Archaeologists with the Israeli Antiquities Authority uncovered hundreds of artifacts during an excavation of a burial cave that is believed by some to be the tomb of Jesus' midwife, Salome.
"According to a Christian tradition, Salome was the midwife from Bethlehem, who was called to participate in the birth of Jesus," IAA archaeologist Zvi Firer said, according to The Times of Israel. "She could not believe that she was asked to deliver a virgin's baby, and her hand became dry and was only healed when she held the baby's cradle."
The story of Salome participating in Jesus' birth is found in the Gospel of James, which is different from the book of James found in the New Testament.
As reported by The Christian Post, the Gospel of James is one of the second-century apocryphal texts, or historical texts not considered biblical canon and that were written by early Jewish-Christians.
According to the IAA, hundreds of lamps were discovered inside shop stalls in the courtyard of the burial cave located in the Lachish region in central Israel. The lamps are believed to have belonged to early Christians who went on pilgrimages there.
The cave, also known as "Salome Cave," was also used during the Byzantine and Early Islamic eras.
"In the shop, we found hundreds of complete and broken lamps dating from the 8th–9th centuries [A.D]," Israel Antiquities Authority Southern Region excavation directors Nir Shimshon-Paran and Zvi Firer said in a joint statement. "The lamps may have served to light up the cave, or as part of the religious ceremonies, similarly to candles distributed today at the graves of righteous figures and in churches."
Firer told The Times of Israel that local Christians made pilgrimages to the burial cave after the area was recognized as the tomb of Salome in the Byzantine era.
"The name Salome may possibly have appeared in antiquity on one of the ossuaries [stone boxes] in the tomb, and the tradition identifying the site with Salome the midwife developed, with the cave becoming venerated by Christianity," Firer said.
While the Bible states that Jesus was born in a manger, the Gospel of James says Christ's birth took place in a cave located in the Lachish region in central Israel. The ancient text also says Mary had two midwives, one of them being Salome. The other midwife was not mentioned by name.
The apocryphal text also notes Salome was healed of an injured hand after holding baby Jesus after she entered the cave. It was through this healing that Salome became a follower of Christ.
Photo courtesy: ©Israel Antiquities Authority/Public Domain
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.