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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. Leah

    I find it amusing that every religious blog (such as this) is full of non-believers. If you don't believe, then why are you constantly trying to argue with those who do believe and reading things such as this? I thought we all had a freedom of religion? So why are you b*t*hing about those who do believe and do practice their beliefs? Leave them alone and you'll find that you won't hear them as often nor as loud.

    I believe in God. I believe the bible as a GUIDELINE. The bible isn't meant to be taken literally. For example Johan and the fish. Do I believe that he survived in a fish? No. But was that the point of the parable (story)? No. What WAS the point was that if you don't do what you're told or do what is right, there will be consquences (sp).

    August 4, 2010 at 12:02 pm |
    • P54

      Are you sure? Even Jesus himself confirmed the story of Jonah. Can a virgin have a baby? Nothing is impossible for the ONE who CREATED everything. Everything was created by Him and for Him, the One true God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who himself said if you have seen Me you have seen the Father. Who was the "I AM", from everlasting to everlasting, who was in Glory with the Father BEFORE the world began. He came from heaven, "downgraded" himself to a human being, gave himself to die upon a cross for our sins, and went back to heaven. From there He gives believers a spiritual rebirth (born again), as we believe Jesus died for our sins. He accepts us as His children and gives us eternal life to be with Him as we leave this earth. Can we prove all this ? Can we understand all this ? NO! We accept His word by FAITH, and born again believers can testify about their experience. Faith in itself is a gift from God the Father, who draws people to Jesus, and many have been drawn and saved as a result of other people praying for them. Countless "sinners" from all walks of life have been rescued from a life in depravity and addiction by the blood of Jesus Christ. They can testify by their own experience that Jesus Christ is alive and have power over the deepest sin and gives new life. They are living proof that what we accept by faith and believe are the truth. Like the Bible says: Only a fool says there is no God. By faith we accept that the visible and the invisible were created by Him. As always, there must be a Creator behind the created. Everything man make have manpower behind it and everything that is that man did not make have God's power behind it. Jesus Christ Is LORD.

      August 4, 2010 at 3:50 pm |
  2. Matt

    Here is the problem with CNN. They post factually inaccurate stories, then, when called on it, change the story but make no note of their previous mistakes. I see several comments telling CNN they are wrong when they say that John prophecied the birth of Christ and now, looking at the story again, it now reads "Christians believe John the Baptist heralded the arrival of Christ".

    CNN: Correct your errors but don't cover them up. Leave the old information with struck-through text so we can see where you corrected your story. Later readers assume you had it this way all along. This is the problem with online news sources. We can never be sure the way it originally read.

    August 4, 2010 at 11:54 am |
  3. Maria

    Bob the Historian is, I'm afraid, not really a historian at all. We have no "Roman records" of any kind. In fact, we have zilch. All we have is a much-rewritten and interpolated paragraph known as Josephus' Testamonium Flavianum, which some scholars believe didn't even exist because Origen doesn't acknowledge it and he was certainly familiar with Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews. But other than that, even the apostle Paul doesn't doesn't as much as quote Jesus, and he supposedly lived and wrote merely a decade or so after Jesus' death. Why? Because he wasn't talking about a living, breathing human being.

    There's a great deal of misinformation floating around in churches and the general public regarding historical evidence supporting the existence of biblical figures such as Jesus and John the Baptist. As for objective historical evidence, there is practically none. (And I mean, something written by someone who was an objective contemporary who wasn't also a believer reporting fantastical supernatural events.) We actually have more proof that King Arthur actually lived than that Jesus lived. If we really taught history without fear of reprisal from churches, the world would be a different place.

    August 4, 2010 at 11:53 am |
  4. in study

    This is so sad don't know why I am concerned about others souls It's very hard to have an intelligent conversation here don't think I'll try again.

    August 4, 2010 at 11:53 am |
  5. Futon Torpedo

    Honestly..... DOES IT EVEN MATTER?!?!?! NO!

    August 4, 2010 at 11:51 am |
  6. PT

    1. Christianity is a "belief" system, not needing proofs to substantiate it. I believe the Bible is the inspired word of God. If you do not believe that, that is your privilege. I don't need to have an archaeologist "prove" that a skull found is that of John the Baptist or anyone else. My faith comes from spiritually inspired sources, not physical proofs.
    2. My belief influences how I treat others. It comes from what I read in the Bible, and from experiences i receive by applying Bible principles to my life. I.E., I am free from the need to worship old bones, or have someone prove anything. My fulfillment does not come from being reassured by others. If that makes me a dope by your standards, so be it. You have to deal with your own situation.
    3. I haven't found a more consistent, truthful set of principles to live by than the Bible. I do not apologize for it's teaching. If applied as intended, it will produce good works, not selfish, self-centered works. Unfortunately, folks like to use it for non-spiritual purposes. That's why it has been so distorted and misused over the centuries.

    August 4, 2010 at 11:51 am |
    • Gary

      PT. nice post. I am glad we live in a Nation we are free to believe in any religious we want to ....Bible,Quran, ect. I need solid proof as an agnostic I can not prove nor do I want to that Harry Potter series,Hinduism,Old or new Testment quoran or any other text isnt word of God. .......This country was founded on slaughtering native indians who believed in rain,sun Gods...Capturing and enslaving africans ...Bible never mentions United States or the Western hemisphere @ all .....

      August 4, 2010 at 11:58 am |
  7. in study

    Shane I do not pretend I walk the walk It is not always easy and there is nothing wrong with Faith I am sure you have faith in something or someone don't you ?

    August 4, 2010 at 11:48 am |
    • Shane

      There is no RATIONAL basis to pick religion A over religion B. It doesn't bother me that you have faith, but when you have faith in the ABSURD, I tend to take pause. And, indeed, it is the absurd element of the religion of Christianity that you embrace. Yours isn't an argument in favor of faith, so much as it is an argument defending your belief in what is absurd.

      August 4, 2010 at 11:55 am |
  8. in study

    Anon you really have a thing about sarcasim I was just stating a fact sorry you took it as sarcasim I think the most difficult thing about these blogs is that you do not know what the other person really means because we aren't sitting together, although there are really some people who are just silly or hateful thankfully I am neither

    August 4, 2010 at 11:47 am |
    • Anon

      Yeah sorry, im in one of those "hate on sarcasim" moods today. My bad

      August 4, 2010 at 11:52 am |
  9. Popeforprez

    And every single one of you have proved how much organized religion breeds fragmentation in society. If you believed in yourselves half as much as you believe in all of this stuff the world would be a happier, safer and more peacefull place. You are all stating opinion as fact and accepting your own belief system, but nobody elses? What kind of world are we leaving our children? Teaching them to judge others? Whatever you believe is not right or wrong, it just is. If we can all really believe that then maybe we wouldn't argue so much. Just saying...

    August 4, 2010 at 11:45 am |
  10. swh

    The real news will be when they find the remains of Jesus and his wife Mary Magdalene.

    August 4, 2010 at 11:43 am |
  11. just joe

    I feel sorry for your lack of intelligence, your lack of education and your inability to stand up for yourself without the crutch of religion.

    August 4, 2010 at 11:42 am |
  12. Carol

    This is fascinating. Please continue to report on it.

    August 4, 2010 at 11:39 am |
  13. Origen

    @Lily!

    Josephus, the "Roman historian" was actually a Jew, and he could not have met Jesus, as you wrote, since he was born in 37 CE, a time when according to your church Jesus was dead. Jesus actually did not die on the cross but that is a different story for a different article.

    John has announced that Jesus would come to baptize people not with water but with holy spirit and fire. Well, when did that happen? The church continues to practice the pagan tradition of the watery baptism. In fact, the baptism with fire and holy spirit was and still is part of the initiation in the "kundalini yoga", something Jesus was initiated too in during the time he spent in India to receive his part of his education and the knowledge that later on shared with Jews and Gentiles alike.

    As mentioned in the article, there are thousands of relics around the world claimed to belong to John the Baptist. Obviously, none of them is the real one. And even if one of the thousands of pieces of bones did belong to John, the Bible forbids the worshiping of human remains while Jesus clearly states that the "flesh amounts to nothing," and that thus the only thing that matters is the human spirit. That too is something today's churches are less than interested in preaching since that would make them lose control over the masses of poor in spirit ...

    August 4, 2010 at 11:36 am |
  14. Lily1214

    Since there's nothing to compare DNA to, they'll never know for certain will they?

    August 4, 2010 at 11:36 am |
  15. in study

    Christians do not hate atheists, and you have to be more than just a good person to get to heaven the Bible is a pattern.
    We did not get here haphazardly just because there was a big bang have you ever thought that someone made the big bang. Have you seen a UFO have you ever seen a space alien? Yet people believe in them all the time! Gee I wonder why life has never been found on another planet?? must be a good game of hide and seek. If all of us spent as much time studying God's word as we do finding fault with each other this would be an awesome place to live.

    August 4, 2010 at 11:34 am |
  16. maybell

    Regarding the article; at best, testing will find a range of dates from which the remains will date. Tests will not confirm or deny the identity. But remember, John the Baptist was a revered figure in his own time. His remains could have and probably were saved.

    As to the virulent outpouring of hate speech towards Christians...why? Christianity changed the world. It has been misused at times by religious sects but Jesus' message was one of love and giving; a message to give people hope when they might not otherwise have any. Doing something good makes a person feel empowered. Turn the other cheek; do unto others as you would have done to yourself, love your neighbor, be kind to others....how can one argue with these, the basic concepts of Christianity? Whether or not one is a believer (I do not practice religion), one must respect the words and works of Jesus as they are presented as a demonstration of how to be a decent human being.

    Christianity is the basis of the system that allows each of us to be able to have the capability to speak our minds here today. Yes, it is...just think it through.

    August 4, 2010 at 11:34 am |
  17. Patrick

    Langkard dominated this thread.

    August 4, 2010 at 11:33 am |
  18. Gary

    Anon good point on your reply to me. I didnt make it clear. I am agnostic not atheist. My dad is also a Geologist and a devout Methodist/Christiian. He taught physical Geology for 43 years U.T. from time to to fundie Christians would get upset with him and say earth is 6-10k years old. My point is no two christians think the exact same thing. Its devout christians not agnostics and atheisits who are intimidated by science. My gut feeling is there is a creator from eternity but there is no proof.

    August 4, 2010 at 11:32 am |
  19. Reverend Bill Thomas

    You are all wrong. John the Baptist was an alien that was confused and lost in translation. Harry Potter is actually the Messiah and J.K. Rowling was the prophet all along.

    August 4, 2010 at 11:31 am |
    • Gary

      rev Bill thomas....Harry Potter series Bible,Quroan and all other religious texts are simple stories written by men for men..

      August 4, 2010 at 11:41 am |
  20. JL

    "Blessed are they that have not seen but believe".

    August 4, 2010 at 11:31 am |
    • CoqCheney

      What of those who HAVE seen, and don't buy it for a second?

      August 4, 2010 at 12:43 pm |
    • Bebe

      Then, they can plead 'ignorance.'

      August 4, 2010 at 1:06 pm |
    • CoqCheney

      And to whom shall we plead "ignorance," precisely. I need a phone number, or address, or something like that.

      August 4, 2010 at 1:11 pm |
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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.