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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. Mark C

    Don't these idiots know that every church in Europe had phoney holy relics during the middle ages?

    August 4, 2010 at 2:28 am |
    • Deserts Mystery

      lol only if they knew 🙂

      August 4, 2010 at 2:37 am |
    • Ken

      This is some of the most entertaining reading I've seen on CNN. I can't wait until they dig up Santa..

      August 4, 2010 at 5:25 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Actually the remains of St Nicholas, the origin of Santa, are apparently in Bari, Italy.

      August 4, 2010 at 1:35 pm |
  2. Chris

    well in order to know if his (Joseph;s) story is true or not which will answer the question if this is truly John the baptists remains, we must Read the Book of Mormon, and ask God, only Him, if that book is indeed his word. Asking with a sincere heart and Faith in Christ. If it is than just as the scriptures say, "By their fruits ye shall know them" We will know that Joseph Smith was a true Prophet and saw what he said he saw.

    August 4, 2010 at 2:26 am |
    • Manic Zorbian

      I just saw an entire basket of fruit fly past my head...

      August 4, 2010 at 2:28 am |
    • miguel

      Actually, I've read the Book of Mormon. An illustrated copy. Fascinating. (No kidding.)

      August 4, 2010 at 2:29 am |
    • Manic Zorbian

      I read it, but not the one with the pretty pictures in it. Strange stuff.

      August 4, 2010 at 2:36 am |
    • Nimrod

      I asked. The Great Santa in the Sky blasted my car with lightning. I'm sticking to comic books from now on...

      August 4, 2010 at 2:39 am |
  3. Eric

    Let me guess, the faithful will believe this is true because there is a date on the box, that's enough proof. But they won't believe the most well proven, and substantiated scientific theory of all time, evolution. People just believe what they want to believe.

    August 4, 2010 at 2:25 am |
    • CatholicMom

      Eric,
      A theory is a theory; once proven it is no longer a theory.

      August 5, 2010 at 12:52 pm |
  4. CNP

    If the Israelis have to get out of Jerusalem because it was Arab before they lost the West Bank by the same logic can we demand Turkey leave Constantinople – once the largest Christian city before that round of ethnic cleansing?

    August 4, 2010 at 2:24 am |
    • miguel

      Whoops! Wrong topic.

      August 4, 2010 at 2:25 am |
    • Elitesack

      I thought Constantinople was taken during the crusades and then re-taken later during a revolt by the original inhabitants?

      August 4, 2010 at 4:55 am |
    • Langkard

      Constantinople was founded by the Roman emperor Constantine as the new capital of the Roman Empire at the site of the Greek town of Byzantion, thus the later name Byzantine. After the split with the Western Roman Empire, the Eastern Roman Empire, still considered itself just "the Empire of Rome" (or Basilia ton Romaion, the official name of the Byzantine Empire) and the capital remained Constantinople. It fell in 1204 to the crusaders of the 4th Crusade, at the instigation of Byzantium's enemy, the Venetians. The Latin Empire which resulted lasted only a few decades before Constantinople was reconquered by the Laskarid dynasty descended from Greek Byzantine nobles. It remained the capital of the slowly shrinking Byzantine Empire until it finally fell in 1453 to the Ottoman Turks under Sultan Mehmed and has been in the hands of the Turks ever since, who renamed it Istanbul.

      August 4, 2010 at 6:32 am |
  5. brad

    So let me get this straight, an incomplete skull was found that had the old calender date supposedly of June 24th so logically it must be JTB. I have the same birthdate as Shakespeare. By that same logic is someone finds my grave in 5K years and the born on date on my tombstone is still readable then I must be Shakespeare. Almost every "religious" find like that uses the same coincidence logic that only makes sense to the people who want it to. So answer me this logic question. If Adam and Eve were the first two humans, how did the world get populated without their children committing the sin of incest?

    August 4, 2010 at 2:23 am |
    • miguel

      I have no problem whatsoever believing that 5th century monks had forensic standards as shoddy as you describe. What's surprising is that a gaggle of educated Bulgarians is willing to echo them...

      August 4, 2010 at 2:25 am |
    • Nimrod

      "...without committing the sin of incest..." Now THAT is a great question! Where is Joseph Smith or Brigham Young when you need them?! I suppose we can punt that question to Warren Jeffs, though...

      August 4, 2010 at 2:36 am |
    • Steve

      At that point in time mankind was much closer to perfection, so the typical genetic consequences of incest were far less than they would be nowadays.

      August 4, 2010 at 3:07 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Whilst the whole Adam and Eve incest question is a perfectly valid question, do not forget as well that it wasn't the only incestuous incident as the world had to be repopulated by Noah and his family as well, after the flood. I guess in that case it would be cousins and not brother and sister but it still counts.

      August 4, 2010 at 1:31 pm |
  6. BFC64

    Y'all want to shut this down and go have ice cream?

    August 4, 2010 at 2:22 am |
    • miguel

      Marvelous idea. It's 2:20 in my time zone, though. What to do?

      August 4, 2010 at 2:23 am |
    • Deserts Mystery

      lol which state r u in?

      August 4, 2010 at 2:25 am |
    • Manic Zorbian

      I've got a gallon of Breyers Mint Chocolate Chip in the freezer, we could give ourselves ice cream headaches and debate the finer points of this article...

      August 4, 2010 at 2:26 am |
    • miguel

      New York, here. I have half a pint of Pineapple Coconut in the freezer. What happens when you mix that with mint chip?

      August 4, 2010 at 2:28 am |
    • Deserts Mystery

      lol hehehe

      August 4, 2010 at 2:31 am |
    • Manic Zorbian

      I think with that mix we may just discover the Secret of the Universe(tm). Then we won't need the assistance of the nice folks in Bulgaria to figure out where John the Baptist's remains are (or, we may not even care).

      August 4, 2010 at 2:33 am |
    • miguel

      Or, it could be gross. It could be what killed the 4th century Bulgarian milkmaid whose bones are in that box labeled "John the Baptist."

      August 4, 2010 at 2:36 am |
    • Manic Zorbian

      LMAO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      August 4, 2010 at 2:37 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      'I've got a gallon of Breyers Mint Chocolate Chip in the freezer'
      See that proves there is no god, i hate mint choc ice cream, nasty stuff.

      August 4, 2010 at 1:27 pm |
  7. Chris

    No Christ wasn't kidding when he said that everything would be restored one day. Including his priesthood and church. The Church which bears his name.

    August 4, 2010 at 2:20 am |
    • miguel

      Well, a handful of guys who got their archaeology degrees from Yambol Community College would beg to differ.

      August 4, 2010 at 2:22 am |
  8. LMAO

    Taco Paco is hilarious.

    August 4, 2010 at 2:18 am |
    • Deserts Mystery

      Who is Taco Paco, some mexican food place...

      August 4, 2010 at 2:20 am |
  9. Chris Cantor

    This is not John the Baptists remains. The reason that it is not him is because in 1821 he a resurrected being appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith and confirmed upon him the Aronic priesthood. Which gave Joseph the keys to baptized in the same way that John baptized the Christ.

    August 4, 2010 at 2:13 am |
    • miguel

      Uh oh.

      August 4, 2010 at 2:14 am |
    • Manic Zorbian

      Doh!

      August 4, 2010 at 2:16 am |
    • peace2all

      @Chris Cantor

      Oh my....

      Kidding right....?

      August 4, 2010 at 2:17 am |
    • miguel

      Oy veh!

      August 4, 2010 at 2:17 am |
    • Nimrod

      I think Uncle Joseph might have been "baptized" in 100 proof corn liquor. Besides, if he doesn't come pick up those Golden Tablets of his and the Magic Glasses, the Waste Disposal boys are gonna haul all that off on Friday.

      August 4, 2010 at 2:18 am |
    • Deserts Mystery

      Clearly you seem to have some great inner knowledge that we dont or atleast I dont 🙂

      August 4, 2010 at 2:19 am |
    • Langkard

      Yeah right. And native Americans are descended from one of the lost tribes of Israel, or so Smith claimed. Joseph Smith was a complete idiot, which makes his believers idiots too.

      August 4, 2010 at 5:50 am |
  10. MFbomb

    Have they found the remains of jesus yet?

    August 4, 2010 at 2:12 am |
    • Deserts Mystery

      That I can surely say will never be found because he never died yet

      August 4, 2010 at 2:14 am |
  11. James

    Don't be deceived, God will not be mocked. However, His judgments are corrective and result in righteousness. God is love.

    August 4, 2010 at 2:09 am |
    • miguel

      Is mocking Bulgarian archeologists the same as mocking God?

      August 4, 2010 at 2:13 am |
    • twerzian

      If God is love, why didn't he invent toilets? Think about that, John the Baptist never saw a toilet in his life. Neither did Jesus or Moses.

      August 4, 2010 at 2:13 am |
    • Nimrod

      Exactly how does questioning the authenticity and provenance of some skull fragments, a tooth, and a hand constitute "mocking God"?

      August 4, 2010 at 2:14 am |
    • Manic Zorbian

      Haven't seen God being mocked much here. His so-called followers, though... well, they have it coming.

      August 4, 2010 at 2:15 am |
    • TpSnow

      Don't you think if there is a God He (or She) would be a little above getting offended at being mocked?

      August 4, 2010 at 2:22 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      'God is love.'
      Have you read the old testament? god is a nasty evil SOB. Commanding people to slay every last living man, woman, child, even animals in his name, sending angels of death to kill children, he even killed off most of the planet with a flood!
      Oh yeah, god is all love.

      August 4, 2010 at 1:24 pm |
  12. bulgar1an

    i am from Bulgaria and i would like to tell the world we live like animals here

    August 4, 2010 at 2:08 am |
    • Deserts Mystery

      Dude u r very funny but very very true in speech 🙂

      August 4, 2010 at 2:09 am |
  13. non-believers

    Ola Miguel, saying ROT in HELL is CHristian indeed, its a reminder that those individuals will go to Hell for not believing thats what good christians do. Just trying to help those atheist out there. I think thats pretty christian of me. Enough Said!!!

    August 4, 2010 at 2:05 am |
    • miguel

      No, it's not. You're not being honest if you're claiming, with a straight face, that telling a perfect stranger on an internet forum about Bulgarian scientists in the middle of the night that he's going to "rot in hell" brings me or anyone else closer to God. Nice try–but Jesus doesn't like dishonesty.

      August 4, 2010 at 2:07 am |
    • Nimrod

      I was looking for the passage that uses the phrase "ROT in HELL". Can't seem to find it...

      August 4, 2010 at 2:11 am |
    • Manic Zorbian

      I'm happy to know that I will someday go back into the earth and become worm food. It's the cycle of nature. As for rotting in "Hell", do you mean Gehenna or Sheol? If you mean Sheol, that's the grave, that's going back into the ground. If it's Gehenna, you can only burn until you do not exist anymore; nothing can survive forever in flames. Either way, at death, we cease to exist, the end.

      Just a little information I thought you might find helpful.

      August 4, 2010 at 2:13 am |
    • miguel

      Manic, allow me: he means neither. What he's envisioned for you, in a gesture of Christian love, is a sea of burning sulfur and sharpened stakes. Again–the word is love.

      August 4, 2010 at 2:16 am |
    • Manic Zorbian

      @ Miguel well just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside! Now I know I'll never convert, since I just don't want to lose this lovin' feelin'... LOL!!!!

      August 4, 2010 at 2:23 am |
    • miguel

      Maniac: if only that kind of love worked between people. "I love you with all my heart; I'd do anything for you. I mean it. Anything. Love me back. Love me, seriously, or I'll shove burning pokers in your eyeballs for a million years. XOXO"

      August 4, 2010 at 2:27 am |
    • Manic Zorbian

      Miguel, that particular model of love works very well indeed... look at the billions of people who have fought wars and kowtowed to the religious authorities in order to gain the undying love of a being that doesn'.t even exist. I think we should use this method for all sorts of things, not just religion.

      August 4, 2010 at 2:31 am |
    • miguel

      Indeed, Zorbian. Problem: I don't have the guts (the heart?) to say such things to people. This is why, I suppose, I'm not a god. Or a clergyman, for that matter.

      August 4, 2010 at 2:33 am |
    • Manic Zorbian

      I don't hate anyone, and even if I just dislike someone, would never hope that they rot in hell. Not that there's a single reason to even believe in hell, I've read the Bible, the church-taught version of hell simply does not exist.

      August 4, 2010 at 2:40 am |
  14. Munchy

    Hopefully scientists will be able to clone him and then sell the clones. Imagine everyone having a John the Baptist serving boy. I'd dress him like a British soldier with one of those big puffy hats. Heh heh, clones are funny.

    August 4, 2010 at 2:05 am |
  15. John in AZ

    Cool! We have the remains of Jesus and now John the Baptist...hooray for archeology!

    August 4, 2010 at 2:05 am |
    • miguel

      God gave you skepticism as a gift. Use it.

      August 4, 2010 at 2:08 am |
    • John in AZ

      Miguel...humans also have the ability to comprehend irony, maybe you should use THAT! See, Christians don't accept that the Talpiot tomb contains the remains of Jesus because he supposedly rose from the dead and ascended into heaven...my comment was a joke about that.

      August 4, 2010 at 2:14 am |
    • miguel

      John, sarcasm as subtle as yours has NO VALUE in a forum like this one unless clearly labeled. You don't have to sift through many messages to find plenty which mirror yours in content, but in earnest.

      That said, "chuckle." 🙂

      August 4, 2010 at 2:19 am |
  16. GodIsBeautiful!!!

    Some people get so up in arms about Religion. I never could understand why it brings out the worst or the best of a person. If you believe,then you believe,if not then you just don't. Nobody can make anyone believe in anybody or anything they don't wanna believe in. All i can speak about is my personal relationship with Jesus and my faith in him. To each their own.....

    August 4, 2010 at 2:03 am |
    • Langkard

      So you wouldn't try to force your beliefs on others by, for example, legislating your religion? Like outlawing abortion on religious grounds? Making marriage solely between heterosexuals because the Bible says that's the way it is and marriage is "sacred"? How about trying to claim that the United States was founded as a "Christian Nation" when it clearly wasn't? Do any of these things ring a bell? If so, then you've been trying to force your religion on other people.

      August 4, 2010 at 5:45 am |
    • CatholicMom

      Langkard,
      If you are not a religious minded person, just ignore religious minded people. If they want to end abortion because of their religious ideas which tells them that life is sacred, you have every right in this country to say you don’t think that much about someone else’s life just your own and so you want to continue ending other people’s lives by abortion….so stand up and say so but remember in this country everyone has a right to speak up, well, except for those who can’t, like the unborn and others,….. but let religious people stand up for them; you don’t HAVE to…

      August 4, 2010 at 6:23 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Langkard,
      If religious minded people say that marriage is sacred because the Bible explains it so plainly along with the Church, and you are not caring if it is sacred to some, what is the draw to it for you? Oh, you want the unsacred rights that come with it, about property rights, etc.? Well, get legal documents that settle those questions. If you don’t like Sacraments stop trying to use them for your unreligious reasons.
      If you think this nation is non-religious even though polls show that most people prefer leaving ‘in God we trust’ on our money, why should you care; your money is still almost worthless just like ours is. Get over it. If any of this rings a bell, then quit trying to make us think the way you do.

      August 4, 2010 at 6:25 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Langkard,
      If religious minded people say that marriage is sacred because the Bible explains it so plainly along with the Church, and you are not caring if it is sacred to some, what is the draw to it for you? Oh, you want the unsacred rights that come with it, about property rights, etc.? Well, get legal documents that settle those questions. If you don’t like Sacraments stop trying to use them for your unreligious reasons.

      August 4, 2010 at 6:28 pm |
    • Mekhong Kurt

      Catholic Mom: I think the issue here is one group, through the government, imposing their own views on one or more other groups.

      As for "most people" (I might quibble about what "most" means, but I'll leave it for now) wanting to leave the motto "In God We Trust" on our money, but, then, why not have separate plates that print, say, "In Allah We Trust" or "In Buddha We Trust" or "In Yaweh We Trust"? And, for that matter, some without the motto, for atheist Americans? No one's rights would be violated, and everyone would have a stake. (I know the list I gave isn't exhaustive.)

      That motto didn't even appear on any US currency until the Civil War. This is not an attack on Christianity, merely historical fact. In the Civil War, it appeared on a coin; it wasn't for nearly a century it was printed on paper currency.

      Part of our reason for founding the US was to not have one group dictating to another on the matter of one's religious beliefs. As you know, the Constitution expressly prohibits the establishment of a government religion - no matter what faith. Various other records reinforce that, though not with constitutional authority. For example, part of the 1796-97 Treaty of Tripoli reads, "Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen,—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries." Private correspondence of some of the Founding Fathers also make this point.

      I was raised Christian, in the Episcopal Church. However, though there were only Christians (and non-believers) in town, I was taught from an early age to be open and tolerant, even protective, of members of other faiths. Since I was born in 1951, the Holocoust was fresh in people's minds, so this especially went for the Jewish people, particularly given our common roots.

      For that matter, Islam shares those roots; Christ, for example, is recognized as a great prophet, but not the Son of God nor otherwise divine.

      And all three owe earlier religions for some of their thought, such as religions in Egypt, Sumeria, etc.

      Though I no longer take part in church at all, except funerals and weddings, were I a faithful, devout Episcopalian today, I would never dream of trying to impose Episcopal thought on even another Christian whose denomination had different ideas about some particular issue. Nor would I expect that person to try to impose his or her denomination's thinking on me.

      From your onscreen name, I assume you're Roman Catholic, and surely you must understand this. Look at how many Protestants genuinely question whether Roman Catholics are even *truly* Christian (which is utter nonsense to ask, IMO).

      In short, it's about freedom - including freedom from being inundated with others' beliefs, beliefs they are perfectly free to hold, though I choose, perhaps, not to hear those beliefs. And I will defend people the right to their beliefs - as long as they accept that *their* right ends somewhere away from the tip of *my* nose. As I accept the reverse.

      August 5, 2010 at 7:42 am |
  17. TpSnow

    I am proud to proclaim that I definitely do not know anything about anything.

    August 4, 2010 at 2:01 am |
    • Manic Zorbian

      I think I love you.

      August 4, 2010 at 2:07 am |
    • DangerMouse

      Ow...that DID leave a mark...

      I'm touched...... Deeply..... Scarred for life, you might say. Sheesh!

      August 4, 2010 at 3:37 am |
  18. Mateo

    A little off the subject but my world isn't flat, it's not the center of the universe and a dinosaur at my paper. Viva Galileo!

    August 4, 2010 at 2:00 am |
    • Nimrod

      ...here be dragons...

      August 4, 2010 at 2:04 am |
  19. Nimrod

    I was cleaning out my garage - uh, wait, I mean my holy shrine - and I've got a dumpster full of stuff if anyone in Bulgaria needs it for their monastery. Splinters of the True Cross, Noah's Ark, 30 pieces of silver, Joseph Smith's Golden Tablets, Muhammed's sword and bow, Buddha's lucky rabbit's foot (I think he ate the rest of the bunny), gold, frankincense and myrrh (screw you guys, I'm keeping the gold...) and a magic decoder ring - it's all here. Bulky trash pickup is on Friday, though, so hurry on out!

    August 4, 2010 at 2:00 am |
    • me

      do not doubt now. There isn't time to...relics are just a reminder of what we already know happened. A rememberance...what matters most is that we get our lives lived right. John the Baptist was a good man and these may or may not be his bones...only God knows. What matters now is are you going to be a good man too?

      August 4, 2010 at 6:11 am |
    • blue922

      To 'me', thank you. I have finally found a living witness to events from 2000 years ago.

      We certainly do not 'know' what happened 2000 years ago (dis on fundamentalism which claims all truth is what is written) let alone 100,000 years ago (dis on archeologists and all science that claims to dictate truth by driving while looking at the rear view miror).

      The religion with the longest set of historical writings in Hinduism. If you want to get an idea of our history you need to get into the Vedas.

      August 4, 2010 at 7:55 am |
    • Mekhong Kurt

      @Nimrod - LOL. I'll bring two trucks and a case of suds!

      @me, I'm going to wander pretty far afield here and wonder if you have anything, even just a little, remotely resembling a Messiah complex.

      August 5, 2010 at 7:10 am |
  20. Mishagothe

    Why is it that a religion, on of whose commandments is to forbid the making or worship of idols, is so interested in "relics".

    It is all nonsense of course, there is not the faintest chance that any bones of John were preserved. It is laughable that so much of Christianity is little more credible than a Harry Potter novel.

    August 4, 2010 at 1:58 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.