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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. in study

    wars are created by man not God man wants territory man wants money man wants to own it all haha it all belongs to God when man dies whose is it??? answer that one for me please. Thank you

    August 5, 2010 at 11:50 am |
    • jerry

      mr in study in responce to your chalenge to answer that one dont mind if i do this whole world is controled by the hand of god nothing happens without god knowing about it GOD KNOWS ALL SEEES ALL IS ALL PERIOD all the mojor wars that have been fought have been prophicied in the bible and have been confirmed by god speaking through people.also what people dont realize that there is anevil force in this world called the prince of the power the air caslled satan who snowballed a third of all the angels in heaven before he was kicked out by trying to be biger than GOD SO TO ANSWER YOUR QUESTION god MAY NOT CAUSE WARS but god allows it to happen and if that isnt good enough for you ask GOD for yourself he knows all about you and wether you like it or not he loves you and GAVE HIS SON FOR YOU

      August 5, 2010 at 1:48 pm |
  2. in study

    It is not within the capacity of man to imagine anything to which he has not been exposed. this is why we have so many unbelievers. don't wait for God to find you search for HIM

    August 5, 2010 at 11:47 am |
    • angela

      thats the problem.....some dont want to find Him....many cant accept they may someday have to answer to a power higher than themselves.....thats why "we' are sent out....to spread his message in hopes that some will listen...they, in turn will seek him out by reading and researching themselves....i find it amusing that many who dont believe in God say they cant believe in something they cant feel or see, yet at the same time, when science says theres life out there besides us, they dont doubt it....b/c a scientist said it....even though they can "see" that either....then others still dont believe in God, but believe in ghosts and spirits.....then others dont believe in anything but money, possesions, materials.....forgetting the most important "golden rules" if you will......love.....respect.....honesty....dignity....

      August 5, 2010 at 12:03 pm |
  3. angela

    i would rather spend my life believing in God and accepting Jesus as my Savior only to later find im worm food, (which i wouldnt because id be dead) than risk the loss of myself by not believing in Him or accepting the gift given by Jesus and find out i had been wrong....its not too late....but time is short....look around....the Bible spoke of the separation of wings from the lions body and had stood on two legs, given the heart of man......think about that....it spoke of the Jewish coming back to their home....1967.....it spoke of the city being split in two....now consider the fact that Jerusalem is about to become a two state capitol....between Palestine and Isreal....the chips are in place, the timing is soon....think also how it speaks of how the flesh will rot from bone, and eyes will rot in their sockets....sounds to me like a nuke.....guess what, Iran is ready to go, threating anyone who wants to stop their nuclear feats......its not fiction....its truth....i hope that you will find your way....i hope for your safety....i hope He finds you before its too late...

    August 5, 2010 at 10:52 am |
  4. W0lfman

    You can believe what you want – but I will never have faith in the beliefs of atheists.

    August 5, 2010 at 9:46 am |
    • CoqCheney

      No atheist or agnostic would ask for your faith. They would simply ask you to delve deeper into your understanding of what you would call "God's creation." There is no proof of there being OR not being a creator. There may very well be. BUT, I would ask, does it honor that creator to accept fully want an institutionalized ideology teaches you? Especially one that is some 2000 years old (for Christianity, older for monotheism in general)? Are you SURE they got it right? Have you studied the history of the religion to which you subscribe?
      Would not an omnipotent creator be able to understand the motivations of we mortals, and really on them for judgment, rather than adherence to this or that writing of human design?

      August 5, 2010 at 11:33 am |
    • W0lfman

      Yes, they do want it – they want us to believe that the world would be better without belief.

      August 5, 2010 at 2:04 pm |
  5. W0lfman

    Prove to me that life would be better without a belief in God. You say so much about how rational you are, believing only in what is real, not in fairy tales... A few years down the road, I can't imagine the hell that would be created by people who have no limits on their actions. You say you would live in peace without the wars created by religion... What's to stop you from inflicting pain on others – judging by many of your comments here, you do just that – you have already declared war on our beliefs in God. You say, trust in your goodness, unclouded by beliefs in mythical beings??? Boy, you are asking for TOO MUCH FAITH. I would never have faith in the "goodness" of people who decry God.

    August 5, 2010 at 9:38 am |
    • CoqCheney

      Prove to me we should let our kids know Santa isn't real. Maybe we should keep 'em hoping for their whole lives. Maybe after a few generations, nobody would suspect there isn't a Santa. Maybe they'll start finding all sorts of reasons to explain why Santa hasn't brought presents for years now.

      August 5, 2010 at 11:55 am |
  6. Juan

    There is a reason, made abundantly clear here, that religion wants to control education. Education is a cure for religion. The more educated a person becomes, the less likely he is to accept biblical nonsense as "Truth".

    In ancient times, this god person appeared often. Today when someone hears the voice of god, it is usually just before they murder all of their children. God stopped making public appearances after the period when "news" was no longer spread by ignorant goat herders. Now the ignorant goat herder has been replaced by Faux News as the main conduit for those who are not willing to think for themselves.

    August 5, 2010 at 9:34 am |
    • W0lfman

      You think what you're saying is new, that you thought it up yourself? You are repeating the same old, old OLD thoughts that atheists have been repeating for thousands of years. Stop thinking and start feeling. Get out of your mind and into your heart – if it's not too damaged. Your thoughts are not worth the electrons they are written in, and prove beyond doubt that you are not as educated as you think you are.

      August 5, 2010 at 11:25 am |
  7. Trolls Everywhere

    P.P.S.
    The scientists in Bulgaria never said this was John the Baptist–the medias said it.
    GJ CNN!!!

    August 5, 2010 at 9:12 am |
  8. Trolls Everywhere

    P.S.
    The Universe before the Big Bang was incredibly dense. After reading some of the posts I can imagine what incredibly dense means. 🙂

    August 5, 2010 at 9:01 am |
  9. Bruce

    Non believers and atheists believe nothing created everything( big bang THEORY) nothing creates everything is scientifically impossible and doesnt sound logical????

    August 5, 2010 at 7:45 am |
    • Trolls Everywhere

      Where did you study science? At a gospel summer camp?
      Please read a book about the Big Bang. You may not like it, since it is much more believable than the Bible.
      I am afraid religious and uneducated will be synonyms in another hundred years, because of opinions like this.

      August 5, 2010 at 8:57 am |
    • W0lfman

      You need to quit reading books and take a whiff of reality. Many brilliant minds – much more so than yours – believe in the Christian God because they have reasoned out His reality, not a description of Him from a book.

      August 5, 2010 at 10:02 am |
    • CoqCheney

      W0lf>> There is a big difference between rational thought and rationalization. No scientific data set has EVER suggested or eliminated the possibility of a creator-being. Which means that the scientists you describe CHOOSE to follow a theology, INDEPENDENT of the data they have examined. It is conjecture on their part, if they connect these things publicly.

      August 5, 2010 at 11:37 am |
  10. Bruce

    To all non believers..if you dont believe in anything ,you dont believe God created, you have to believe in the big bang theory ...where nothing created everything.. the motto of atheists, nothing created everything, doesnt sound logical??

    August 5, 2010 at 7:40 am |
  11. Mekhong Kurt

    It's interesting that there's a Christian sect in Japan, the adherents of which claim Christ escaped crucifixion and made his way to Japan, where, the story goes, he lived, preached, married, etc.

    And they're quite sincere, every bit as much as a devout Catholic (Roman/Orthodox/Greek Orthodox/Coptic - take your pick) or Mormon or Methodist.

    And they claim that God revealed The Truth to them.

    Sound familiar?

    August 5, 2010 at 6:59 am |
  12. b johnston

    Langkard, You've drawn false conclusions from misstated facts to fit your opinions.

    The partial additions by Christians to Josephus' writing are more glorification than anything else and don't stand as a "proof" on their own. Josephus' writing states simple facts. One of them is that Jesus did exist.

    "Josesphus [sic] says nothing about any order by Herod to kill any children under the age of two, surely something someone born only a few decaded after Jesus was supposedly crucified would have noted."

    Josephus failing to mention Herod's massacre or any other events does not disprove their occurrence.
    Herod was a violent and evil ruler.This type of act coming from him was not unusual. Josephus was a Jew, if he wrote about subjects you mention he would be speaking out against Herod.

    You say his (Josephus) writings are accurate. Again, if he failed to mention something, does that mean it did not happen? Of course not.

    "We know that Herod died in 4 BC. The records are exact. So he couldn't possibly have ordered the Magi to locate the annointed [sic] one as the Bible claims, nor ordered the deaths of children 2 years later, some 6 years after he was already dead."

    Jesus was born right before Herod died. So how is it that Herod could have not given the order to the Magi and then order the massacre? It wasn't two years later and six years after he was dead as you state. From what Herod determined from the Magi, Jesus could have been two years old already. He gave the order, realized he had been duped, then ordered the slaughter of all males two years old and under.All of this took place over several weeks, not six years later.
    There was often more than one census taken for different reasons. Also, this explanation is very likely:
    In stating that Quirinius controlled the Syrian area, Luke doesn't use the official political title of "Governor" ("legatus"), but the broader term "hegemon" which is a ruling officer. This means that Quirinius may not have been the official governor of Judea, but he was in charge of the census because he was a more capable and trusted servant of Rome than the more inept Saturninus.
    So the time line of the Bible is not incorrect.

    August 5, 2010 at 4:11 am |
  13. Garrry

    When John said I come before him to prepare the way, doesn't mean he's prophesizing Jesus birth... I take it to mean exactly as it says... John travelled ahead of Jesus to prepare the way. Meaning almost every place Jesus went, John had already been there preparing the people in towns/villages that the messiah was coming!

    August 5, 2010 at 2:17 am |
  14. Raquelle

    Try reading 'Mere Christianity' by C.S. Lewis...then pick up John's gospel (a good place to start reading the bible). It is healthy to approach any reading critically and arrive at your own conclusions. I was brought up in a christian home, but only once I began to question the christian faith for myself (rather than simply taking on board my parent's views) did I even begin to start understanding what Christ did for me in order that I may be reconciled to God. And I do not have the answers to all (or even a few of) your questions, but try asking God to reveal the truth to you. Not one of us is worthy of God's amazing grace, but it is there for anyone who will simply ask. Priase be to Him

    August 5, 2010 at 2:10 am |
    • orange2001

      @Raquelle

      All atheists should try reading C.S. Lewis' MERE CHRISTIANITY. Lewis was an agnostic, who converted to Christianity. In his wonderful book he rationally and logically proves the existence of God! He was highly influenced by his friend J.R.R. Tolkien and G.K. Chesterton, both of whom were devout Catholics, and brilliant minds respectively!

      August 5, 2010 at 3:51 am |
    • CoqCheney

      All people of faith should read Einstein's "Relativity." There's a text he wrote in layman's terms that uses analogy to make proofs for Special and General Relativity - he was big on simplifying physics in general, but also believed its properties should be understood firmly by the public. If you read his material, you will see why there are TOO many traceable relationships that happen on a path-of-least-resistance basis... relationships that have analogs anytime numeric relationships are involved. And the science behind ANYTHING we currently understand is built upon the validity of numeric relationships... ratios.
      Therefore, any system that we exist in may be viewed as "what would have inevitably happened, regardless of the presence of a creator." So we are still left with no answer to that question. And trust the colleagues of Einstein when they describe his use of the word "god" in some of his more famous quotes. For him, it was a colloquial reference to the fears and confusion of the human race... a name for the unknown. He did not personify any being making decisions that effected the laws of physics. Einstein would have said that he, and anybody you could ask, does not know.

      August 5, 2010 at 11:50 am |
  15. 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 1:45 am |
  16. Oxford Theology Graudate

    The roman historian Josephus has been proven that he's a liar......in another words his writings were craps.

    August 5, 2010 at 1:18 am |
  17. CoqCheney

    I especially liked His holy contribution to the Inquisition. The Crusades were lovely, too.

    August 5, 2010 at 12:25 am |
  18. Dada Elijah

    God is Great.

    August 4, 2010 at 11:46 pm |
  19. kathy miller

    Verify, you can also get a copy of this book if you like. It's called Josephus The Complete Works printed by Thomas Nelson Publishers

    August 4, 2010 at 10:52 pm |
  20. kathy miller

    An earlier writer had some good ideas, but some things about Jesus he was somewhat off. It was about Jesus showing passive resistance. Jesus was in the beginning with God the Father creating the universe. That's why in Genesis God refers to Himself as Us in several places. Jesus knew that this world full of sin we needed a Savior and the only way to do that was to become a sacrificial lamb for all of our sins. He laid His life down for all of us. This was an active behavior, not a passive one. He rode into Jerusalem riding on a donkey knowing what was prophesized of Him. He knew beforehand how He was going to die and why. No one took His life from Him, He actively laid it down for us. He could have destroyed the world at that moment if He chose to. I know that all of you who criticize the Bible haven't read it yet. I hope you do because you will never know your purpose, you will never know perfect love and you will never know real peace until you do. The Bible isn't for dummies. You would be amazed at how many prophesies about the Messiah that were written hundrends of years before Christ was born that Jesus fulfilled.

    August 4, 2010 at 10:47 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.