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August 3rd, 2010
01:49 PM ET

Remains of John the Baptist found in Bulgaria?

John the Baptist, right, as depicted in this 14th century painting at the National Gallery, London

Archaeologists in Bulgaria claim they have found remains of John the Baptist while excavating the site of a 5th century monastery on the Black Sea island of Sveti Ivan.

A reliquary – a container for holy relics – discovered last week under the monastery’s basilica was opened on Sunday and found to contain bone fragments of a skull, a hand and a tooth, Bulgaria’s official news agency BTA reported.

Excavation leader Kazimir Popkonstantinov lifted the reliquary’s lid in a ceremony in the coastal town of Sozopol attended by dignitaries including the Bishop of Sliven, Yoanikii, and Bozhidar Dimitrov, a government minister and director of Bulgaria’s National History Museum, BTA said.

Further tests on the fragments are due to be carried out. But Popkonstantinov is convinced the relics belong to John the Baptist because of a Greek inscription on the reliquary referring to June 24, the date when Christians celebrate John the Baptist’s birth, according to the website of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.

A later monastery on the island, built in the 11th century, was dedicated to John the Baptist – "Sveti Ivan" means "St. John" in Bulgarian and other Slavic languages. Popkonstantinov told Bulgarian news agency Focus that it was possible the earlier basilica was also dedicated to the saint.

Fabrizio Bisconti, superintendent of the Vatican Pontifical Commission of Sacred Archaeology, told CNN that the commission "will wait until a more thorough study has been conducted, including anthropological analysis, before it will express an opinion on the finding."

Bisconti also said there are thousands of alleged relics of John the Baptist scattered around the world. He said the pontifical commission has not been contacted by the Bulgarian archaeologists, and that it normally does not get involved in the sacred archaeology studies carried outside of Italy.

Christians believe John the Baptist heralded the arrival of Christ and baptized Jesus in the River Jordan. According to the Gospels, John was put to death by beheading on the orders of the local ruler, Herod Antipas. He is considered a particularly significant figure in the Orthodox Church.

The newly discovered reliquary is made of alabaster and dates from approximately the middle of the 5th century, Popkonstantinov told reporters. The southern Black Sea coast was then part of the Byzantine Empire, ruled from Byzantium, now Istanbul in Turkey.

Popkonstantinov told Focus the reliquary was the first to be discovered in the region.

Dimitrov told Focus the relics may once have been donated to the monastery by the Byzantine church. The Topkapi Palace museum in Istanbul is one of several sites claiming to house relics purported to be those of John the Baptist.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity

soundoff (1,093 Responses)
  1. JMcCain

    We can't even prove that Bulgaria exists. Has anyone ever been there? Nope. We can't even prove the internet exists.

    August 4, 2010 at 10:12 am |
  2. Don F.

    Leslie, please help me out. I have looked in vain for the spell checker button in and around the comment/reply area and find none. I also find none on the entire page. I also find none in the web browser (for better or worse I have IE). Perhaps you would be so kind as to direct me.

    ps I am constantly surprized by the degree to which arguments degrade into ad hominum attacks focused on the limitations of the posters instead of foucsing on the line of dicussion and its points. In this case, poor spelling does not decrease the validity of an argument or the dignity of the person making a particular point.

    August 4, 2010 at 10:11 am |
    • JMcCain

      Your punctuation isn't entirely correct. Therefore: you're point is mute. Also: no such place as Bulgaria= no point to this article.

      August 4, 2010 at 10:49 am |
  3. simple01

    Four Gospels of New Testament, Matthew, Mark, John and Luck are written by the disciples who witnessed the Lord Jesus' works and words. In John 8: 42-47 The Lord Jesus said that His opponents belong to their father, the devil.
    The question is that why some had (and have) an affinity (connection) for God and some do not, why some, but not the others, have hardness of heart that separates them from God. The answer is in Ephesians 4:18 – “They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts". Many believe the stories written in history books about Egyptians or Romans ... but they don't believe the word of God the Bible." unbelievers’ ignorance comes from their separation from God.

    August 4, 2010 at 10:10 am |
  4. hawkeye

    In one of these works, The Antiquities, Josephus is attributed as making reference to Jesus Christ, the founder of the Christian movement, where he appears to provide sweeping corroboration to His life, miracles, death, and resurrection. The passage as it stands reads:

    "Now at this time, Jesus arose. He was a wise man (if he must actually be described as a man), for he was a doer of remarkable deeds, a teacher of people who receive the truth with delight. He persuaded both many Jewish people and many of the Greeks as well. He was the Messiah. And after Pilate had punished him with a cross at the instigation of high ranking men among us, those who loved him at first did not stop because he appeared to them living again on the third day – the divine prophets had predicted these and countless other marvelous things about him. Even now, the group named after this man, the Christians, has still not disappeared" (Ant., 18.3:3).

    August 4, 2010 at 10:09 am |
  5. Will

    my question is this: does it really matter if they found John the Baptist's remains?
    and in doing so wouldn't they deal a blow to pure and simple faith?
    belive what you want to believe and no offense intended, but finding a dead who may or may not be from a "history" book or whatever...(let's see em pull some DNA or dental records for the guy to test it to...) isn't going to change what I believe also, I saw nothing about islam or the united state's president in that article. stop the damn hatin'.

    August 4, 2010 at 10:05 am |
  6. Josef

    My whole argument has always been this: If on Jesus death the earth shook (earthquake) and the skies darkened, (an eclisp ) then why is there no mention of this in anyones history books. This would have been an important event. an earthquake & eclisps at the same time, come on now , that's historical , yet no mention by romans, jews or anyone else.

    August 4, 2010 at 10:05 am |
    • Neko Shousui

      There is also the written evidence of Tertullian, a Roman citizen, well educated and versed in the law, who testified that there was what people took to be an eclipse of the sun at the time Jesus died and three days later, an earthquake and the stone sealing the sepulchre where Jesus' body had been placed rolled away to reveal an empty tomb

      August 4, 2010 at 10:44 am |
  7. bu33ing Re: Langkard

    I appreciate your postings and their historical relevance. Do you have a blog\literature\book\Resources that complement\dig deeper\expand on your information?

    August 4, 2010 at 10:05 am |
    • Jamason

      I am VERY glad to see that I am not the only one that appreciates Langkard's intelligence here. WOW This Guy/Girl is absolutely Amazing. Someone that actually uses their BRAIN...I have scanned through every post here on this blog just looking for Langkard's post. VERY IMPRESSIVE... (JFB)

      August 5, 2010 at 3:46 pm |
  8. Ashamed

    I'm Ashamed and sadden to have read any of the above statements. There is only one God and he is Alpha and Omega. God sent his son Jesus Christ to die on the cross, so we could be reborn through him and live in the Kingdom of Heaven. To be reborn you must ask for forgiveness and repent through baptism, which is a public offering to show your relationship with God. John the Baptist baptized Jesus Christ to show just that. It was an example for current and future belivers to follow. To ask for forgiveness and declare publicly your faith in the Lord Almighty. Remember, "Jesus continued to say to all of them, "If any person wants to follow me, he must say 'No' to the things he wants. That person must accept the cross (suffering) that is given to him every day, and he must follow me. The person that wants to save his life will lose it. And every person that gives his life for me will save it. It is worth nothing for a person to have the whole world, if he himself is destroyed or lost. If any person is ashamed of me and my teaching, then I will be ashamed of that person. I will be ashamed of that person at the time I come with my glory and with the glory of the Father and the holy angels." Luke 9:23-26

    August 4, 2010 at 10:03 am |
    • Ash

      Why D-d need a Son...if can create everything??? why D-d will scarifies his only one Son if he had any??? would you kill your Son for your neighbor SINS!! OR IS THAT THE BIGGEST hoax IN HISTORY!?

      August 4, 2010 at 10:16 am |
    • Mekhong Kurt

      Ashamed, thanks but no thanks. Since nobody appointed you to fill in for the Father, Son, or Holy Ghost, you have no right to feel "ashamed" for anyone other than for yourself.

      Just as I don't for anyone other than me.

      August 5, 2010 at 10:32 am |
  9. maggie

    The Bible a book of profecy. It contains numerous prophecies, many of which have already been fulfilled. Consider an example. Through the prophet Isaiah, who lived in the eighth century B.C.E., Jehovah foretold that the city of Babylon would be destroyed. (Isaiah 13:19; 14:22, 23) Details were given to show just how this would happen. Invading armies would dry up Babylon’s river and march into the city without a battle. That is not all. Isaiah’s prophecy even named the king who would conquer Babylon—Cyrus.—Isaiah 44:27–45:2.
    Some 200 years later—on the night of October 5/6, 539 B.C.E.—an army encamped near Babylon. Who was its commander? A Persian king named Cyrus. The stage was thus set for the fulfillment of an amazing prophecy. But would the army of Cyrus invade Babylon without a battle, as foretold?
    The Babylonians were holding a festival that night and felt secure behind their massive city walls. Meanwhile, Cyrus cleverly diverted the water of the river that flowed through the city. Soon the water was shallow enough for his men to cross the riverbed and approach the walls of the city. But how would Cyrus’ army get past Babylon’s walls? For some reason, on that night the doors to the city were carelessly left open!
    Regarding Babylon, it was foretold: “She will never be inhabited, nor will she reside for generation after generation. And there the Arab will not pitch his tent, and no shepherds will let their flocks lie down there.” (Isaiah 13:20) This prophecy did more than predict a city’s fall. It showed that Babylon would be desolated permanently. You can see evidence of the fulfillment of these words. The uninhabited site of ancient Babylon—about 50 miles south of Baghdad, Iraq—is proof that what Jehovah spoke through Isaiah has been fulfilled: “I will sweep her with the broom of annihilation.”—Isaiah 14:22, 23.
    what do you people say about this. You can check history about this it happened exactly as the bible foretold.

    August 4, 2010 at 10:02 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Slight problem with your theory.....
      1) It is widely believed that the part about Cyrus was added at a much later date, post events.
      2) Babylon was not destroyed by Cyrus but in fact remained standing and the capital city for many years after. Mention of ruins start around 110AD or so, a good 600 to 700 years after the event.
      3) The story of Cyrus has several dieties claiming credit for allowing him to capture Babylon, including Marduk.

      August 4, 2010 at 2:45 pm |
    • comeout2playyyaaayyyy!

      They shot Cyrus! They did! The Warriors shot Cyrus!

      August 4, 2010 at 8:17 pm |
  10. J P

    John the Baptist is in heaven... these bones mean nothing. His soul & spirit has left his body more than 2000 years ago !

    August 4, 2010 at 10:01 am |
  11. mfaphoto

    No one will ever be able to prove this. A fifth century reliquary is a long time after he was executed. Any bones could have been put into it and probably were since having the bones of a saint in your church was a very big thing. Having them would guarantee that it would be the center of the Christian faith for miles around. They would bring business and people could become rich. During the middle ages there was also a big business in selling relics and indulgences. It became quite a scandal.

    August 4, 2010 at 9:55 am |
  12. Scott

    To Nate from Seattle,
    It doesn't surprise me that you, coming from Seattle, do not believe in Christ. Go back to your room and smoke dope and keep thinking you'll be important one day.

    August 4, 2010 at 9:55 am |
    • Double-T

      I have recently found proof that Jesus created the first gravity bong from a 2-liter bottle and some tinfoil, although they didn't call it a gravity bong then, it was called a Jesus-Headwrecker.....Christians don't believe in gravity, God keeps them from flying off of the earth....I wish he would forget for a minute or two......

      August 4, 2010 at 11:22 am |
    • ChristiansAndNon-Christians

      What matters for you tomorrow is what you are writing here today. If your anger toward Christians is based on your opinion and the wrongs committed by so-called Christians, don't let them stop you from learning the truth for yourself. Read the Holy Bible yourselves, asking God to help you understand... even if you don't believe at the time, go ahead and risk it. It's called prayer. What do you have to lose? You try tai chi, yoga, buy things on basis of advertisements, and make choices and decisions based on YOUR OWN investigation and curiosity, don't you?

      Meanwhile, Christians, find the missing children here on earth. Regarding Seattle, a main Seattle newspaper rep replied that they didn't have current articles on the missing 7 y/o Oregon boy, Kyron Horman, because they had a lot of other things to put in their paper now. So, the same problem exists in most areas of our country that is riddled with brain addled dopers. Christians, it is up to you. Work like the angels who rescued Lot and family from the old city of Sodomizers. Pray and bravely find Kyron who is innocence being pounded by devils. Keep his name in print by entering it in "searches" in 'net publications. Closely examine events involving young boys in other states. Tennessee is a good focus, where a female pediatrician and her hubby beat and tortured to death a little 4 y/o adopted daughter, yes, a degreed child doctor did this. Days prior, in same Tennessee little town, another female airmailed a child she considered to have psychological problems, to Russia alone, without telling the child where he was going or who was going to meet him... this female is a Registered Nurse. She contacted a man on the internet and paid him $200 to pickup the child to deliver to some official building... so, that one is a Registered Nurse (unemployed) and apparently a photographer of some sort according reports about a the trailer she was keeping, with black plastic taped over the inside windows, that conflicted with a neighbor's property, and according to limited view inside, the trailer was filled with VIDEO equipment. Oh btw, the "bio boy" she had/has before the adoptee has never been to school... apx age 7-9y/o. School boss said not registered for school or homeschooling for this year... and they didn't even know he existed until the news about the Russian boy. Oh well. Anyway, both women professionals in medical field... people we have been trained to trust, respect and be in awe of... like we used to feel about Senators, Congress, Judges, Sheriffs, Medical Professionals, etc. NO ONE is above suspicion when it comes to missing children. You Christians in Tennesse, walk boldly into the arena and search. The lions are waiting. Let's clear at least one state now, off our search list. Best to start with an area that seems to pride itself on this type of female. Do it, Christians, for the one who said it is better to hang a millstone around your neck and jump into the deepest ocean than to bring scandal to a child. Sounds to me like the ONLY time God not only approved suicide, but ordered it.

      August 5, 2010 at 10:21 am |
  13. Meaty Portion

    It's been very entertaining reading the comments for this article and watching as complete strangers argue about something that no one can prove either way.

    August 4, 2010 at 9:54 am |
  14. Tim

    GOD ONLY KNOWS

    August 4, 2010 at 9:53 am |
  15. Bozo Knows

    Talk about re-writing history–what the Neo-Pentacostal Christian movement have to do with Protestantism or the values of Christ–they don't even celebrate Christmas!–I don't know. They're just into religion for the quid pro pro of their own club. Remember Tammy and Jim? Now they weren't a fraud, were they? Wait they must've been saints–no–they're Christians they don't believe in saints–saints were never people, never good, never--oh, my God-oops–I didn't say that...LIGHTENING!!!!!!

    August 4, 2010 at 9:53 am |
    • Double-T

      and a thousand years from now someone will dig up Jim's and Tammy's heads and claim that they prove the existence of God......A snowball effect of ignorance....Forget curing Cancer or AIDS, let's try to help these people instead, it's definitely the worst of the human epidemics.....

      August 4, 2010 at 11:19 am |
  16. maggie

    The Bible is a book from God and Jesus is the son of God. Before any of you make comments regarding the bible you need to examine it first for yourself then you will be better equipped to criticize it. The bible was written over a 1,600-year period. Its writers lived in different era and came from many walks of life. Some were farmers, fishermen, and shepherds. Others were prophets, judges, and kings. The Gospel writer Luke was a doctor. Despite the varied backgrounds of its writers, the Bible is harmonious from beginning to end.
    The first book of the Bible tells us how mankind’s problems began. The last book shows that the whole earth will become a paradise, just the way God was intended to be. The material in the Bible covers thousands of years of history and relates in some way to the unfolding of God’s purpose. The harmony of the Bible is impressive, but that is what we would expect of a book from God.
    The Bible is scientifically accurate. It even contains information that was far ahead of its time. For example, the book of Leviticus contained laws for ancient Israel on quarantine and hygiene when surrounding nations knew nothing about such matters. At a time when there were wrong ideas about the shape of the earth, the Bible referred to it as a circle, or sphere. (Isaiah 40:22) The Bible accurately said that the earth ‘hangs on nothing.’ (Job 26:7) Of course, the Bible is not a science textbook. But when it touches on scientific matters, it is accurate. Is this not what we would expect of a book from God?

    August 4, 2010 at 9:52 am |
    • Double-T

      Many of us have read the Bible, and I admit, it is definitely a page turner, but I liked "The Firm" by John Grisham better....Oh, and I think a hole just opened up in the earth when you wrote "Bible" and "science" in the same sentence.....

      August 4, 2010 at 10:18 am |
    • Dan, SF, CA

      The Bible is not remotely "scientifically accurate", nor can it be completely accurate historically. It is a compendium of stories and records that in most, if not all cases, were oral tales for at least hundreds of years before being put into written form. Later religious leaders sifted through many such written stories and decided which ones and which versions to include. The people who put the stories down in writing would have shaped the stories to fit their beliefs and their own political/social agendas. The people who later put it together did the same. Naturally , it contains innumerable contradictions. Its an important reference and relic. Bur it can not be seen in ant way as literal or scientific truth.

      August 4, 2010 at 10:18 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      'At a time when there were wrong ideas about the shape of the earth, the Bible referred to it as a circle, or sphere'
      Actually the ancient greeks had already worked out it was a sphere. The bible calls it a circle, not a sphere so the bible is wrong.

      August 4, 2010 at 2:32 pm |
    • nirmal

      bible is the word of GOD and no book is worthy to be correct as bible. every things in bible is correct since the place mentioned in bible can be visited and seen by our own eyes, the bible is not false Tale and Copied Material like Quran and other Religious Book.each and very day GOD's truth is reveled. Glory be to JESUS

      August 4, 2010 at 6:01 pm |
  17. precarbonized_dating

    Descartes walked in to a bar....The bartender asked "Can I get you a drink?" Descartes replied "I think not"

    August 4, 2010 at 9:51 am |
  18. JMcCain

    We don't even have proof that Obama was born an American. Where's the birth certificate? Doesn't exist. Never seen it. He's not an American. If someone ever produces a real birth certificate for Obama, then we'll know if John the Baptist's remains were truly discovered in whatever weird country this article is referring to.

    August 4, 2010 at 9:50 am |
  19. Josef

    To all christians & non believers. I have found the 33 coins used to pay off Judus, into betraying the 33 year old christ. They are on display in my living room, please leave a donation at the door. $33 would do it.

    August 4, 2010 at 9:50 am |
  20. Satire

    Amen to that!

    August 4, 2010 at 9:48 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.