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. curlyfester

    Christ is a crutch for spiritual toddlers who cling to their baby Jesus security blanket hoping it will protect them from that existential monster in the closet.

    August 4, 2010 at 11:08 am |
    • Anon


      August 4, 2010 at 11:10 am |
    • Luke

      And what's the problem with that? If there is nothing after life, if all the existential monster in the closet shows us is that everything we know and feel is nothing but some sort of complicated illusion only philosophers can understand... what does it matter if people cling to the crutch of Christ in order to feel a little less alone?

      August 4, 2010 at 11:17 am |
    • CoqCheney

      The problem??? Religion is like any other drug... for personal use it should be a non-issue, but it should not bleed over into interactions with others, or dictate the decisions they make. Further, it is historically a tool for swaying a percentage of public opinion in or out of favor with political ideals. Look at the institutions themselves... they are among the wealthiest in the world. How much good do they REALLY put that money to?

      August 4, 2010 at 12:31 pm |
    • verify

      Luke, Having one's own personal security blanket is understandable. Where it crosses the line is when those who don't need/want that security blanket are condemned by the 'blanketeers' to eternal damnation.

      August 4, 2010 at 2:00 pm |
  2. CoqCheney

    Plug away!

    August 4, 2010 at 11:03 am |
  3. Anon

    Im a Christian, just to get that out of the way now. The majority of the people posting on here that claim to be Christians ranting and "foaming" at the mouth to make their point need too cool it. Step back and actually formulate your post. Read what you have typed up before you post it and ask yourself a very important question, Is it appropriate? Your making us all look like fanatical lunatics. Also to bring up another point, when you rant your mouth off with random verses and facts trying to convince or turn an Athiest you are wasting your time because they will always say something like, "thats not true because of this...", "fact is fact...", "thats not a fact..." when many times what they are shooting back at you with are also not true facts. So when you rant things like, "ZOMG THE BIBLE IT TRU!!!111" all you are really doing is providing really quality ammunition. Just because you listen to sermons and you read a few verses doesnt mean you are well versed. You can stuf the bible every day and still not know the half of it. You WILL be picked apart.

    Do some research before start an arguement, trust me, Athiests will respect that.

    Anyways, I dont think these are really John the Baptists remains. I believe it is a PR stunt to get tourists. This just doesnt seem to pan out to me. I could be wrong.

    August 4, 2010 at 11:00 am |
    • CoqCheney

      No fewer than three skulls of "St. Peter" are held to be authentic by their respective churches.

      August 4, 2010 at 11:05 am |
    • Anon

      See thats what I mean. You dont know. Unless somehow St. Peter had three heads. Which in turn would be freaky wierd.

      August 4, 2010 at 11:07 am |
    • Double-T

      St. Peter would be so much more interesting and believable if he actually had three heads.......

      August 4, 2010 at 11:10 am |
  4. Thatgirl

    You have all got it wrong. Jesus is actually a woman and is expected to arrive on April 22, 2012 at 12:30pm.

    August 4, 2010 at 10:59 am |
  5. cd

    Holy cow, this is a story? Believed to be the remains of john the baptist because of an inscription reliquary? Well those are always accurate. Does the author know how many reliquaries there are? There are so many that saint Francis had about 47 fingers and jesus was nailed to the cross in about 400 locations on his body judging by the amount of nails. This was only newsworthy if this we were all living in the 11th century.

    August 4, 2010 at 10:59 am |
  6. 4real yo

    Josephus couldn't have written about Jesus because his birth was c. 37. Jesus was dead by then.

    August 4, 2010 at 10:57 am |
    • cd

      if he was born after jesus's death that's fine. Josephus, in addition to being a governor was also a historian. Most historians write about individuals that predate themselves. Josephus is important because he is among the first non Christian historian to mention him.

      August 4, 2010 at 11:03 am |
    • CoqCheney

      Those references were added much later, and in pathetic imitation of Josephus's writing style. "Emperor Constantine" peeps, look him up!

      August 4, 2010 at 11:07 am |
  7. boydanb203

    When are we going to learn not to worship any kind of image or any kind of a person's body as Godlike, wasn't that the message of Christ!!?? be done with the old law, no more law, love each other and learn how to find the God within!!??look at us we still blind by the man made religion and their fake beliefs of hatred and discrimination, who are we to cast someone to hell or heaven???we have so much to learn and so little time.

    August 4, 2010 at 10:50 am |
  8. Runnergirl

    Ask ANY Muslim what the Quran says about the Infidel, who is the Infidel and what to do with the Infidel. They want you to know THAT. Then tell me what you think about Islam... BEWARE!

    August 4, 2010 at 10:48 am |
    • JMcCain

      You've clearly read the Qur'an for yourself. Very intelligent post. And you probably have Cheeto's all over your fingers.

      August 4, 2010 at 10:51 am |
  9. Craig

    As my high school history teacher used to say, "Winners write the history books". So to say anything about the mentioning, or lack thereof, of Jesus by the Romans is pure speculation. There would have been a lot of reasons for the Romans to purge all records of any mention of Jesus. (plus, please remember this was 2000 years ago, there were no Xerox machines, or printers, and it was 1400+ years before Gutenberg invented the printing press, so there was not a lot of physical remains of any documentation), just as there would be a lot of reasons for the early Christians to embellish the story of Christ. Neither side can prove anything at this point.

    August 4, 2010 at 10:46 am |
    • Mekhong Kurt

      Craig, to an extent we can. We can observe the physical world, touch it, see it, hear it, taste it. And measure it.

      In the realm of philosophy, that means each of us have to accept that we're not hallucinating the whole schmear. Which virtually everyone does accept.

      Further to philosophy, it's impossible to prove a negative, hence, no one can disprove the nonexistence of any god or gods.

      That, however, doesn't leave believers clear. All they can point to is, in the case of Christianity, a book of dubious reliability and provenance, then true to use it to prove itself ("I'm innocent Your Honor, really") and assertions that "God [or Jesus] speaks to my heart" and the like. No external evidence at all. Even when they point to miracles, they're making a huge assumption regarding causality. "Well, the doctors didn't do anything so I KNOW Christ healed me!"

      They also have no good answer for just why a loving God would let countless millions of people live if the only way to eternal salvation is through "knowing" Jesus - yet they never even had a chance to hear of him. I've had some Christians argue "too bad for them; they should have asked Christ to come into their hearts."

      Pretty tough, when you've never even *heard* of the guy. Besides, why should I trust another mere mortal's word for it, a person who is not one bit better than me? That means I would be placing faith in that *person,* really - not some god.

      August 5, 2010 at 11:21 am |
  10. JMcCain

    There is no such thing as Bulgaria. Not a single person here can prove it's existence. Much like Obama's birth certificate.

    August 4, 2010 at 10:44 am |
    • SPalin

      I agree. No proof of either. No decisive proof that internet exists, either. or satellites.

      August 4, 2010 at 10:46 am |
    • JMcCain

      That's ridiculous. Going to the moon was not a decoy. The moon itself is a decoy. Prove it's existence, and you will prove Obama is an American. Good luck.

      August 4, 2010 at 10:54 am |
    • CoqCheney

      NASA bounces a laser off the Moon to track its slow motion away from the Earth. I believe in its existence... oh, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster, too!

      August 4, 2010 at 11:03 am |
  11. Shannon

    He was and He is and He will be – forever and ever. Skeptics have existed as long as faith – seems so odd that they are so insecure in their lack of faith that they have to try to destroy the faith of others. But do not worry – every eye will look upon Him and every knee will bow. Unfortunately, it will be too late for many. If you only knew Him. To those who believe, please quit trying to defend Him – He doesn't need you to now any more than He did when he carried the cross for the sins of the world. He only wants you to love your neighbor and live a Christian life – THAT will draw others, not arguments of "faith". (Missing Post Button – It's invisible)

    August 4, 2010 at 10:43 am |
    • CoqCheney

      Skeptics have existed longer than faith... only they had MORE rational things to be skeptical of. They still haven't managed to convince the "self-made blind" individuals that they can simply open their eyes at any time.

      August 4, 2010 at 10:45 am |
    • steelers81

      Great reply shannon, what people don't realize is that if we (true born again christians) are wrong and we are not, we have lost nothing, but if they are wrong, according to the bible, without a belief in Christ they will end up in HELL! Really the best thing to prove Jesus is just look at peoples lives that have been totally changed after a true conversion to him.

      August 4, 2010 at 11:22 am |
    • CoqCheney

      The same may be said for conversions to any religion... the common thread here is the individual's dedication to living a better life. The religious dogma has no real bearing on the outcome. Many christian converts go on being the same "sinners" (you guys like that word, right?) they always were, just meeting in a different building once a week.

      August 4, 2010 at 12:26 pm |
  12. TOM

    What is the point? What difference would it make if you dug up Buddha, or Krishna, or Zeus? Yes it would make for fascinating history and anthropology but it wouldn't prove anything claimed in the bible. All these religious finatics are just foaming at the mouth to find some "relic" that "proves" that they are "right". I still choose to "trust but verify".

    August 4, 2010 at 10:42 am |
  13. CoqCheney

    Brenton>>> READ the posts of people who get their history from HISTORY books.

    August 4, 2010 at 10:40 am |
    • One Whose Name Means Beloved of God

      Better yet-just read the history books. 😛

      August 8, 2010 at 12:22 pm |
  14. Todd

    Most holy relics were faked in order to attract pilgrims and drum up $$. Some Saint's had as many as 20 fingers spread all over Europe. I don't know about you, but I don't have that many fingers to give up to the cause...

    August 4, 2010 at 10:40 am |
  15. bob

    Kazimir Popkonstantinov lifted the reliquary’s lid

    who did what now?

    August 4, 2010 at 10:40 am |
  16. Bebe

    To dispute the existence of Christ is to dispute history. Take the blinders off.

    Oh, and nevermind that time has been recorded around the Lord's birth. (A.D./B.C.)

    August 4, 2010 at 10:40 am |
    • TOM

      I don't doubt that Elvis existed either, I just don't believe he had supernatural powers, could heal the sick and raise the dead, or was the son of an omnipitent invisible "GOD" that "rules" the universe saving us from the mythos of the DEVIL and OUR SINS, OUR SINS, OUR SINS!

      August 4, 2010 at 10:46 am |
    • Bebe

      That's ok Tom, your box is small. Someday you'll see.

      August 4, 2010 at 11:00 am |
    • CoqCheney

      The recording of history by that date is evidence ONLY of the use of the christian mythology to dominate what was, at that time, "the world." Emperor Constantine imposed "0 AD" some 400 years AFTER all that mess "happened." Modern references have changed to "C.E." and "B.C.E." referring to "Current Era." The dates have been kept ONLY so that we do not have to go through and change all the numbers again.
      Take the blinders off. Every one religion MUST assume ALL others are wrong. What are the chances that YOU are the one who got it right?

      August 4, 2010 at 11:01 am |
    • Bebe

      Belief is a choice; therefore, no ultimate domination involved.

      It's wasn't hard to believe that Christ was the Son of God at that time because He met all the criteria and walked the walk. That is why Christianity took off and replaced the dominating pagan religion of that time.

      So tell me again, what was it that Mohammed, Buddha, a plethora of Hindu gods and animals, the volcano, flying spaghetti monster, your object of devotion, etc. sacrificed for the world?

      August 4, 2010 at 11:10 am |
    • CoqCheney

      They, like your precious "savior," sacrificed one thing... the credibility of the majority of the human race.

      August 4, 2010 at 12:23 pm |
    • Bebe

      Not really. Christ sacrificed his life for the credibility of the world. What did 'the others' sacrifice? Oh yeah, nothing.

      August 4, 2010 at 12:39 pm |
    • CoqCheney

      Correction... a man in a funny robe told you that a very old book says a man named "Jesus" did all that. Those are the only "facts" you have.

      August 4, 2010 at 1:08 pm |
    • Mekhong Kurt

      Bebe, not in Thailand, where I live. While the Western calendar is widely used *informally,* the OFFICIAL calendar is based on the life of Buddha. Even the Russian Orthodox use a different calendar - that's why Christmas falls in what we in the West consider to be January. Then there's the traditional lunar calendar widely used thoughout, for example, much of East and Southeast Asia.

      August 5, 2010 at 11:04 am |
  17. CoqCheney

    KLS>>> How could you read so much, and come away with nothing??? What does it mean that the medical classification of blood-type uses the first letters of OUR alphabet... which was derived from Latin... which was derived from Greek... which was derived from, you guessed it, the HEBREW alef-bet? Heck, I'm AB+, am I the "Second Coming?"
    The "Shroud" was made in the 15th century... the dating of the materials is more relevant than if someone put some real blood on it.
    Number Theory (the sciency kind) has proven that certain dimensionality (zeroth and first) are inaccessible from our perspective. The reverse is likely true. IF there's a god, it would likely be in that region of existence... why would it send itself as its own half-child to leave us a bunch of cryptic nonsense, hoping we would figure out the secret code?

    August 4, 2010 at 10:40 am |
  18. Messenger


    Oh wait, it's fine to put faith in selective history books as long as they don't pose any threat to the throne of our own lives, so Columbus is ok. JOSEPHUS-Jewish Historian, TACITUS-Gentile Historian, Suetonius-Gentile Historian, Phlegon-Gentile Historian, and the 4 gospels aren't enough proof of the existence of Christ.


    But why bother trying to convince the mocker. "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned." 1COR2:14

    If it's not a bad experience with a "christian"/church in your past, then it's you're own head that gets in the way. You GROW UP & develop your own credo/philosophy, and it becomes your god. So why accept words from some other..."God"?

    This is why Christ said:
    "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven – Jesus (Matt18:3)

    August 4, 2010 at 10:38 am |
    • CoqCheney

      Yes... didn't exist. Look up "Emperor Constantine" and learn the true history of christian domination.

      August 4, 2010 at 10:43 am |
    • Bebe

      Constantine who?

      August 4, 2010 at 12:56 pm |
    • CoqCheney

      Just type "Constantine, Rome" into a search engine and read what comes up.

      August 4, 2010 at 1:07 pm |
    • Mekhong Kurt

      And was that recorded in Aramaic? Greek? Latin? Hebrew?

      Or King James English?

      August 5, 2010 at 10:51 am |
  19. James

    It's about faith...either you believe or not. Your choice.

    Also, a virgin can conceive...say a gay woman wants to have a baby who has never had sex with a man. Hmmm...quick visit to the local fertility clinic can result in a pregnancy. Can modern healthcare cause the lame to walk and the blind to see? Yep. It's about perspective. And absolute knowledge isn't what religion is based upon – atheists can't prove their isn't a God no more then I can prove there is.

    August 4, 2010 at 10:33 am |
  20. CoqCheney

    Brenton>>> skip me in your prayers, please!!!

    August 4, 2010 at 10:31 am |
    • Ash

      me too

      August 4, 2010 at 10:35 am |
    • Brenton (www.livelovechange.com)

      Sorry, I can't. I am here to share the love of Christ. I will be praying for you.

      August 4, 2010 at 10:36 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.