The story of Salome, the doubting midwife, was popular, and was retold and recorded in different texts and in different languages over the centuries, but it was never supposed that she actually delivered Jesus. The Christian scholar Jerome (fourth–fifth centuries) emphatically stated that there were no midwives attending Jesus’s birth (Against Helvidius 10): “There was no midwife present; women’s attendance did not intervene. [Mary] wrapped him in swaddling clothes with her own hands. She herself was both mother and midwife.”

Nevertheless, Christian artists did involve midwives in the adoration scene, with magi and shepherds and angels, as in this tenth-century ivory now in the British Museum, where a single midwife is shown bathing the baby Jesus. The bath of baby Jesus continued on through the centuries in the art of orthodox churches and in icons, until it was eventually considered unbiblical and therefore inappropriate. So, in a 12th-century fresco in the Dark Church at Goreme, Cappadocia, the older seated midwife is named Emea (from Greek hē maia, “the midwife”) and her younger assistant is named Salome. But even in such medieval art, Salome, the midwife assistant who bathes Jesus, is not identified as a saint, any more than the shepherds.