August 3rd, 2010
01:49 PM ET

Remains of John the Baptist found in Bulgaria?

John the Baptist, right, as depicted in this 14th century painting at the National Gallery, London

Archaeologists in Bulgaria claim they have found remains of John the Baptist while excavating the site of a 5th century monastery on the Black Sea island of Sveti Ivan.

A reliquary – a container for holy relics – discovered last week under the monastery’s basilica was opened on Sunday and found to contain bone fragments of a skull, a hand and a tooth, Bulgaria’s official news agency BTA reported.

Excavation leader Kazimir Popkonstantinov lifted the reliquary’s lid in a ceremony in the coastal town of Sozopol attended by dignitaries including the Bishop of Sliven, Yoanikii, and Bozhidar Dimitrov, a government minister and director of Bulgaria’s National History Museum, BTA said.

Further tests on the fragments are due to be carried out. But Popkonstantinov is convinced the relics belong to John the Baptist because of a Greek inscription on the reliquary referring to June 24, the date when Christians celebrate John the Baptist’s birth, according to the website of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.

A later monastery on the island, built in the 11th century, was dedicated to John the Baptist – "Sveti Ivan" means "St. John" in Bulgarian and other Slavic languages. Popkonstantinov told Bulgarian news agency Focus that it was possible the earlier basilica was also dedicated to the saint.

Fabrizio Bisconti, superintendent of the Vatican Pontifical Commission of Sacred Archaeology, told CNN that the commission "will wait until a more thorough study has been conducted, including anthropological analysis, before it will express an opinion on the finding."

Bisconti also said there are thousands of alleged relics of John the Baptist scattered around the world. He said the pontifical commission has not been contacted by the Bulgarian archaeologists, and that it normally does not get involved in the sacred archaeology studies carried outside of Italy.

Christians believe John the Baptist heralded the arrival of Christ and baptized Jesus in the River Jordan. According to the Gospels, John was put to death by beheading on the orders of the local ruler, Herod Antipas. He is considered a particularly significant figure in the Orthodox Church.

The newly discovered reliquary is made of alabaster and dates from approximately the middle of the 5th century, Popkonstantinov told reporters. The southern Black Sea coast was then part of the Byzantine Empire, ruled from Byzantium, now Istanbul in Turkey.

Popkonstantinov told Focus the reliquary was the first to be discovered in the region.

Dimitrov told Focus the relics may once have been donated to the monastery by the Byzantine church. The Topkapi Palace museum in Istanbul is one of several sites claiming to house relics purported to be those of John the Baptist.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity

soundoff (1,093 Responses)
  1. in study

    Laugh now while you can there will come a time when you won't be and I'm so sorry for that. You are being prayed for in spite of yourself.

    August 4, 2010 at 11:29 am |
    • Anon

      You know that was almost a Christian thing to say...in a sarcastic kindof way.

      August 4, 2010 at 11:30 am |
  2. jiggaman

    The mark of Cain is that he had black skin.

    August 4, 2010 at 11:28 am |
    • Anon

      Oh snap! Burned!! Oh wait my bad...

      August 4, 2010 at 11:29 am |
  3. Cynthia T

    Wow – what a lot of vitriol over an article. Why do Christians hate on atheists and agnostics and vice versa? Just because someone does / does not believe in God does not make them a bad person. We were given the gift of Free Will and each person is able to believe as they will.

    I consider myself to be a Christian and find comfort in the knowledge that who I am will go on after I die, that I won't just wink out like a lightbulb. My dad was not a church going man – in fact he was prone to be downright irreverant in church (instead of 'Peace be with you', I got a 'Rock on' during my wedding). When he was in the last stages of cancer and his death was imminent (as in a few days away), he started to get scared. The only person who was able to ease his fears, oddly enough, was the pastor from my grandparents church who came to talk with my dad and assure him that there *was* a place for him in Heaven. I am convinced to this day that that is the only reason why he was able to let go and slip away as peacefully as he did.

    Do I question some of the things that are in the Bible or that my church teaches us? Yes, I do. It's healthy to question things, to not follow blindly or out of fear. I believe as I do because I have seen things in my life that lead me to believe.

    I think it is intriguing that they think they found remains of St. John in the reliquary and it will be interesting to see what their analysis will reveal.

    August 4, 2010 at 11:24 am |
    • Anon

      I dont hate Athiests. I have Athiest friends. I just hate when they fire off at the mouth at the mere mention of the word, "Faith" like anyone asked them anyways. Debate us, fine. Bash us, gtfo.

      August 4, 2010 at 11:27 am |
    • wsan

      It's not about hating on them, its about loving on them. Christ commands us to spread the truth. The sooner everyone hears, the sooner I get to go home. This world is not my home. This world is the most horrible place I can imagine. My life is pretty blessed but look around the hate, crime killing, murder,violence. How can anyone belive that a men can make this a better world. People are in total denial of the corruption on planet earth. Im glad God is God, cause if I were. This world would be long gone and there would be no hope.

      August 4, 2010 at 11:31 am |
    • Anon

      @wsan: If you believe in God then you must believe in Heaven. In turn you must also believe there is a hell. Hell is much worse then this world. I dont hate Athiests, I hate what they do. Same concept as not hating the sinner, hate the sin.

      August 4, 2010 at 11:35 am |
    • CoqCheney

      Atheists want you to live the same "good life" you claim hold to, only without needing dogma to dictate4 it to you (or worse, them). 2000 years is a young religion... I think morality may have existed before.

      August 4, 2010 at 1:22 pm |
  4. wsan

    rev 21:6,7,8
    6 And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.

    7 He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.

    8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

    I guess I am not willing to take that chance. How about you

    August 4, 2010 at 11:23 am |
    • Btea

      Well Cogchenney so far as evidence, you maybe right. Even though there is plenty of it, but try to refute it. But, the says something about that too! God said that the people on earth back then were so corrupt, that he was not going to leave a TRACE of that civilization! Well according to you, he DIDN't! He did an execellent job of not leaving a trace as to what happened!

      August 4, 2010 at 4:41 pm |
  5. Shane

    I find it ironic that in the belief section a bunch of Atheist comes here to discredit anyone in something they don’t believe in the first place.

    Asking a Atheist about Christ is like asking Hitler about Jewish history.

    August 4, 2010 at 11:23 am |
    • Anon

      Oh how right you are Shane.

      August 4, 2010 at 11:25 am |
    • Shane

      Spoken like a true cultist. "You don't understand our ways, so you can't judge them..."

      Oh really? I don't understand the ways of the Aztecs, but I certainly reserve the right to call them monsters for practicing human sacrifice.

      I will repeat... "Calling 'atheism' a religion is like calling 'barefoot' a type of shoe style"

      August 4, 2010 at 11:28 am |
    • Gary

      Sorry Shane agnostic here ...bad anaology since Hitler was a professed Christian.

      August 4, 2010 at 11:34 am |
    • Anon

      Professed in the same way Westboro Baptist Church are professed?

      August 4, 2010 at 11:40 am |
    • Anon

      On a related note, Hitler knew a supprisingly good amount about Jewish History. But I do get what your saying.

      August 4, 2010 at 11:42 am |
    • Btea

      Amen to that!! You know, the same disbelief existed when Noah warned about the flood! It's no different now. Even Jesus said that the disbelif existed back then in Noah's day, but the flood came and washed them all away! He wasn't speaking in perables either.

      August 4, 2010 at 11:47 am |
    • CoqCheney

      No evidence of Arks or Floods. World is over 4 BILLION years old. Human life expectancy has shown NO correlation to population (medicine has extended life, even though population continues to grow. Atheism is not an ideology, but rather the casting away of such nonsense on the whole. Atheists still have beliefs, entitling them to respond on this forum.
      Finally, a forum like this gives atheists a direct line to the most wound-up of the religious bunch... fun for us, even if nothing sinks in to your denial-laden skulls.

      August 4, 2010 at 12:42 pm |
  6. I'm Laughing...

    in a related story, The Easter Bunny was found hiking in Yellowstone Park

    August 4, 2010 at 11:21 am |
  7. just joe

    If you believe this John the Baptist " discovery" and all that is written in the bible you also believe ...

    (1) Dinosaurs have only came into being and died out within the last 5,000 years.
    (2) A human being in the past has lived to the age of 500 years plus.
    (3) Noah ark was the first ship to travel around the world (sorry Vasco da Gama.)
    How else did he save the worlds animal population from the "great flood?"

    August 4, 2010 at 11:21 am |
    • Anon

      Yeah and? 🙂

      August 4, 2010 at 11:24 am |
    • just joe

      Anon "Yeah and?"

      Sad. Real sad. Tell me how any of these are possible. Proof, not fairy tales.

      August 4, 2010 at 11:32 am |
    • Btea

      Actually, a human lived beyond 900 years! And yes I believe1

      August 4, 2010 at 11:37 am |
    • just joe

      Actually, a human lived beyond 900 years! And yes I believe1

      I believed in Santa Claus until I was old enough to know better.

      Proof, not fairy tales.

      August 4, 2010 at 11:45 am |
    • Anon

      How do you know a human didnt live to be 900 years old? There is a direct corelation between the number of years a person lived and the population of the earth. Back then there were not nearly as many people inhabiting the earth as there are today, and by "today" I mean the 20th and 21st centuries. Believe it or not. There isnt proof to say its all true and there isnt proof to say it isnt. So I dont see why you even bothered to make the arguement in the first place.

      August 4, 2010 at 11:50 am |
  8. in study

    johnrj08 oh ye of little faith I see a lot of doubting Thomas' on here but you will find out and I pray its not too late for any of you! Well wishes from a Christian and proud of it.

    August 4, 2010 at 11:20 am |
  9. Richard Polanco

    Let us not ask
    unto the Lord what he
    Already knows in Truth and Righteousness!

    But yet Follow your heart
    In kindness And Love
    unto others So He may
    see your Good Will
    in Him!

    The Power of God’s
    Glory is Divine

    The Covenant between you
    And the Lord is Sacred!

    For The Answers We
    Seek Can be found deep
    Within Our Hearts!

    Proclaim His Name in
    Every Prayer From
    Your Heart unto Others!
    So you may see
    His Glory!


    August 4, 2010 at 11:20 am |
  10. in study

    what gets so confusing for most people is seperating the world from the spiritual, those who worship God must worship Him in Spirit and in truth.

    August 4, 2010 at 11:18 am |
  11. Drew1128

    I see a lot of people on here looking down there noses at Christians for their "silly beliefs" and adherence to "fairy tales." Funny how all those critics/arguments disappear when the subject is, say, Islam, rather than Christianity. People are more skeptical of Christianity, because it's been mainstream in the West for so long, it's become passe. But really the same arguments it are criticisms that apply to all religions, but the critics are afraid of taking a crack at non-Christian religions, either for PC reasons, because it's physically unsafe to do so, or some combination thereof.

    August 4, 2010 at 11:17 am |
    • I'm Laughing...

      Islam isn't filled with fairy tales, it's filled with psychosis...

      August 4, 2010 at 11:24 am |
    • CoqCheney

      Atheists will have as much to say about any ideology proclaiming connection to supernatural beings. Now, you tell me what's so silly about observed and tested science?

      August 4, 2010 at 12:36 pm |
  12. johnrj08

    If you emptied all the reliquaries in the world containing the alleged remains of John the Baptist, you would have a ten foot high mound of bones and teeth that could only fit into the body of a 20 foot tall giant.

    This article is a joke.

    August 4, 2010 at 11:17 am |
  13. Gary

    religion is based entirely on faith and beliefs. No scientifc fact whatsoever......Earth is billions of years old. solid proof of Natural selection and even evolution. Proof of an ancient earth Pangia puzzle,plate tectonics,mid oceanic ridges,erosion escarpments,animal fossils and of course fossil fuels..

    August 4, 2010 at 11:16 am |
    • Anon

      Very true Gary! But who is to say God didnt make the earth then? Now dont say, "The Bible doesnt say he did" because you would be right it doesnt. But do you know wether or not this is the only time God created anything? Do you know if God didn't create the Universe? You dont, and I dont either.

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

      I'm still pullin' for Santa!!

      August 4, 2010 at 12:35 pm |
  14. DanUSMC

    @ TACOPACO – LMAO keep it up! Sadly, your posts make the most sense to me. How anyone can speak with authority about what happened 2000 years ago when we cant even trust TODAY'S media and governments to be honest is beyond me!! "Its true cause I read it in the Bible/Wikipedia/fortune cookie etc etc etc" LOLOL

    August 4, 2010 at 11:16 am |
  15. mc

    Yeah, and if Obama was Arizona in immigration lberals illegal, Palin Cheney would take overseas jobs amnesty, no!

    There, see how I tied the article directly into the usual message board subjects? Watch me & learn, grasshoppers!

    August 4, 2010 at 11:14 am |
    • Anon

      Come again?

      August 4, 2010 at 11:16 am |
  16. Sam

    Christians need to be careful with this. "Scientists" "reconstructed" Nebraska man and even his woman from what turned out to be a pigs tooth. Lets all not forget the Piltdown Man. You start throwing phony "evidence" in with your religion and the weak minded will flock to you. Worked for the Religion of Evolution.

    August 4, 2010 at 11:13 am |
  17. fuyuko

    biblical archaeology has a bad reputation and with good reason. people will do just about anything to justify their beliefs and biblical archaeological fraud is very popular in many countries. as a result artifacts are destroyed or altered to increase their value. a beautiful vase is worth much more, if it has a 'biblical inscription' so conmen will alter them to market them more. i take any claims like this with extreme skepticism.

    August 4, 2010 at 11:12 am |
  18. God like Being

    Ask Jesus what the "truth" is after he has been born again (2nd coming is via a womb) God lives here in 3D.

    Psalms82:6 I have said... YE...Are...Gods! And all of you are the Children of the Most High.

    1Timothy2:4'Who'... will have all men to be saved... and unto come unto the Knowledge of the Truth.

    John3:7 Marvel not that I said unto Thee. Ye must be Born... Again.

    August 4, 2010 at 11:10 am |
  19. Mike

    There were many people who wrote about Christ and the Christian movement at the time... God reveals himself to those who can hear. And then there are those who aren't. It's obvious that those who are not chosen try to make up all kinds of things to disprove something they can't understand.

    August 4, 2010 at 11:10 am |
    • Double-T

      Choose to learn grammar next time....God will like that....

      August 4, 2010 at 11:12 am |
    • Gary

      Mike "chosen" I thought it was about faith? You can not prove anything you just read from a religious text and belief what you read it the actual word of god.

      August 4, 2010 at 11:13 am |
    • Anon

      Close. Anyone can come to know Christ and God. Thats the reason he "died" on the cross. So that our sins can be forgiven and we all have a path avaliable to us to obtain eternal life through Christ. Unless your a Jehovas Whitness, then we are all screwed.

      August 4, 2010 at 11:14 am |
    • in study

      God chooses all that he made it is up to us to seek and we shall find

      August 4, 2010 at 11:16 am |
    • Anon

      See you get it. Its not hard to understand that. Unless you dont believe, in that case then...I dont know.

      August 4, 2010 at 11:19 am |
    • Double-T

      anyone can choose to understand anything, faith is God's equivalent of keeping up appearances to avoid the truth.....He does not need defending, because no defense can be made...It's not real, it's a story to inspire people to be good, and I get that, some people need guidance, and some people don't....believe what you want, but if you want to convince someone who doesn't, tell God to cough up some proof.......real proof, the Bible can't be introduced as evidence....you don't even know who actually wrote it......

      August 4, 2010 at 11:30 am |
  20. lovelaughdoyoga

    why is there so much anger and hate when talking about religion or personal beliefs? we are all one

    August 4, 2010 at 11:09 am |
    • Anon

      Because love, there are people out there...believe it or not...that enjoy trolling for emotional responses. That and they hate what the do not understand. Mostly just trolling.

      August 4, 2010 at 11:12 am |
    • religionsux

      WHY???.....cause maybe religion is what has this entire world screwed up.....and fighting one another over. Just think about the bible thumping GOP right wingers who are trying to take our country back to the 1500's with their conservative (RELIGIOUS) views.....

      How bout Islam which has everyone practicing in a different fashion (i,e some are peaceful and some are extremists)...

      How bout Christianity which is a religion people use as an excuse for forgiveness (look at all the criminals who kill people and become Christian for the forgiveness factor)....

      How about Catholicism which is a religion for priests and high power players to use to abuse others (i.e. Catholic priests all over the world practicing child abuse and child sex)

      How about Jewism which is the primary religion the other religions hate.

      If religion is sooo great, then why can all the religions not get along?.....Cause it is all a Far-Fetched fantasy.........

      August 4, 2010 at 2:11 pm |
    • YoungPeter

      we are all one? But I'm a big boy now! I'm not ONE!

      August 4, 2010 at 8:34 pm |
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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.