Salome in the Bible

But when Herod’s birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod. Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask. And she, being before instructed of her mother, said, Give me here John Baptist’s head in a charger. And the king was sorry: nevertheless for the oath’s sake, and them which sat with him at meat, he commanded it to be given her. And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison. And his head was brought in a charger, and given to the damsel: and she brought it to her mother.

Matthew 14:6-11

And when the daughter of the said Herodias came in, and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king said unto the damsel, Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee. And he sware unto her, Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom. And she went forth, and said unto her mother, What shall I ask? And she said, The head of John the Baptist. And she came in straightway with haste unto the king, and asked, saying, I will that thou give me by and by in a charger the head of John the Baptist. And the king was exceeding sorry; yet for his oath’s sake, and for their sakes which sat with him, he would not reject her. And immediately the king sent an executioner, and commanded his head to be brought: and he went and beheaded him in the prison, And brought his head in a charger, and gave it to the damsel: and the damsel gave it to her mother.

Mark 6:22-28

This is all the text referring to Salomé in the Bible. Note that her name is not even mentioned. She was named almost 100 years later by a Jewish/Roman historian.

7 thoughts on “Salome in the Bible”

  1. I remember reading about it in the booklet of the Strauss opera by the same name. I began reading Wilde’s play by the way and I do see the potential. Still a great – yet pleasurable – mystery remains as to how Fatale will actually work.

    As you know I am a great admirer of the art of Caravaggio, so I would like to share one of the master’s greatest and most enigmatic works, if you don’t know about it already:

    Notice how Salomé, covered in red (as if stained with the blood of John the Baptist) seems so detached from the scene itself; looking at the viewer with a blank stare, as if she can’t bear to watch the result of the execution she demanded. As for John’s head, I think it is striking how it seems to have a life of its own and a light of its own. The severed head, as it is customary in his paintings, is a self-portrait of the author.

    I hope you enjoy it, even if the depiction of this scene is different from that of Wilde. Perhaps it was created too early in time to include such an open display necrophilia?

  2. I think the idea that Salomé was in love with the Baptist is of recent date. Maybe Wilde even invented that. I don’t think there’s any pre-19th century depictions of any sort of amorous or sexual relationship between John and Salomé. And even in the 19th century, the attraction usually went the other way: the idea of the femme fatale centered around the attraction of the man for the woman, not the other way around.

  3. The Bible version of events also adds another element that is extremely important: in the earliest account of this episode, Salomé is not certain of what she should ask when Herod grants her any of her wishes. It is Salomé’s mother, however, that suggests the death of John The Baptist – in which case the picture of the she temptress is not applicable. Caravaggio’s painting depicts that early version instead.

    I agree that this contemporary version is richer. And it’s a noble way to explore the femme fatale theme. Amaze us.

  4. That’s a short question with a very long answer that I’m not going to go into here. We are definitely not practicing Christians, or Jews, or Muslims. But we do have a strong interest in many spiritual matters. And also in the stories that accompany human civilization, including religious texts.

    And it’s mostly in this light that Fatale should be seen. It comes from a fascination with this story and its relevance to humans, even 2000 years after it had been written. We’re also very curious about a figure like John the Baptist. He seems so resolute, so hard, so unrelenting. Could he perhaps have returned Salome’s love if he had not been a prophet?

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