Then the mommy of Zebedee’s sons concerned Jesus with her boy and, kneeling down, request a favor of him.

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Matthew 27:56, NIV:

Among lock were mar Magdalene, mary the mother of James and also Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.

See the NIV and SBL variation here.

Who was "Mother that Zebedee"s sons" and also why is she handle in this method (opposed to "Wife the Zebedee" or "Mary (Salome) the mom of James (the Greater) and also John (the Evangelist)")?



The straightforward answer is that we execute not know why the writer the Matthew"s gospel choose this designation for her and we execute not have sufficient evidence to walk on to reach any firm conclusion.

Whilst it appears improbable the the writer did not know her name, whilst the writer of note does there room some possibilities that may be an ext probable:

1) We understand that Zebedee to be still absolutely alive and active in 4:21 yet by this time the may have actually died.

2) The request she provides in 20:20 pertains to her sons, so possibly that is why her connection to them in generally in the psychic of the writer, and also then later on he provides the designation to recognize her at the Crucifixion

3) If one holds to the theory of plenary catalyst it is entirely feasible that Matthew is "led" to use this designation therefore that as we to compare the gospels we deserve to deduce who Salome was, to compare Matt 27:56; note 15:40 & man 19:25)

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edited Oct 20 "15 at 13:00

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answer Oct 20 "15 at 7:40

Jonathan ChellJonathan Chell
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Of course we can"t be sure why Matthew determined to describe someone as "the mother of Zebedee’s sons," but we have the right to furnish a reasonable theory by analyzing the evidence.


The very first piece to the puzzle, is to identify who this woman was exactly. This inquiry is actually quite simple. Later in Matthew, us find:

There were likewise many females there, feather on from a distance, that had followed Jesus native Galilee, ministering come him, amongst whom were mar Magdalene and also Mary the mother of James and also Joseph and the mommy of the boy of Zebedee. (Matthew 27:55-56, ESV)

Ἦσαν δὲ ἐκεῖ γυναῖκες πολλαὶ ἀπὸ μακρόθεν θεωροῦσαι, αἵτινες ἠκολούθησαν τῷ Ἰησοῦ ἀπὸ τῆς Γαλιλαίας διακονοῦσαι αὐτῷ· ἐν αἷς ἦν Μαρία ἡ Μαγδαληνή, καὶ Μαρία ἡ τοῦ Ἰακώβου καὶ Ἰωσὴφ μήτηρ, καὶ ἡ μήτηρ τῶν υἱῶν Ζεβεδαίου (Nestle 1904)

while Mark has in a parallel passage:

There were additionally women feather on indigenous a distance, amongst whom were mary Magdalene, and also Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and also Salome. (Mark 15:40)

Ἦσαν δὲ καὶ γυναῖκες ἀπὸ μακρόθεν θεωροῦσαι, ἐν αἷς καὶ Μαρία ἡ Μαγδαληνὴ καὶ Μαρία ἡ Ἰακώβου τοῦ μικροῦ καὶ Ἰωσῆτος μήτηρ καὶ Σαλώμη,

The high level of textual similarity here (especially clean in the Greek) virtually assures these 2 passage represent a literary dependency. I will come earlier to the nature the the dependency; because that now, that is sufficient to note that the 2 authors room describing the same woman. Mark calls she "Salome" and also Matthew calls her "the mom of the sons of Zebedee." Thus, throughout Christian history Salome has actually been figured out as the mother of two of Jesus practical worker - James and John, who in other places are identified as "the boy of Zebedee" (e.g. Note 10:35).

More on Salome

Before return to the main point question, it can be advantageous to briefly summary who Salome was. In John"s account the the crucifixion, he records the ladies at the scene as:

his mother and his mom sister, mary the wife of Clopas, and also Mary Magdalene. (John 19:25)

on this basis, some commentators conclude the Salome to be Mary"s sister. Unlike the connection between Mark and also Matthew, however, this conclusion is no solid. "His mother"s sister" can indeed describe Salome, however it could additionally refer among the unnamed females of Mark/Matthew.

Elsewhere, note 16:1 areas Salome at the tomb when it is found empty, in addition to Jesus" mother and also Mary, mom of James and also Joseph. Matthew"s parallel account lists just the 2 Marys.

In later, Gnostic works Salome shows up several times. In the Gospel the Thomas she declares it s her a disciple that Jesus. A preserved fragment the the Gospel that the Egyptians calls she a disciple and also implies she is unmarried and childless. In the Pistis Sophia, Salome takes on an prestige well below Mary Magdelene (who was very important in Gnostic writings), yet on par through an "average" masculine disciple. An expanded version of mark (the so-called "Secret Mark"), included at the very least one extr verse about Salome during Jesus" ministry. The more orthodox Protevangelion of James, an infancy narrative, makes Salome Mary"s midwife and the first believer in Jesus" mission.

Salome"s importance in the Gnostic writings is surprising given that she shows up by name only in Mark"s gospel, the least famous of the Gospels in the at an early stage church. To explain this prominence, scholar have suggested there most likely was an early Salome tradition, elevation of the Gospels. If the later works she shows up in usually have no historic value, we have the right to be reasonably confident that, at minimum Salome to be a actual person and also a follower of Jesus throughout his lifetime. Over there is likewise a decent chance she played a notable role in the early on Church.1

Source criticism

Returning to the question of the relationship in between Mark and Matthew, we have three potential data points:

1) mark says "Mary Magdalene, mary the mom of James, and Salome bought spices so the they can go to anoint Jesus" body" (16:1) when Matthew claims "Mary Magdalene and also the various other Mary go to view the tomb" (28:1).

There is small verbal similar here, so the two accounts probably represent independent account of the very same event.

2) The passage that spurred the OP"s question. In Matthew (20:20-28), "the mommy of the young of Zebedee" asks Jesus to place her sons at his right and also left hands once his kingdom comes. In Mark"s account (10:35-45), James and also John asking directly.

These passages certainly have a dependency. The language supplied is quite similar and, despite their dissimilar openings, both accounts have actually Jesus" answer directed in ~ James and John.

3) The lists of women at the crucifixion, mentioned over (Mark 15:40, Matthew 27:55-56)

As ahead stated, the accounts present dependency.

So who depends on who? That depends on what one decides in the redactional activity here.

Redaction criticism

If one is committed to pure Markan priority, climate the differences must be from the redactional activity of Matthew. In this view, Matthew should have had actually a factor to change the requester in note 10:35-45. Probably he felt the embarrassing because that two great disciples to do such a request, so put it in their mother"s mouth instead.

In donate of this view, that does supply a satisfactory reason for the phrase "mother of the sons of Zebedee" together the passage is really about "the sons of Zebedee," as James and also John are frequently referred to collectively, so identify the speaker together their mother instead of through name provides sense. Against this view, Matthew is no afraid to have disciples do unreasonable requests/say stupid things elsewhere, for this reason "inventing" a speaker below to buffer the inquiry does not seem to something typical of Matthew"s redaction. Furthermore, does it really make James & john look any kind of better? They are still illustrated as wanting the glory/not understanding Jesus" mission/kingdom properly, however now have actually the additional potential embarrassment that not even being bold sufficient to ask themselves, rather making their mother do it for them.

The greater challenge for a Markan priority view, though is Matthew 27:55-56. Right here Matthew allegedly adjusted the right forward "Salome" for "mother the the young of Zebedee". If his purpose was to affix the women to the disciples, why not use "Salome, mom of ...", comparable to how he describes the 2nd Mary, rather of simply "mother the ..."? Gundry deserve to only sell the weak (in mine mind) explanation:2

The obscurity the Salome, the importance of the young of Zebedee, and also the desire for a parallel v the automatically preceding description of mar as a mommy (whose prestige will not permit the lose of she name) all affect Matthew"s revision.

All of these things could indeed press Matthew to add "mother of...", yet one battles to check out how any would necessitate additionally dropping "Salome". The only half explanation - that mar was supposedly much more prominent - is pure speculation and ignores that "Salome, mommy of..." is a stronger parallel come "Mary, mother of..." than merely "mother of..." is, if, indeed, Matthew want to do a verbal parallel.

It is reasonable to i think Matthew want to connect the women at the crucifixion to his description of her earlier in his Gospel, however that is an same valid assumption under any kind of dependency theory. If one is no committed come Markan priority, an overall easier explanation arises: mark is simple Matthew ~ above the two dependent passages. This is equally valid under an pure Matthean priority theory and a more flexible concept that permits for both Gospels to maintain the more primitive tradition at part points.

In this view, mark sees the James and John are the real focus of Matthew 20:20-28, and also understands the the request, although spoken by Salome, really originates from James and John and thus puts the in their mouth (or believes that the request was do collectively). He thus simplifies the passage by omitting Salome"s part. Likewise, in 15:40 he simplifies "the mommy of Zebedee"s sons" because he to know her offered name and also see no factor for the complicated formulation.

Perhaps mark had good access to the "early Salome tradition" mentioned above and hence knew well that she was. This hypothesis additionally has the advantage of explaining the anointing city (16:1), i m sorry is the just resurrection i in any type of of the 4 Gospels that mentions Salome. If Mark had superior knowledge around Salome, that would describe how the knew this extr detail, which could have to be unknown come Matthew.

Why "Mother of Zebedee"s sons"?

The inquiry then is, why does Matthew refer to Salome as the "Mother the Zebedee"s sons" instead of "Salome" or "wife the Zebedee"? we can conveniently suggest a an excellent reason why she would not be referred to as "wife that Zebedee" -Zebedee is not an essential figure in the Gospels. There is no indication that ever came to be a follower of Jesus and the just time the man shows up is as soon as James and John leaving him in a fishing boat to go and follow Jesus.

Salome"s sons, of course, are crucial figures in the Gospels. Thus, the is apparent that "mother of..." is a clearer/better reference than "wife of..." (A few commentators add a possibility that Zebedee has died by the time Salome to be so referenced, yet I discover this to be an unnecessary assumption and insufficient explanation.)

As to why Matthew supplies "mother of..." rather of "Salome," there are two plausible explanations. The first is that he desires to emphasize her connection to James and John. This formulation especially makes sense in 20:20-28 whereby her function in the story is unimportant. That would undoubtedly be herbal to say something like "John"s mother came and also made a demand for him" in a case like what is described, even if one knew John"s mom"s name. Because James and also John are often jointly referred to together the "sons of Zebedee", there is no reason why "the mom of boy of Zebedee" would certainly have any different connotation 보다 "the mother of James and also John". That is possible, then, the Matthew just repeated the exact same formulation in his crucifixion account to make it clean he to be referring come the very same woman. This explanation functions perfectly under Matthean priority, and also adequately under Markan priority (where it is weird, but plausible that "Salome" fell out).

The 2nd explanation is that Matthew just did not understand Salome"s provided name. This would not it is in impossible even if the writer of Matthew is the apostle Matthew - he would not necessarily know/remember the surname of a woman he met just a pair times. Still, it would certainly seem easier to assistance this hypothesis if the apostle was no the Gospel"s author. This would certainly make it harder to see Matthean priority, however not implausible if part followers that Matthew wrote the gospel under after his death, using his eyewitness testimony which did not occur to incorporate Salome"s name.


In irradiate of the evidence, the simplest/best explanation is the Matthew wrote 20:20-28 and also 27:55-56 prior to Mark composed his parallel passages (or more precisely that Matthew"s versions of the i is the an ext primitive tradition). He provided "mother the Zebedee"s sons" in 20:20 since the story to be primary around Zebedee"s sons, and thus that was fully natural to explain the speaker together their mother. The then brought that formulation front to his crucifixion account. Matthew may have actually known Salome"s name, however didn"t see a need to point out it if that did.

Mark 10:35-45 climate represents a leveling of Matthew"s account. Consequently, in the crucifixion account, he had no use for the long formulation "mother of... " and so substituted Salome"s yes, really name. He quite possibly likewise had access to live independence information around Salome, which defines the truth that only he mentioned her in his empty tomb account.

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Finally, i agree with Jonathan Chell"s ide that Matthew"s formulation enables an otherwise unidentifiable females to be linked with her really important sons. Magnificent intervention, the course, can not be proven together a hermeneutical explanation, however it certainly is interesting that without Matthew"s "odd" phrasing Salome would certainly not have actually received the credit (by name) she deserves for elevating the an excellent apostles the James and John.


1 Extra-biblical info on Salome comes largely from Gospel Women: research studies of the called Women in the Gospels through Richard Buckham

2 Matthew: A comment on His Handbook because that a blended Church Under Persecution by Robert Horton Gundry