home
RSS
Bulgarian bones could be John the Baptist's as claimed, scientists say
A reliquary box thought to have been used to carry the bones of John the Baptist.
June 22nd, 2012
07:55 AM ET

Bulgarian bones could be John the Baptist's as claimed, scientists say

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

(CNN)– When the tools of modern science are applied to religious relics, the results are almost always the same: Science says the relics aren't what their supporters claim.

The most famous of them all, the Turin Shroud, is widely regarded as a Middle Ages forgery, and even the Catholic Church does not insist the shroud was actually used to wrap the body of Jesus himself.

So when Bulgarian archeologists announced two years ago that they had found the bones of John the Baptist, Tom Higham was skeptical.

He got a surprise.

Higham, an Oxford University scientist and an atheist who doesn't believe in "any kind of religion or God or anything like that," was asked to test six small bone fragments found on an island named Sveti Ivan - St. John.

CNN's Belief Blog: the faith angles behind the big stories

The bones turned out to be from a man who lived in the Middle East at the same time as Jesus, Higham said.

"We got a date that was exactly where it should be, right in the middle of the first century," said Higham, a radiocarbon dating expert.

It's not proof that they belonged to John the Baptist, since there's no DNA database of early Christian saints, the archeologist who found the bones said.

But the mere fact that the testing didn't prove the bones are fakes is unusual.

Archeologist Kazimir Popkonstantinov led the team that found them under the altar of a fifth century basilica on Sveti Ivan, a Black Sea island off Sozopol on the south coast of Bulgaria.

The bones were in a reliquary, a container for holy relics, with a tiny sandstone box.

Written on the box in Greek were the words, "God, save your servant Thomas. To St. John. June 24."

Scientists take samples of the bones for radiocarbon and genetic analysis.

The date is the Christian feast day of John the Baptist, believed to be his birthday.

When the bones were found in 2010, Popkonstantinov said it was "logical to suggest that the founders of the monastery did their best to bring relics of its patron saint."

Higham, the deputy director of Oxford's Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, got involved because a colleague knew the Bulgarian archeologists. National Geographic was also interested, so it provided funding for more extensive testing than Higham originally planned, and made a film about the project.

Radiocarbon dating showed that the bones were from the right period to be from John the Baptist, Higham said, while genetic testing showed it was a man and all the bones were from the same person.

DNA testing by colleagues at the University of Copenhagen suggested that the person was most likely to have been from the Middle East, he said.

Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter

More detailed nuclear DNA testing could pin down his location even more accurately, Higham said, but "does cost quite a lot of money."

There is reasonably good historical evidence that John the Baptist, whom Christians believe baptized his cousin Jesus, did exist, said Paul Middleton, a senior lecturer in Biblical studies at the University of Chester.

All four gospels and the contemporary Jewish historian Josephus say he was beheaded on the orders of the ruler Herod Antipas, Middleton said when the bones were found.

The six small bones are far from the only relics purporting to belong to him.

Four locations, from a mosque in Damascus, Syria, to a museum in Munich, Germany, claim to have his head, while the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul, Turkey, has a relic alleged to be his right arm.

A monastery in Montenegro says it has his right hand, while another in Egypt has a crypt containing relics of the saint.

Tom Higham says he can test them to see if they match.

"We have a complete genome. It's possible that we could step this a step further and see if there is any similarity," in the genetic material of all the relics.

"We've sort of got interested in this. It's not beyond the realms of possibility, and we know that there were relics moving out of the Middle East in the fourth and fifth century," he said.

But for him, the project remains a purely scientific one.

"I'm an atheist," he said. "I perceive this as an archeological dating problem. We have some bones and we're trying to get as much information out of them as we can."

CNN's Simon Hooper and Susannah Palk contributed to this report.

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Belief • Bible • Christianity

soundoff (1,475 Responses)
  1. Science

    Free speech helps educate the masses................POLITICIANS too !

    Where do morals come from?

    By Kelly Murray, CNN

    http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/04/12/where-do-morals-come-from/#comments

    Gravity is not up for debate ! ............E = mc2..........(U–Pb).................two math formulas..........that do not lie or sin !!!..........

    BY the way ...................Splat goes a fairy in the sky !...............bye bye tinker bell !

    Einstein's Gravity Theory Passes Toughest Test Yet

    Apr. 25, 2013 — A strange stellar pair nearly 7,000 light-years from Earth has provided physicists with a unique cosmic laboratory for studying the nature of gravity. The extremely strong gravity of a massive neutron star in orbit with a companion white dwarf star puts competing theories of gravity to a test more stringent than any available before

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130425142250.htm

    Hey James Madison................religion has none it looks like.............with the comments on this blog.

    The Big question is ETHICS ! does religion have any ?

    The Ethics of Resurrecting Extinct Species

    Apr. 8, 2013 — At some point, scientists may be able to bring back extinct animals, and perhaps early humans, raising questions of ethics and environmental disruption.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130408165955.htm

    April 30, 2013 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |

    May 1, 2013 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |

    Dinosaur Egg Study Supports Evolutionary Link Between Birds and Dinosaurs: How Troodon Likely Hatched Its Young

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130418104324.htm

    And NO ANGELS the pope KICKED them OFF the TEAM last year !

    From Soup to Cells—the Origin of Life

    http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evosite/evo101/IIE2aOriginoflife.shtml

    the wrong path is Adam and Eve !

    Human Y Chromosome Much Older Than Previously Thought

    Mar. 4, 2013 — The discovery and analysis of an extremely rare African American Y chromosome pushes back the time of the most recent common ancestor for the Y chromosome lineage tree to 338,000 years ago. This time predates the age of the oldest known anatomically modern human fossils.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130305145821.htm

    No god(s) needed or required to graduate from public schools in the US

    Remember : Adam had to POKE himself hard with his OWN BONE to create Eve.

    No god(s) needed................... Old. DNA works..................also catches crooks !

    Ancient DNA Reveals Europe's Dynamic Genetic History

    Apr. 23, 2013 — Ancient DNA recovered from a series of skeletons in central Germany up to 7,500 years old has been used to reconstruct the first detailed genetic history of modern Europe.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130423134037.htm

    Ca-nabis and Cannabinoids (PDQ®) – National Cancer Insti-tute

    http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/cam/cannabis/.../page4

    Mar 21, 2013 – [1,2] These plant-derived compounds may be referred to as phytocannabinoids. ... have a protective effect against the development of certain types of tumors. ... In lung cancer cell lines, CBD upregulated ICAM-1, leading to ...

    Good stuff !

    The fact...............the earth is to old for this nonsemse ! Time to EVOLVE !

    Ancient Earth Crust Stored in Deep Mantle

    Apr. 24, 2013 — Scientists have long believed that lava erupted from certain oceanic volcanoes contains materials from the early Earth's crust. But decisive evidence for this phenomenon has proven elusive. New research from a team including Carnegie's Erik Hauri demonstrates that oceanic volcanic rocks contain samples of recycled crust dating back to the Archean era 2.5 billion years ago. Their work is published in Nature.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130424132705.htm

    For what...................... ? Make sure to read what the pope said !

    Where do morals come from?

    By Kelly Murray, CNN

    http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/

    Learning is fun with facts.......................... and facts work when teaching children.

    Atheist Prof. Peter Higgs: Stop calling Higgs boson the ‘God particle’

    Professor Peter Higgs said recently that there is no God and so people should stop referring to the theoretical partial that
    bears his name as the “God particle.”

    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/04/08/atheist-prof-peter-higgs-stop-calling-higgs-bosen-the-god-particle/

    Pope praises science, but insists God created world updated Thur October 28, 2010
    Stephen Hawking is wrong, Pope Benedict XVI said Thursday – God did create the universe. The pope didn't actually mention the world-famous scientist, who argues in a book published last month that the laws of physics show there is no need for a supreme... \

    http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2010/10/28/pope-praises-science-but-insists-god-created-world/

    Science

    Heaven is 'a fairy story,' scientist Stephen Hawking says updated Tue May 17, 2011
    By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor The concept of heaven or any kind of afterlife is a "fairy story," famed British scientist Stephen Hawking said in a newspaper interview this week. "I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when...

    http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/05/17/heaven-is-a-fairy-story-scientist-stephen-hawking-says/

    April 7th, 2012

    08:32 PM ET

    The Jesus debate: Man vs. myth

    http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/04/07/the-jesus-debate-man-vs-myth/comment-page-137/#comment-2281915

    Make sure to read comments

    April 18, 2013 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |

    Breaking News

    NASA: Three planets found are some of best candidates so far for habitable worlds outside our solar system.

    http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/18/us/planet-discovery/index.html

    NASA: Mars could have supported life

    Star Dust we are

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWdU_px9ApE&w=640&h=390]

    Holy Hallucinations 35

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XTCRdC8Dlo&w=640&h=390]

    The ORIGIN story is bullsh-it...............so is the bible............... nasty !

    From Soup to Cells—the Origin of Life

    http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evosite/evo101/IIE2aOriginoflife.shtml

    Scientists have unearthed the first direct signs of cheesemaking, at a site in Poland that dates back 7,500 years.

    Human Evolution

    http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evosite/evo101/IIE2cHumanevo.shtml

    BBC. Planet of the Apemen. Battle for Earth 1. Ho-mo Erectus

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUliLKSJ4bQ&w=640&h=390]

    BACKFILL on E =mc2.....

    Einstein letter, set for auction, shows scientist challenging idea of God, being 'chosen'

    By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

    Decades before atheist scientist and author Richard Dawkins called God a "delusion," one world-renowned physicist – Albert Einstein – was weighing in on faith matters with his own strong words.

    “The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends,” Einstein wrote in German in a 1954 letter that will be auctioned on eBay later this month. "No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.”

    http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/category/culture-science/

    May 4, 2013 at 6:47 am | Report abuse |

    Cheech & Chong's History of 420

    Cheech & Chong's History of 420 from CheechAndChong

    All cults...........creationists, ID believers and devil cults.................

    The fact...............the earth is to old ...........time to EVOLVE !.

    Ancient Earth Crust Stored in Deep Mantle

    Apr. 24, 2013 — Scientists have long believed that lava erupted from certain oceanic volcanoes contains materials from the early Earth's crust. But decisive evidence for this phenomenon has proven elusive. New research from a team including Carnegie's Erik Hauri demonstrates that oceanic volcanic rocks contain samples of recycled crust dating back to the Archean era 2.5 billion years ago. Their work is published in Nature.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130424132705.htm

    Dover Trial Transcripts............................................. FACTS.

    Below are the complete transcripts from the Dover Trial. Thanks to our friends at the National Center for Science Education for helping us fill in the missing transcripts.

    http://www.aclupa.org/legal/legaldocket/intelligentdesigncase/dovertrialtranscripts.htm

    Education works for children

    Earth From Space

    Detailed satellite images reveal the web of connections that sustain life on Earth. Aired February 13, 2013 on PBS

    Program Description

    "Earth From Space" is a groundbreaking two-hour special that reveals a spectacular new space-based vision of our planet. Produced in extensive consultation with NASA scientists, NOVA takes data from earth-observing satellites and transforms it into dazzling visual sequences, each one exposing the intricate and surprising web of forces that sustains life on earth. Viewers witness how dust blown from the Sahara fertilizes the Amazon; how a vast submarine "waterfall" off Antarctica helps drive ocean currents around the world; and how the sun's heating up of the southern Atlantic gives birth to a colossally powerful hurricane. From the microscopic world of water molecules vaporizing over the ocean to the magnetic field that is bigger than Earth itself, the show reveals the astonishing beauty and complexity of our dynamic planet.

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/space/earth-from-space.html

    February 16, 2013 at 7:18 am | Report abuse |

    Peace

    May 5, 2013 at 9:04 am |
  2. Sandra Robertson

    Believers in Christ do not need scientific facts.

    March 30, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
    • Doris

      They also don't need facts to feel good after having moved their bowels.

      March 30, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
    • Doobs

      Scientific facts do have a way of interfering with ancient mythologies created by Bronze Age sheepherders.

      March 30, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
  3. there

    Hello there, just turned into aware of your weblog via Google, and found that it's truly informative. I am gonna watch out for brussels. I'll appreciate if you continue this in future. Lots of other folks might be benefited out of your writing. Cheers!

    November 13, 2012 at 11:11 am |
  4. Turkey, Turkish travel, Istanbul, tours, Kusadasi, Ephesus, travel agents, travel agencies in Turkey, travel in Turkey, hotels in Turkey, Istanbul hotels, Cappadocia, Bodrum, Ephesus, tour guides, sailiboats, charters, Turkish coast

    hello there and thanks on your info ? I have definitely picked up anything new from right here. I did alternatively expertise some technical points the usage of this web site, as I skilled to reload the web site lots of occasions prior to I could get it to load properly. I were brooding about if your hosting is OK? No longer that I'm complaining, however slow loading instances times will often impact your placement in google and can harm your high quality ranking if ads and marketing with Adwords. Well I'm including this RSS to my email and could look out for a lot more of your respective fascinating content. Make sure you replace this once more soon..

    July 25, 2012 at 4:05 am |
    • eegur beevur

      dude, what are you smoking?

      March 30, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
  5. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things*

    July 5, 2012 at 4:30 am |
    • matt in nw

      No sir....

      God has a plan ...prayers are irrelevant ....think about it , what about two sides praying for victory in a war, football game, or say a famine or drought? God seems to be indifferent when a plague hits..believer and atheists have roughly same chance of dieing.

      July 5, 2012 at 4:43 am |
  6. Dorothy

    Scientists, say a lot of things that change from one day to the next and a whloe lot of people believe everything they say. Once again, science cannot and does not prove everything about this world and mankind. Now why would the bones be John the Baptist's bones? If science was the ultimate Truth, then, why can't scientists find a cure for cancer, or solve all the world's problems? If you pick up a Bible you will find a lot more answer's in it than science could ever answer.

    July 5, 2012 at 3:41 am |
    • Bizarre

      Dorothy,
      "If you pick up a Bible you will find a lot more answer's in it than science could ever answer."

      Like this? In Leviticus 14 "God" spoke to Moses and told him the correct treatment and cure for leprosy. It is the dangedest, silliest thing you'd ever want to read. This was the LORD speaking, Dorothy, THE LORD – how dare anyone search for a better treatment!

      Briefly:

      Get two birds. Kill one. Dip the live bird in the blood of the dead one. Sprinkle the blood on the leper seven times, and then let the blood-soaked bird fly away. Next find a lamb and kill it. Wipe some of its blood on the patient's right ear, thumb, and big toe. Sprinkle seven times with oil and wipe some of the oil on his right ear, thumb and big toe. Repeat. Finally find another pair of birds. Kill one and dip the live bird in the dead bird's blood. Wipe some blood on the patient's right ear, thumb, and big toe. Sprinkle the house with blood 7 times. That's all there is to it. Saith THE LORD!

      July 5, 2012 at 3:48 am |
    • Bizarre

      The Bible is a book which includes *some* history of primitive Hebrew culture, and *some* good advice for practical, beneficial human behavior, but mainly it is a compilation of ancient Middle Eastern historical fiction, myth, legend, superst.ition and fantasy.

      There is not a whit of verified evidence for any of the supernatural beings and events told about in that book.

      July 5, 2012 at 4:08 am |
    • nope

      @bizarre
      nope
      Archaeology proves you wrong

      July 5, 2012 at 4:29 am |
    • Bizarre

      @nope,

      Nope. Archeology does not prove a single supernatural being or event from that book.

      July 5, 2012 at 4:46 am |
    • The Dude

      Dude, reread Leviticus 14 please, pay special attention to verse 3.

      Briefly...
      The priest is to go outside the camp and examine them. If they have been HEALED of their defiling skin disease....

      Then the priest offers the sin and guilt offerings to the Lord so that the person in question can be cleansed in the eyes of God. Please stop twisting the Bible, many people will go wayward from seeing that because they don't know any better.

      July 5, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Dotty, Why wouldn't a caring omnipotent god prevent or cure cancer?

      March 30, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
    • Science

      Hey santa

      Time traveler are you ?

      Science

      Origin of Life: Natural Cause no god(s) required.

      Hypothesis Traces First Protocells Back to Emergence of Cell Membrane Bioenergetics

      December 20, 2012 — A coherent pathway – which starts from no more than rocks, water and carbon dioxide and leads to the emergence of the strange bio-energetic properties of living cells – has been traced for the ...

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/news/fossils_ruins/origin_of_life/

      So there is Dorothy

      March 30, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
  7. Dorothy

    PumpNDump, you're way off course, none of what you said has been proven scientifically or otherwise. Here's something, you might want to think about, "Facts" change all the time, but the Truth never changes. If you were on earth when the dinosaurs were here and lived to tell everyone, then that could be a Truth, but you weren't. Science cannot and does not prove everything that has happened on earth much less the universe, and that's a Truth that you don't seem to grasp. You need to get over it, that you don't know everything about earth, dinosaurs, God, Jesus, the Bible, etc..

    July 5, 2012 at 3:25 am |
    • matt in nw

      Dorothy,

      Yes, science can change, and as it does our knowlege expands. The sciences, at their core, are very solid- why? because of Observation and Experimentation...hands on experiance if you will.

      Left to God and his servants (read those that make theirLiving speaking for God) – we would still be burning people alive for thought crimes, witchcraft, daring to interpret the will of god (love the circular element on that one:) ect. There is a reason religion is fighting real science- with each new discovery it get harder and harder them to stay relevent. Everyone hates job hunting.

      July 5, 2012 at 4:30 am |
    • The Dude

      "Religion" fights science because people assert that all scientific discoveries must be the truth and therefore be evidence against God instead of evidence of how God made the universe to be. No there is nothing wrong with science, but people will use it to push atheism, much how atheists accuse Christians of using the Bible to push an agenda.

      July 5, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      Science does not assert absolute truth. Learn what science is before you go around saying stupid things like that. There is also absolutely no evidence that ANY god exists, let alone YOUR god.

      July 5, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  8. Kodster

    How about the apostle, Thomas? The one that doubted that Jesus had been resurrected, until Jesus Himself proved it to him? With the inscription, that would make a lot of sense, and it would justify why the monks buried him in such a location.

    July 4, 2012 at 10:31 am |
  9. Landon le

    It might not belong to john the baptist and probably belong to a jewish immigrant who immigrated to bulgaria or any other immigrants from the middle east. Bulgaria was part of the roman empire and the roman empire was like the USA, lots of immigrants.

    July 3, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
  10. Brad

    And I have a grilled cheese sandwich that looks like the virgin Mary. Astounding, but still delicious.

    July 3, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
  11. PumpNDump

    Facepalm. No such thing as "john the baptists" bones. Total myth.

    We are a SECULAR nation founded by men who feared the ignorant, religious, unwashed masses.
    The earth is 4.5 BILLION years old, NOT 6000 years old.
    Dinosaurs existed, just not with man.
    Evolution, and Global Climate change, are scientific facts and our ancestors are over 6 million years old.
    No, the world won't end concurrent with the Mayan calendar.
    The whole "god" & "jesus" thing: myths invented by man and is no more relevant or accurate than the Greek/Roman gods, Hinduism, Mithrasian faiths, etc. 98% of all christianity is LIBERALLY lifted from preceding "pagan" faiths (oh, the irony!).
    There is NO peer reviewed, legitimate academically accepted proof that "jesus" ever existed and you'd think the most important "person" in christianity would have proof of life.
    The parting of the Red Sea, Noah's Ark, "jesus" rising from the dead, etc......all myths.
    Abortion? That issue was decided with Roe vs. Wade, get over it.

    I don't care what you believe provided you keep ALL religion out of public schools, science & academia, foreign and domestic policy, laws & jurisprudence. KEEP IT OUT OF OUR LIVES. FOAD.

    July 3, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
  12. Yes, these bones could be JtB!

    But, instead, yesterday afternoon they were confirmed as being the bones of Bozo D Clown. Or Charlemagne. Or Felix the Cat.

    Or how about just some Schmoe that lived a long time ago?

    Yeah, that last one seems like it's the most plausible.

    July 3, 2012 at 10:57 am |
  13. James

    I would keep looking closer to where the bones were found, for a wallet with some sort of identification...Drivers License, Social Security Card, AARP Card etc...Or maybe a belt buckle that has JTB on it...Then you will have real proof....

    July 3, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • Steph

      HA!!

      July 3, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18
Advertisement
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.