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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. tenspeed

    All is well enough said about Jesus, whether or not he ever existed, or his diety. Just look into the BIBLE as GOD's word and believe it if you want. Now more for the non believers, read in the lower level college texts of "World Civilization", "Psychology", "Philosophy", "Ethics", "History", and maybe in "Sociology", an most of those, as of 15 or so years ago all dedicated sections to great leader and, AND spiritual leaders, (PC), in the earlier centuries. These books all managed to spend a few paragraphs on all the people and their beliefs. This included Jesus!

    Now if you want to argue the birth, the death or the final resting place of these people, go on and do so. It is not the argument about nor against any of those meaningless points of trivia, it is by faith that we as believers accept it as a truth.

    I don't care where John the Baptist remains arel, or are no. He did walk this earth and he was the "fore warner" of Jesus Christ. Another point to ponder... John did not provid Salvation. Jesus Christ did. Don't want to believe it, just delete it and don't be offended. If you are offended, you should not have read this in the first place. That shows your lack of character and the true vision of your narrow mindedness. John the Baptist did announce the commings of Jesus in certain areas of his ministry, but not all. John the Baptist did baptise Jesus. Jesus is the Christ.

    Now exercise your good judgment and read something else and quit the bickering. There were differences then and there are differences now. 2,200 years have not changed that one bit.

    August 4, 2010 at 9:00 am |
    • sam

      And it is by evidence and fact that we non believers call shenanigans. You may have all the faith you want but that does not make your god different from the hundreds of others that exist today and the thousands of others whose followers "christians" have converted by force over the last two thousand years. Remember if it were not for a Roman decree or Roman expansionism, none of you would have ever heard of Jeshua (probably Jesus' real name) of Nazareth. His ministry would have gone unnoticed or would have remained part of the Jewish faith and nothing more

      August 4, 2010 at 9:56 am |
  2. EternalBliss

    The tomb of John the Baptist(aka Hazrat Yahya) is in Syria Damascus

    August 4, 2010 at 8:53 am |
  3. bystander

    To the Christians and Atheists, do you people realize you’re both barking at a brick wall with a very strong foundation? As neither a Christian or an Atheist, I got to say you’re arguments to one another are pretty useless because neither one on either side is willing to hear the other one out, or take what they are saying as a valid argument. You just can’t win on the topic of religion so for the rest of us out there, shut up and stop bickering.

    August 4, 2010 at 8:51 am |
  4. Bozo Knows

    Yeah...and I don't think Barack Obama is American either.

    August 4, 2010 at 8:50 am |
  5. wial

    There's a story from Buddhism about an old woman who was given some dog's teeth but told they were relics of the Buddha. She believed that and meditated assiduously visualizing the relics and the Buddha. Eventually she got enlightened.

    The point being, if people need the illusion of magic to try to be better people. fine with me. Even if most religious nuts do it for pride of place and worse reasons, a few do manage to develop love and compassion, and there's a crying need for more of that in this world, whatever the pretext.

    August 4, 2010 at 8:49 am |
    • Don F.

      The problem being that "illusion and magic" perpetuate faith based on untruth. One can not have a viable faith based on a lie.
      From a Christian perspective Jesus said "I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life."

      On the other hand, one can have a very interesting discussion on whether, based on Christian doctrine, it is possible to redeem deception such that it promotes faith. On the other hand, the doctine of faith by any means seems somewhat suspect.

      August 4, 2010 at 9:08 am |
  6. Hogwash

    All of it is nothing more than a wise tale.

    August 4, 2010 at 8:46 am |
  7. Ruben

    John 1

    1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

    2The same was in the beginning with God.

    3All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

    4In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

    5And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

    6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

    7The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.

    8He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.

    9That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.

    10He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.

    11He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

    12But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

    13Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

    14And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

    15John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.

    16And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.

    17For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

    18No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

    19And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?

    20And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.

    21And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No.

    22Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself?

    23He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.

    24And they which were sent were of the Pharisees.

    25And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?

    26John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not;

    27He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose.

    28These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.

    29The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

    30This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me.

    31And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.

    32And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.

    33And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.

    34And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.

    35Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples;

    36And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!

    37And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.

    38Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou?

    39He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour.

    40One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother.

    41He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.

    42And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.

    43The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me.

    44Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.

    45Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.

    46And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.

    47Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!

    48Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.

    49Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.

    50Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these.

    51And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.

    August 4, 2010 at 8:45 am |
    • Wesley Pittman

      I say Amen. Let the Bible Speak.

      August 4, 2010 at 9:45 am |
    • verify

      ... and a partridge in a pear tree.

      August 4, 2010 at 1:13 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      'and a partridge in a pear tree.'
      They missed out the bit where we get to yell 'FIVE GOLD RINGS'
      Thats my favourite part.

      August 4, 2010 at 2:18 pm |
  8. Joker

    BULGARIA BULGARIA Hooray is an even greater country now!

    August 4, 2010 at 8:42 am |
  9. jenn

    doesn't it all come down to YOUR beliefs? it's NOT like JESUS himself wrote the bible!

    August 4, 2010 at 8:39 am |
    • Don F.

      Well it all depends, doesn't it.

      If one believes that the Bible is the inspired word of God
      and that Jesus is God (doctrine of the trinity)
      and that through Jesus evrything was made (John 1)

      Then yes, Jesus wrote the whole thing.

      The confounding argument is that asside from matters of specific language, not all versions are the same. If all scripture if God given and suitable for [a variety of faith related activities] then it would seem that the scriptures change over time or all is really to be considere some or perhaps most.

      On the other hand if one believes that Moses wrote the first five books, then Jesus must have been "within" Moses, so was Moses especially in touch with the devine inside of himself? The latter (digging deeper to reach inner divinity) of course is anathama to fundamentalists.

      August 4, 2010 at 9:34 am |
    • jerry

      dude if you read the bible you will know that it says that scripture is GOD INSPIRED and written by GODDLY MEN WITH GODS INSPIRATION you people are so nieve if you thinki that GOD is a lie and JESUS is a fake than die and find out the truth

      August 4, 2010 at 10:37 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      'dude if you read the bible you will know that it says that scripture is GOD INSPIRED and written by GODDLY MEN WITH GODS INSPIRATION '
      Really? Why?
      Who actually came to this conclusion? Who said one day...'you know what? that bible, must have been inspired by god you know. Oh yes, stands to reason it does.'

      August 4, 2010 at 2:17 pm |
    • jerry

      miss jenn in responce to your comment about jesus himself didnt write the bible well when JESUS DIED ON THE CROSS(by the way he's not dead he is very much ALIVE) HE gave up his spirit and his spirit is on the earth.the BIBLE says that scripture is GOD INSPIRED and was written under the inspiraration of the HOLY SPIRIT which is the same spirit that JESUS gave up on the cross.so to answer your question JESUS did write the BIBLE

      August 5, 2010 at 10:02 pm |
  10. Shamrock6

    Totally ridiculous. There is NO way in the world to prove that is anyone except some old dead person. Utter nonsense.

    August 4, 2010 at 8:37 am |
  11. Wayne blackman

    It is simple It is by faith you believe in Jesus and heaven. If you do great if you do not well you do not.

    Pastor Wayne

    August 4, 2010 at 8:35 am |
  12. matt

    you ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart!

    August 4, 2010 at 8:35 am |
    • Juan

      Well, let him out. Lots of people are waiting for him at the bus stop.

      August 4, 2010 at 6:21 pm |
    • YoungPeter

      But I thought he was in MY heart? What's going on? How did you get him? I thought he was safe with me...

      August 4, 2010 at 8:07 pm |
  13. Smitty

    There is no reason to attack each other beliefs. Those that are Christians simply imply that we believe in Jesus Christ and have exercise that belief through baptism. Accordingly to our beliefs, if you do not believe in Jesus Christ, than you will be damned to hell fire and burned to ashes (eternal damnation Mal. 4:3) at the Second Resurrection and third coming of Jesus Christ. So it just a matter of faith.

    If your position is there is no Jesus Christ and there is no salvation, then that is your right. I did not see George Washington, but I believe him and Christopher Columbus existed, that's faith. I don't know that my mother is my mother, but I believe, that's faith. I would rather die in faith and have a chance for eternal life than to die with no faith at all.

    August 4, 2010 at 8:33 am |
  14. Amighssa

    Come when that is done for that all mankind will perish and not what has divided shall fall with those who will see.

    So it is written.

    August 4, 2010 at 8:32 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      I do not like green eggs and ham

      so it is written

      August 4, 2010 at 2:14 pm |
    • Ramses-Illin' N chillin'

      "You shall have no pie." – Momma cat

      So it is written, so-it-shall-be-done!

      August 4, 2010 at 8:02 pm |
  15. Jeremiah

    "I am not the messiah"

    August 4, 2010 at 8:28 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Only the true messiah would deny his divinity.
      (life of brian)

      August 4, 2010 at 2:13 pm |
  16. The Gnostic Ninja

    Seems to me that this article would've been a good place to mention the Mandaeans, who have John the Baptizer as their chief prophet. Considering their precarious situation, living as a minority religion in Iraq, I think they need as much exposure in the media as possible.

    August 4, 2010 at 8:27 am |
  17. bob from SC

    Unlkely....it is often stated that "if one added up all the parts of the cross that are on display in churches during the Middle Ages, one could build a house". Same holds for other religious artifacts. Since it comes from the 5th century, it probably was for attracting pilgrims and promoting the religion to the local populace.

    August 4, 2010 at 8:27 am |
  18. natalie

    If God doesn't exist and the Bible is just a fiction book full of made-up stories...how come EVERY SINGLE prophecy in the Bible has come true to this day? The answer to all of your questions are found there...if you would just read it!

    August 4, 2010 at 8:25 am |
    • Jim

      Specifics, please.

      August 4, 2010 at 8:30 am |
    • Don F.

      And what evidence do you have that the prophecies were in fact pre facto and not post facto? While a case can be made for the OT ones relating to NT events, items in each relating to the covered time period are more problematic.

      I still puzzel over the NT prophecies stating that "Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom." (Mat 16:28)? So for this to be true 1) some of those are still alive, 2) None of them were standing, 3) The Son of Man came (has come) in His kingdon, or 4) the prophecy is false.

      August 4, 2010 at 10:53 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      'how come EVERY SINGLE prophecy in the Bible has come true to this day?'
      Oh please, give specifics.

      August 4, 2010 at 2:11 pm |
  19. John

    Where is your reporting of the Dove church in Gainsville, FL who plans a publlic burning of the Muslim holy book, the Koran, on 9/11/2010? If this event happens, arm yourselves people!

    August 4, 2010 at 8:23 am |
    • Mekhong Kurt

      Why, John - that's easy: it's not in a story that has nothing to do with a hostile, trouble-making church in the US. Real Fine Christians.

      August 5, 2010 at 10:05 am |
  20. ze_gurman

    "John the Baptist remains found?" It sounds like he has YET to be found. Shouldn't it read, John the Baptist's remains found? Dohh!

    August 4, 2010 at 8:22 am |
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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.