not, O Lord, for thou art! my hope. "'3. Thou hast given me thy vindication for naught, and I am saved through thee. "'4. Let them who pursue me, fall down and let them not see me. "'5. May a smoke-cloud cover their eyes and an air-mist darken them, and let them not see the day, so that they may not seize me. "'6. May their resolution be impotent, and may what they concoct come upon them. "'7. They have devised a resolution, and it hath not taken effect for them. "'8. And they are vanquished, although they be mighty, and what they have wickedly prepared is fallen upon them. "'9. My hope is in the Lord, and I shall not be afraid, for thou art my God, my Saviour.'" It came to pass then, when Salome had finished saying these words, that Jesus said unto her: "Well said, Salome; and finely. This is the solution of the words which Pistis Sophia hath uttered."
CHAPTER 54 Jesus continued again in the discourse and said unto his disciples: "It came to pass then, when this lion-faced power saw me, how I drew nigh unto Pistis Sophia, shining very exceedingly, that it grew still more furious and emanated from itself a multitude of exceedingly violent emanations. When this then befell, Pistis Sophia uttered the eleventh repentance, saying: "'1. Why hath the mighty power raised itself in evil? The eleventh repentance of Sophia. "'2. Its plotting taketh away the light from me all the time, and as sharp iron have they taken away power from me. "'3. I chose to descend into the chaos rather than to abide in the thirteenth æon, the region of Righteousness. "'4. And they desired to lead me craftily, in order to consume my whole light. "'5. For this cause then will the Light take away their whole light, and also their whole matter will be made naught. And it will take away their light and not suffer them to abide in the thirteenth æon, their dwelling-place, and will not have their name in the region of those who shall live. "'6. And the four-and-twenty emanations will see what hath befallen thee, O lion-faced power, and will be afraid and not be disobedient, but give the purification of their light. "'7. And they will see thee and will rejoice over thee and say: Lo, an emanation which hath not given the purification of its light, so that it may be saved, but boasted itself in the abundance of the light of its power, because it did not emanate from the power in it, and hath said: I will take away the light from Pistis Sophia, which will now be taken from it.' "Now, therefore, let him in whom his power is raised, come forward and proclaim the solution of the eleventh repentance of Pistis Sophia." Then Salome came forward and said: "My Lord, concerning this thy light-power prophesied aforetime through David in the fifty-first Psalm, saying: Salome interpreted the repentance from Psalm 51. "'1. Why doth the mighty [one] boast himself in his wickedness? "'2. Thy tongue hath studied unrighteousness all the day long; as a sharp razor hast thou practiced craft. "'3. Thou lovedst wickedness more than goodness; thou lovedst to speak unrighteousness more than righteousness. "'4. Thou lovedst all words of submerging and a crafty tongue. "'5. Wherefore will God bring thee to naught utterly, and will uproot thee and drag thee out from thy dwelling-place, and will root out thy root and cast it away from the living. (Selah.) "'6. The righteous will see and be afraid, and they will mock at him and say: "'7. Lo, a man who made not God for his helper, but trusted to his great riches and was mighty in his vanity. "'8. But I am as a fruit-bearing olive-tree in the house of God. I have trusted in the grace of God from all eternity. "'9. And I will confess unto thee, for thou hast dealt faithfully with me; and I will wait on thy name, for it is auspicious in the presence of thy holy [ones].' "This then is now, therefore, my Lord, the solution of the eleventh repentance of Pistis Sophia. While thy light-power hath roused me, I have spoken it according to thy desire." Jesus commended Salome. It came to pass then, when Jesus had heard these words which Salome spoke, that he said: "Well said, Salome. Amen, amen, I say unto you: I will perfect you in all mysteries of the kingdom of the Light."
CHAPTER 145 Mary said: "Woe, woe, unto sinners!" Salome answered and said: "My Lord Jesus, a murderer who hath never committed any sin but murdering, if he cometh out of the body, what is his chastisement? Of the chastisement of the murderer. Jesus answered and said: "A murderer who hath never committed any sin but murdering, if his time is completed through the sphere, that he cometh out of the body, the receivers of Yaldabaōth come and lead his soul out of the body and bind it by its feet to a great demon with a horse's face, and he spent three days circling round with it in the world. "Thereafter they lead it into the regions of the cold and of the snow, and they take vengeance on it there three years and six months. "Thereafter they lead it down into the chaos before Yaldabaōth and his forty-and-nine demons, and every one of his demons scourged it another three years and six months. "Thereafter they lead it down into the chaos before Persephonē and take vengeance on it with her chastisements another three years and six months. "Thereafter they carry it on to the way of the midst, and every one of the rulers of the way of the midst taketh vengeance on it with the chastisements of its regions another three years and six months. "Thereafter they lead it unto the Virgin of Light, who judged the righteous and the sinners, that she may judge it. And when the sphere turned itself, she commanded that it shall be cast into the outer darkness until the time when the darkness of the midst shall be upraised; it [the soul] will be destroyed and dissolved. "This is the chastisement of the murderer."
Don’t forget to read my blog post of Mary Magdalene for another Salome Pistis Sophia story.
Next up is from the Infancy Gospel of James. This portrays Salome as a midwife to Mother Mary. So in this aspect, she was there at the time of Jesus’ birth, and also at his (physical) death!
Chapter 19: Jesus’ Birth (1) And look! A woman was coming down from the mountain, and she said to me, “Man, where are you going?” And I said, “I’m seeking a Hebrew midwife.” And in reply she said to me, “Are you from Israel?” And I said to her, “Yes.” Then she said, “And who’s the one giving birth in the cave?” And I said, “My betrothed.” And she said to me, “She’s not your wife?” And I said to her, “Mary was nurtured in the Temple of the Lord, and it was decided by lot that she would be my wife, yet she’s not my wife; but she’s conceived from the Holy Spirit.” And the midwife said, “Really?” And Joseph said to her, “Come and see.” And the midwife went with him. (2) And they stood in front of the cave, and a bright cloud overshadowed the cave. And the midwife said, “My soul is magnified today, because my eyes have seen something wonderful. Salvation has been born to Israel!” And immediately the cloud withdrew from the cave, and a great light appeared in the cave, so that their eyes couldn’t bear it. And a little later, the light withdrew until an infant appeared. And he came and took the breast of his mother, Mary. And the midwife cried out and said, “How great today is for me, that I’ve seen this new miracle!” (3) And the midwife went out from the cave, and Salome met her. And she said to her, “Salome, Salome, I have to describe a new sight to you. A virgin has given birth, which is against her nature!” And Salome said, “As the Lord my God lives, unless I examine her condition, I won’t believe that the virgin has given birth.” Chapter 20: Salome’s Examination (1) And the midwife went in and said, “Mary, position yourself, because there’s no small test coming concerning you.” And Salome examined her. And Salome cried out and said, “Woe because of my lawlessness and my unbelief! Because I’ve tested the living God, and look! My hand is on fire and falling away from me!” (2) And she dropped to her knees before the Lord, saying, “God of my ancestors, remember me, that I’ve descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Don’t make an example of me to the people of Israel, but give me the back to the poor, because you know, Lord, that in your name I’ve healed people, and I’ve received my wages from you.” (3) And look! An angel of the Lord appeared, saying to her, “Salome, Salome, the Lord of All has heard your prayer. Bring your hand to the child and lift him up, and you’ll receive salvation and joy.” (4) And Salome joyfully went to the child and lifted him up, saying, “I worship him, because a great king has been born to Israel.” And immediately Salome was healed, and she left the cave justified. And look! A voice was saying, “Salome, Salome, don’t report the wonderful things you’ve seen until the child comes into Jerusalem.”
The First Apocalypse of James also mentions Salome along with Mary, Martha and Arisnoe. I hope these texts help highlight another leader in the early Christian movement that seems to have been forgotten in time. Let us all venerate Saint Salome!