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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. 4everFaithful

    @griz5106 "Help me understand. Exactly how did the death of Jesus enable me to be forgiven? No sarcasm...I just do not get it."

    Griz-I can't tell you exactly how but from what i have read and truly believe. Romans 8:3...i'm not going to put the verse here...just read it. Will you understand 'exactly"? Probably not. But just keep reading...the Word is amazing but difficult to understand. I'm certainly no expert. It's heartbreaking reading all the posts on here...this type of world existed before...all the condemnation, greed, hatred. And God destroyed it except for a chosen few who were faithful. It was built back up again only for people to fall right back into sin. The Law (old testament) was impossible to live by, and to be redeemed was very difficult. Jesus was born into the Law, was tempted but never faltered. He was the only perfect being that ever lived. How is that? He knew why He was born...to free us from the Law so we might gain salvation and eternal life through Him...no more sacrificing of animals and all the other crazy things man had to do to become forgiven. He was born to die so we could live...sounds crazy but i'm so grateful He did!

    August 4, 2010 at 4:25 pm |
    • GetReal

      This was what drove me nuts being a christian for so many years. "It sounds crazy I know," "I can't explain it," "It's hard to understand" or "It's not really clear" but hey you just have to believe what we say and accept it anyway...it's wrapped up in the concept of faith which is believing that the blue sky is actually green but hey it's not easy to explain, just believe it anyway. Talking snakes are believed to be real yet christians laugh in amazement that tribes in south america believe in gods in the form of alligators in their mythology and other creatures. Religion is just one way of taking your "thinking" brain out, putting it on the shelf so that it doesn't have to be used and sitting in the corner nodding your head at everything your leaders tell you to say and do.

      August 4, 2010 at 6:20 pm |
    • 4everFaithful

      GetReal- I didn't tell anyone to just believe me or what i believe...it's about reading the Bible for yourself and having Faith. If you feel you have to "see it to believe it" then sorry, no one in this life will be able to help you. From a lot of the comments i have read on here there isn't much reading...but a lot of believing of what other people write. Find out for yourself...don't just read bits and pieces. Really read it. I'm still working on that myself. And you passing judgement on me for "not knowing the answers" is very typical...i'm not offended, i'm just being honest. Would you rather I tell everyone that He's real and everyone who doesn't think so is going to hell? I'm not going to do that. I don't have that kind of power or authority to tell people what will happen to them...just read.

      August 5, 2010 at 1:44 am |
  2. JMcCain

    Seriously. No such place as Bulgaria. Everyone is arguing semantics. No such thing as the moon or the internet. Prove me wrong. You can't. There is virtually nothing that anyone can or can't prove about anything. Prove dinosaurs existed. You can't. They found bones? Show them to me. You can't. You don't have any dinosaur bones. You just read about it in a book. You can't even prove to me that you read about them somewhere, or that you are not a hologram. Insulting someone's religion because you say they can't prove it's real is inflammatory and dumb. Prove there are midgets. Set some goals.

    August 4, 2010 at 4:22 pm |
    • Maggy

      I am in Bulgaria at the moment. Go to google and find it.
      I am praying for you!!!

      August 6, 2010 at 3:03 pm |
  3. nick1894

    The remains are fragments that were preserved by this ancient monastery. I believe legend has it that the Knights Templar may have had St. John's head in their possession. The possibility exists that these remains may have been transported by the Templars. I believe that these knights may have had hat became the Shroud Of Turin as well....any thoughts...

    August 4, 2010 at 4:12 pm |
  4. Zimny

    @Headless Horseman:
    THAT was funny,

    August 4, 2010 at 4:08 pm |
  5. Eb2go

    All the religion aside, the actions by excavation leader Kazimir Popkonstantinov are a demonstration of terrible archeology and even worse science. To watch them contaminate and disrupt these artifacts is shocking and very sad. I have worked sites with children that demonstrated a better understanding of the science of archeology and artifact management.

    August 4, 2010 at 4:04 pm |
  6. BlindFaith

    Wow I can defiantly see the deference between intelligence and wisdom on this blog.

    August 4, 2010 at 4:01 pm |
  7. Steven

    When you die, it's the same as before you were born. It wasn't so bad, was it? I'd much rather not have an old man in the sky looking at all of us while we poop.

    August 4, 2010 at 3:57 pm |
  8. Fred

    To all the confused and unstudied people: If you do an in-depth study of the book of Daniel (old Testament...as in way before Christ), Daniel gives the precise day that the Messiah would arrive in Jerusalem.

    But you'd need to have a full understanding of Jewish culture and their "common knowledge" to understand his writings or most of the writings of scripture for that matter, so for all of you doubters out there keep on doubting in scripture and continue to put your faith in man.

    August 4, 2010 at 3:53 pm |
  9. wileylady

    This article is void of so much information, not really sure why that guy thinks it's John the Baptist just because the date on the box is the same as his supposed birthdate...I got kind of disgusted by it. It makes it sounds like there is a question as to whether John the Baptist existed because of his links to Christianity and the fact the he is in the Gospels. WHEN actually we know more about John the Baptist from the 1st Century Jewish historian Josephus than anything about him in the Bible...

    August 4, 2010 at 3:47 pm |
  10. Speedyg

    Hmm, so 1.8 BILLION people in the world believe in Christ..........and 95% of all Americans believe in God..........it's about faith people.......

    August 4, 2010 at 3:45 pm |
  11. BlindFaith

    If you had to take a trip across the United States but had to do it without a map... it would take you a lot longer than if you had just Google mapped it. The bible is your roadmap to a happier life. I have a kingdom waiting on me in heaven after I pass because I choose to believe in Jesus Christ our savior. For all of you that don’t believe in him or what the bible tells us it’s going to be a long and bumpy road for you without that map but that’s not to say you won’t get there eventually. Faith is believing in something you can’t see. There are so many things in this world you can’t see with your eyes yet you believe it exists anyways. I never understood atheists...I mean if someone told me that I would be living in the most awesome place that I could ever imagine and It just takes me believing in that fact then why not believe? I don’t get it.

    August 4, 2010 at 3:39 pm |
  12. chilangado

    These are not the remains of John the Baptist. John the Baptist was resurrected after the resurrection of Christ.

    August 4, 2010 at 3:26 pm |
    • sheetiron

      Where does it say that in the Bible?

      August 4, 2010 at 3:48 pm |
    • kathy miller

      That statement is not any where in the Bible. I think you are thinking about when Jesus is talking about John the apostle when Jesus was asked by Peter about how John the apostle would die and Jesus said, "If I want him to remain until I come what is that to you?" This is wtitten in the book of John chpt 21 vs 22. Verse 23 then says, that this statement specifically says that Jesus did not say that John would not die, but that the manner of John's death was not Peter's business.

      August 4, 2010 at 11:13 pm |
  13. Claus-Erik Hamle

    Please see the books by Dr Brian Weiss and the books by Dr Elizabeth Kübler-Ross ! The Truth is (as they say in the bloody Pentagon aiming to achieve first-strike capability) more or less 2 + 2 = 137½. The chief Trident missile engineer Bob Aldridge-www.plrc.org-resigned because of this suicidal course, for attack or blackmail by 2014/15. The Bible was edited (taking out-putting in) by the bishops at meetings in Constantinople in 331 AD. It´s made to preserve the power of the bishops. Basically, Buddha and others said the same as Jesus, i.e. WE ARE HERE TO HELP EACH OTHER. Where is "god-ess" when we commit suicide in nuclear war because of the bloody fools in the Pentagon (First-Strike Capability + Launch On Warning = Suicide by mistake/accident) ?

    August 4, 2010 at 3:25 pm |
  14. Patrick

    Amazing! They found the remains of John the Baptist on an island named St. John! What are the odds?

    What a load.

    August 4, 2010 at 3:01 pm |
  15. Jim

    1starman, Doubtful since the Devil doesn't make anyone do anything...lol Thanks for the laugh though!

    Grace and Peace,
    Jim

    August 4, 2010 at 2:57 pm |
    • oneStarman

      Thanks for having a sense of humor – even when I am serious I need some comic relief to help keep my wits.

      August 4, 2010 at 3:50 pm |
  16. CoqCheney

    Jim... that's how history is made... literally.

    August 4, 2010 at 2:55 pm |
    • Jim

      Terribly cynical but not terribly accurate CC. We know of way too many events and people who were thought to be erased by their enemies. History is far more resilent than people think.

      Grace and Peace,
      Jim

      August 4, 2010 at 3:04 pm |
    • CoqCheney

      It was a joke.

      August 4, 2010 at 3:16 pm |
  17. Jim

    Now I see that my original post at 101pm was not posted by the moderator. Seems like CNN doesn't desire much past blather on their site in the comments section. Figures, CNN is the best example of former news organization one can find. No insults, no profanity just refernces to Josepheus, Tacitus and other relevant historical evidence for the existence of Jesus of Nazareth.

    Why should we be surprised that CNN is censoring reasonably intelligent comments on their site??? Hhmmmm...I wonder....

    Grace and Peace,
    Jim

    August 4, 2010 at 2:38 pm |
  18. Josie

    I was very pleased to see the nice comment by Stephen. For those who are Christians, why bother arguing? Your beliefs should be based on FAITH and you should not have any worries about this debate. For those who are not Christians, a former athiest once said, "If I am wrong in what i believe, no harm done and I lived a good life being kind to others. If I am right, I will have eternal life filled with all that is good and beautiful instead of an eternity of suffering and pain." We should not be judging each other and be repectful to all people no matter what we believe.

    August 4, 2010 at 2:31 pm |
  19. Dennis

    Jim.
    Never said I was a Christian. Never said what I believed with respect to religion. I just despise anti-theists and other intolerant bigots who cant handle the idea of someone believing something they dont.

    August 4, 2010 at 2:30 pm |
    • Jim

      Fair enough if you are not a Christian. But, do you actually think your despising others is productive or are you just looking to vent and feel better by being disrespectful to others? I am puzzled by the need to despise and be arrogant and be disrespectful...

      Grace and Peace,
      Jim

      August 4, 2010 at 2:53 pm |
  20. Steve

    You really need to laugh at all the Christian haters. It's not that difficult to poke holes in the Bible as there are some descrepancies. It was written over 1500 years ago, in a different language, original pages are probably missing, so it's hard to comprehend why it's not 100% accurate... It is the overall message that is important. And for people in this chat like Shane and Lankard who think it is their right to question one's faith and to tell someone what to believe in, well it's just typical liberal thinking when they probably don't believe in anything themselves.

    August 4, 2010 at 2:25 pm |
    • brad

      Those who dismiss the Bible because of discrepancies or apparent contradictions should take a closer look at themselves. Any and all people are full of discrepancies and contradictions. Our reason is always at war with our emotions. Our reason itself in unreliable. We think one thing in the morning and unthink it in the afternoon. Our emotions are in constant flux. A human person is not reliable enough to cast judgement on the ancient text. The person himself is a faulty instrument.

      August 4, 2010 at 2:38 pm |
    • Shane

      You believe in absurd things. And then you balk at someone who points out the absurdity. That's delusional.

      August 4, 2010 at 5:47 pm |
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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.