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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. Ash

    I frankly DO NOT CARE

    August 4, 2010 at 10:30 am |
    • Anon

      Ok. Lets get straight here....you are posting comments on this article. Yes? Ok. You really just dont care. Yes? Ok. Let me pose this question to you. Why are you even here? You're either bored or you are looking at getting in some of that sweet trolling action.

      August 4, 2010 at 12:30 pm |
  2. KLS

    To Bystander and others who may be willing to do a little research. It was mentioned that there was no DNA. Actually there is, on the Shroud of Turin, in the blood type of AB. AB are the Hebrew letters for FATHER, such as in the Greek ABBA is also FATHER, Jesus is the Son of the Father as He is the son of man. The shroud is evidence of the existence of Jesus Christ and the blood type is added evidence with DNA. As for John the Baptist, (John 14:11-12) his followers actually buried him after his death and his head was given to the mother of Salome. It does not say what happened to his head beyond that, so it could have been taken anyplace. Also for skeptics please do a research on the word LAMININ, for you will find it is common to all men and not animals, so there is proof that creation of man is specific and not as evolution attached to animals. Also if you are willing to do research on the authenticity of Scripture, research Bible Math by way of Ivan Panin, E.W Bullinger, Del Washburn and many others. Study the Hebrew and Greek languages in depth for there you will find the Signature of God.

    August 4, 2010 at 10:29 am |
    • Ash

      Shroud of Turin is your prove...the whole Shroud thing is a HOAX!

      August 4, 2010 at 10:32 am |
    • just joe

      ... study the night sky and you will see aliens.

      August 4, 2010 at 10:43 am |
  3. Ash

    So the Guy is Bulgarian in other words he's European not Middle Eastern! so Serbian claims about 15 years back that Jesus from Serbia was true... CONGRATULATION

    August 4, 2010 at 10:28 am |
  4. Leo

    In short – who cares? They're bones. They're dead. Let's focus on the living, shall we?

    August 4, 2010 at 10:28 am |
  5. MaineGuy

    I Find it interesting that most "true" Christians, or "Real" Christians still cannot agree on what is "truth" to them. One group claims one thing, another claims another, feelings get hurt, people get heated, and peole start to die. Havn't we had enough of this garbage? Havn't we had enough time to try and see if this particular myth had done anything for us? Sure orphanages have been built and money has been given by Church organizations (and all of the other fun things most religeous folk like to cling to), but very bad things often happen to those children, and those funds that are lent are but the tip of the iceberg. The rest is lining some clergymen's pockets. Havn't we given enough human lives, havn't we wasted enough of our time as a species on this nonsense? Havn't people been duped, and been forced to be content with a low lot in life, for long enough?
    Don't hate the change thats coming. Dont fear the end of this religeon. Christianity is dying: an information age and the social movements towards individual rights and freedom of thought have long since sealed its fate. When your churches close down, when your parishes evaporate, when the world finally moves on from the damage you've dealt from it, when your angry and incensed and ready for violence- remember: What would Jesus do?

    August 4, 2010 at 10:27 am |
    • Cheri

      When Christianity is gone from this earth all Christians will be in Heaven God. Enjoying the streets of gold and the mansions He has built for us. The rest will remain on this earth and the unheavenly environment that they have created. Hope you enjoy what you will inherit here on earth.

      Brenton you said everything beautifully from a Christian standpoint. See you in Heaven!!!!!

      August 4, 2010 at 11:06 am |
  6. Brenton (www.livelovechange.com)

    Until you experience firsthand the love of Christ that was displayed on the cross, you will never understand. This is a priceless gift of salvation that is given to us not by anything that we do but by the Grace and Love of God. Until we are called by God "His Children" you are blinded. I am praying for this thread of contributors. There is only one true God and his name is Jesus. This creation screams for a creator. Everyone will see one day. Every tongue will confess, every knee will bow! Unless you never believe and proclaim Christ as savior, then you will find yourself eternally separated from God in a never ending despair.

    August 4, 2010 at 10:27 am |
    • GetReal

      I have experienced the "love of christ" prior to entering bible college 30 years ago. I spent 20 years in ministry and church until I finally looked around, dug deeper into the new testament and its origins and realized that I was believing in silly sound bites and quickie bumper sticker answers brainwashed into me all these years. The critical thinking and logic displayed by christians is akin to a child plugging their ears and saying, "la la la la la I can't hear you" whenever they are faced with hard facts. I could no longer continue to live in a fairy tale world where science doesn't exist and logic has no role and all answers for everything in the world are derivatives of "his ways are mysterious and we just have to go on that." I have actually felt FREE by giving up religion and fairy tales than supposedly being FREE by embracing it which is what we were brainwashed to feel.

      August 4, 2010 at 5:40 pm |
    • Mekhong Kurt

      Um, Brenton, what does God feel about Jesus usurping His role as God? What happened to the Trinity? DId the Holy Ghost get kicked out?

      August 5, 2010 at 10:39 am |
  7. Chris Davis

    @BRANTICUS I could drive a truck through the holes in that book as well as Strobel's "The Case for Christ." Both books are filled with absurd analysis and biased reporting. Do YOURSELF a favor and read some of the agnostic responses to those books.

    August 4, 2010 at 10:26 am |
  8. just joe

    A hand, a skull and a tooth. IT'S ST. JOHN THE BATIST everyone! Sounds to me like the island of Sveti Ivan needs and economic shot in the arm so, as was the norm in the dark ages to bring in revenue to a faltering economy, they found the "remains" of a saint. Sadly, the more things change the more they stay the same.

    August 4, 2010 at 10:25 am |
  9. P54

    St. John could as well be the Apostle John, the disciple closest to Jesus, and the writer of several letters in the New Testament.

    August 4, 2010 at 10:25 am |
  10. Chris Davis

    Everyone here needs to listen to the podcasts and interviews of Dr. Robert M. Price. Google "Robert M. Price Jesus the Failed Hypothesis." His interview about the historicity of Jesus on the Point of Inquiry podcast is a must listen. Christians need to understand that the evidence for the existence of Jesus is very, VERY thin and it’s much more probable that he was a mythical figure. Once you learn that the New Testament is simply a rewriting of the Old Testament and it is heavily redacted and harmonized to fulfill OT prophecy it becomes very probable that Jesus never existed and simply was a creation.

    August 4, 2010 at 10:23 am |
  11. CoqCheney

    Anyone ever wonder why "John" wrote about himself so much in the third person?? Or, perhaps why "Moses" did the same? Check your history... christianity, as it's practiced today, came some 400 years AFTER the supposed "life of Jesus." It should be noted that the name "Jesus" comes from the Latin acronym "Iesu," meaning, "no name recorded." There are too many "Iesu" listings to worry about which one may have been "divine." Besides, the Romans were'n crucifying people at the supposed time circa 0 C.E.
    The holy texts of these religions are largely misunderstood, particularly by those who currently follow them. They were books of knowledge, written in languages that have been hijacked and edited by the very religions that now control them. What is called the "New Testament" is an ancient Greek translation of segments of the larger body of work that gave us the "Torah." The name of so-called Jesus in Hebrew was "Yeshua," or Joshua. There is quite a lot of similarity between numeric groupings that appear in both the "Old" and the "New." Only the names change. These numeric coincidences predate the "Torah," reaching into mythologies of India, and Babylon before that.
    They are books of what was understood at that time... and they were translated and re-translated by scholars of different cultures. It is we who do not understand them. It is we who WANT to find ghosts and bogeymen.
    Science brings knowledge. Knowledge is power. The same was true for ALL of mankind's evolution.

    August 4, 2010 at 10:23 am |
  12. Bobolink

    This whole convoluted wonderful debate was already posted about 5 months ago, even down to the teaser image of Two Medieval saints and John the Baptist from the Wilton Diptych... so why are the entries now dated as August 4 2010? Admit it.. this is a summer rerun of something that was a lot of horse manure.

    August 4, 2010 at 10:22 am |
  13. BRANTICUS

    Read "Evidence Demands A Verdict" written by Josh McDowell an Athiest. You don't have to believe but do yourself a favor and know the facts so you don't make a fool of yourself before milllions of people.

    August 4, 2010 at 10:22 am |
  14. eisen

    I am a Christian I love the father son and holy ghost. just as I love all you commenting factual or not. Regardless of whether you believe or do not believe. Does that make me dumb? No I do not believe it does it means i have faith in something. What do you believe in? Good luck in all you do and continue to study.

    August 4, 2010 at 10:22 am |
    • Shane

      It doesn't make you dumb. But it does make you someone who believes things based on insufficient evidence. You're trying to show that we all have faith in some things, therefore your faith is the same as any other sort of faith. But the fact is - with Christianity, the emphasis is faith in the ABSURD. The more absurd, the greater the faith!

      This isn't about faith. It's about absurdity.

      August 4, 2010 at 5:03 pm |
  15. BRANTICUS

    There is more historical evidence about Jesus OUTSIDE OF THE BIBLE than Alexander The Great. Read the Sennate Annuls in Rome genius.

    August 4, 2010 at 10:19 am |
    • Shane

      Quite untrue. Jesus is barely mentioned, and where he is, it is either by reference (and assumed), or it was likely inserted later as a forgery. If you had studied this matter beyond superficially, you'd know these things.

      August 4, 2010 at 4:59 pm |
  16. Saint B

    The word "saint" when mentioned in the Bible, refers to anyone who is a believer in Christ, so the remains could be any believer who was named "John." The Catholic church started attaching "miracles" as a requirement to be declared a saint, but they had nothing to do at all with being a believer. The miracles often were what we now know are symptoms of schizophrenia or legitimate physical ailments which were not understood at that time.

    August 4, 2010 at 10:16 am |
  17. Ashley

    And the religious debate rolls on and on and on, and always will........................

    August 4, 2010 at 10:15 am |
  18. Synchromatic

    One time I went roller skating, and another I swam in a lake.

    August 4, 2010 at 10:15 am |
  19. GetReal

    Come on, so John kicked in the womb when he came near Mary, oh ya, "kick for joy", that's always good to add in as if the motivation of a fetus can be determined.... sheesh.... what fetus DOESN'T kick and move occasionally when in the womb?! Duh.

    August 4, 2010 at 10:14 am |
  20. Ash

    John the Baptist remains in "Bulgaria"??? is this some kind of a joke or something???

    August 4, 2010 at 10:12 am |
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About this blog

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.