“Zebel and Salome, the Virgin Mary’s Midwives: Doubt, Faith, and the Miraculous in a Medieval Legend” by Jane Beal

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My article, “Zebel and Salome, the Virgin Mary’s Midwives: Doubt, Faith, and the Miraculous in a Medieval Legend,” now appears in Midwifery Today 131 (Autumn 2019), 44-46.

EXCERPT: 

“The birth of Jesus is perhaps the most famous birth in the world. It is called the Nativity (meaning “the Birth”) and represented in homes, churches, and communities by iconic Nativity scenes at Christmastime, when it is celebrated by Christians (and many non-Christians) worldwide. Nativity scenes recall figures from the birth and infancy stories of Jesus preserved in the gospels of Matthew and Luke as well as extra-biblical sources, including Christmas carols: a stable with a star shining over it; domesticated animals like the ox, ass, and sheep; angels, shepherds, and Magi (also known as the Wise Men or Three Kings); and Joseph and Mary, come from Galilee to Bethlehem to participate in a Roman census, and of course, the baby Jesus lying in a hay-filled manger.

            “Away in a manger, no crib for a bed –

            the little Lord Jesus lay down his sweet head;

            the stars in the sky look down where he lay –

            the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.”

          “Away in a Manger” (late 19thc.)

Figures that we almost never see depicted in Nativity scenes today are Zebel and Salome, the midwives who were long believed to have attended Mary when she gave birth to Jesus. That’s because no midwives are named, or even mentioned, in the Nativity accounts in the biblical Gospels of Matthew and Luke. But in the late-antique and medieval periods, several well-known written documents and visual sources depict two midwives with Mary when Jesus was born. These midwives, Zebel and Salome, play a vitally important role in such depictions: their doubt and faith, their practical knowledge and spiritual authority, are used to verify the miraculous nature of the virgin birth.”

_Illuminating Jesus in the Middle Ages_ edited by Jane Beal

Jane Beal : Illuminating Jesus

My new academic book is now available:
Illuminating Jesus in the Middle Ages (Brill, 2019).

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction: Illuminating Jesus in the Middle Ages Jane Beal

1 Jesus and the Psalms: The Witness of the Latin Liturgical Sequence Nancy van Deusen

2 The Miracles of Jesus in the Writings of the Venerable Bede George Hardin Brown

3 The “Hælend” and Other Images of Jesus in Anglo-Saxon England Larry Swain

4 Christ as an Early Irish Hero: The Poems of Blathmac, Son of Cú Brettan Tomás Ó Cathasaigh

5 The Teaching Logos: Christology and Tropology in Theophylact of Ochrid’s Interpretation of New Testament Parables Thomas Cattoi

6 “I Am”: The Glossa Ordinaria on John’s Gospel Linda Stone

7 Devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus in the Medieval West Rob Lutton

8 The Unicorn as a Symbol for Christ in the Middle Ages Jane Beal

9 Godly Bridegroom and Human Bride Andrew Galloway

10 Medieval Affective Piety and Christological Devotion: Juliana of Mont Cornillon and the Feast of Corpus Christi Barbara Zimbalist

11 Imitatio Christi and Authority in the Lives of St. Francis Donna Trembinski

12 Vision and Sacrament: Christ’s Humanity in the Spirituality of Gertrude the Great of HelftaAaron Canty

13 Christ as Turning Point in Dante’s Commedia Victorio Montemaggi and Lesley Sullivan

14 Jesus and the Christ in Two Middle English Psalm Commentaries Michael P. Kuczynski

15 Jesus as ‘Mother’ in Julian of Norwich’s Showing of Love Julia Bolton Holloway

16 Translation Debates and Lay Accessibility in the Meditationes Vitae Christi and Middle English Lives of Christ Paul J. Patterson

Bibliography

Index