According to the Daily Mail, archaeologists working with Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) claim to have uncovered the tomb of Salome, who is reportedly the midwife who attended to Mary when she gave birth to Christ.
Of course, if you are a reader of the Gospels, you are probably thinking where in the New Testament does it mention that Mary had a midwife named Salome?
Well, there is none.
In fact, the only mention of Mary’s midwife is found in the Gospel of James, an apocryphal book dated to the second or third century. It tells the story of Mary, her childhood, her marriage to Joseph and the birth of Jesus with the assistance of Salome.
It is said to have been written by James, the brother of Christ. But adds the stickler, James was the son of Joseph from a previous marriage.
Some have even tried to connect this midwife to the Salome mentioned in the Gospels, who was the wife of Zebedee and mother of James and John (Matthew 27:56). She was also listed as one of the women looking on as Christ was crucified (Mark 15:40) and among the women who brought spice to anoint Jesus’ body (Mark 16:1–8).
According to the Daily Mail, the 2,000-year-old tomb has an inscription that reads, ‘Salome, who was Mary’s midwife.’ This, along with other writings in Arabic and Greek, has convinced the IAA that this is the tomb of Salome, thought to be Mary’s midwife.
The cave had been turned into a Christian chapel and the surrounding area is filled with oil lamps that were sold or rented to pilgrims, so they could visit the tomb.
Yes, it was a tourist site.
These shops, which are dated to the eighth and ninth century, suggested the ancient traditions about Salome as Mary’s midwife were still being embraced centuries after it was first introduced.
“We believe that pilgrims would come here, rent an oil lamp, perform their prayers inside, and go on their way,” said Zvi Firer, an IAA archaeologist.
In its statement, the IAA added, ‘Judging by the crosses and the dozens of inscriptions engraved on the cave walls in the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods, the chapel was dedicated to the sacred Salome.’
Of course, the Gospel of James is not considered part of the Biblical canon. Undoubtedly, this story is as fake as the wood being peddled across Europe at that time claiming to be from Christ’s cross. Medieval writers stated that cathedrals could have been built from those fragments.
But why were such stories about Mary circulating in the second and third centuries?
They became popular because of an ancient and widespread heresy called Gnosticism, which believed all matter was sin and only a person’s spirit was pure.
Because of this, the Gnostics believed people could sin as much as they wanted because their spirits remained pure.
They also believed that Jesus could not have been born in the flesh, because it is evil, so He must have appeared as a spirit on earth.
As this heresy gained prominence in the early church, the Apostles were forced to address it. The Apostle Paul warned against sinning, so grace may abound (Romans 6:1-2), and the Apostle John said they tested the spirits by using the declaration that Jesus came in the flesh:
4 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, (1 John 4:1-2 ESV)
But this battle against Gnosticism had a negative fallout, as it resulted in an unhealthy emphasis and veneration of Mary, the mother of Jesus, which was used to prove Christ’s humanity.
This veneration eventually resulted in its own heresies, that Mary was also sinless and remained a perpetual virgin even after the birth of Christ and that she had no more children after giving birth to Jesus. And because of her special place in heaven as the mother of God, people can pray to her for help.
READ: Is this the tomb of midwife who delivered Jesus? Ancient inscriptions and prayer lamps found inside a 2,000-year-old burial site in Jerusalem ‘prove this is the cave of holy Salome’ AND Cave associated with Jesus’ midwife Salome reveals several surprises AND Roman Catholic Doctrine: the veneration of Mary