Salome and the Kin of Jesus: The Treatises of Maurice of Kirkham and Herbert of Bosham

Edited and translated by Constant J. Mews and Antti Ijäs

With the assistance of Samuel Baudinette and Rina Lahav


Studies and Texts 237; British Writers 8 • cxxx, 226 pp. • ISBN 978-0-88844-237-6 • Cloth • $125

In the twelfth century a matter was debated that still confronts readers of the New Testament, namely, just who constituted the kin of Jesus? The question held considerable significance, politically as well as theologically. It was popularly held that St Anne, mother of the Virgin, had had three husbands, and that James the Less, James the Great and John the Evangelist were all descended from her. However, this story, proposed by the Carolingian commentator Haimo of Auxerre, included the belief that Salome, the mother of the disciples James and John, was in fact a man and St Anne’s third husband.

This hypothesis was widely circulated both in verses and in a prose summary; falsely attributed to Jerome, by the twelfth century it had been empanelled within Peter Lombard’s great commentary on the Pauline Epistles. Two scholars saw fit to mount a challenge: Maurice of Kirkham (d. after 1174), prior of the Augustinian abbey of Kirkham in Yorkshire; and Herbert of Bosham (d. after 1189), a former student of Peter Lombard and Thomas Becket’s chief companion during the time of his exile in France. Both men employed not only scholastic methods of enquiry but also their own knowledge of Hebrew, and both decried the general acceptance of a flawed hypothesis about the genealogy of the Virgin as symbolic of an uncritical acceptance of scholastic authorities with the potential to distort comprehension of the Gospels.

This volume provides the first edition and translation of Maurice’s Contra Salomitas, in both its short and long versions, as well as his letter summarizing its argument addressed to Roger of Pont l’Évêque, archbishop of York. It also provides an edition and translation of Herbert’s letter to Henry, count of Champagne, and a revised version that he included within his edition of Peter Lombard’s glosses on St Paul. A substantial introduction outlines the long evolution of the debate about the kin of Jesus, and situates Maurice and Herbert in the context of their twelfth-century scholastic milieu.


Constant J. Mews is Professor Emeritus in the School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies at Monash University, Australia, where he was until his retirement Director of the Centre for Religious Studies. His interests focus around theology and exegesis in the patristic and scholastic periods, and his publications, which range widely in the history of medieval thought and culture, include The Lost Love Letters of Heloise and Abelard: Perceptions of Dialogue in Twelfth-Century France (2nd ed., 2008) and Abelard and Heloise (2005). He is currently completing editions of the De XII abusiuis saeculi for Scriptores Celtigenae in the Corpus Christianorum, and an edition and translation of the letters of Hugh Metel.

Antti Ijäs earned his doctorate in Latin Language and Roman Literature at the University of Helsinki. His main fields of interest are Classical and Medieval philology, with a particular focus on Medieval Latin, manuscript studies, and book history. His research revolves around pragmatic and technical literature and language, particularly questions related to the history and semantics of technical terminology and the transmission of knowledge and technique through text and image. He publishes in English, German, and Finnish. He is currently a researcher with the University of Helsinki, working on a new edition, translation, and commentary of Konrad Kyeser’s Bellifortis.


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