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. John

    As people have stated above, there is absolutely no way on God's green earth that we could know if it is John the Baptist or not. I could go pull some bones from an ancient war and claim that these are the bones of John the baptist. This just a publicity tool and fully false. It's like saying we found the bones of the other "religious" figures of that day.

    August 4, 2010 at 1:08 pm |
    • Bebe

      But but but you have nothing to back your generic claims. The supposed remains of John the Baptist will undergo scientific analysis.

      August 4, 2010 at 1:16 pm |
    • CoqCheney

      Bebe>> Gonna turn to science to examine the veracity of these religious claims? Telling.

      August 4, 2010 at 1:31 pm |
  2. jammer5

    Two words: Jimmy Hoffa

    August 4, 2010 at 1:03 pm |
  3. Goathed

    Luke totally had the hots for Leia! That's a silly thing to argue about.

    August 4, 2010 at 1:02 pm |
  4. Dennis

    CoqCheney. Learn how to use commas. Your post makes absolutely no sense with commas. If I remove whats between your commas, it should still be a complete sentence and idea. Taking it as I assume you meant it. Your critique is just as validly made against people like you. By the way, not subscribing to a religious 'ideology' IS an ideology! Read the definition before you make ignorant conceptual and grammatical posts.

    August 4, 2010 at 12:53 pm |
    • CoqCheney

      Actually, a comma (as well as parenthesis, hyphen, or ellipses) are acceptable as grammatical breaks for speech-like pauses, where secondary – or tangent – information is included.
      Question... who are "people like me?" You know a lot of them? The world has too many real problems to add the supposed relevance of 2000-year-old mythology to the mix. Ironically, most of the world's problems actually stem from religious disputes.

      August 4, 2010 at 1:04 pm |
    • BobEar

      See what I mean Dennis? You are so very smart. You must read a lot of quantum physics books. You know all about important things like commas! You know how many sad little creatures with sad little lives are out here. Maybe YOU can be the next messiah. You have my vote. PS I'm not rich though. (another sad point for any up and coming divinity)

      August 4, 2010 at 1:20 pm |
  5. AJ

    You know folks – all history was passed down so who is to say that everything we know as history has not been modified slightly. I can say that all we believe about all countries, nations, and people that we do not personally know is all believed by some faith, and I mean faith in believing not faith in *God*. However, if John the Baptist lived then what story did he tell and if he told a story about Jesus and Jesus told us truths by which we are to live then you either believe or don’t. Heaven or Hell could be a myth, BUT what if Jesus said is TRUE – then those of you who mock don't really want to end up in hell do you? ....and to someone’s point above we live in a free nation (free to believe) because of our founding fathers who escaped to this country because of religious persecution as many of founding Fathers were Christians. Its funny when our country is in peril from past events everyone wants to pray and call out to God for comfort and peace, but as soon as those times pass we are all back to our evil ways. Why do those people who do not believe always mock those who do? It’s funny; those who mock talk about each person’s freedom to believe what they want, but then if we do believe – we get mocked. I do not mock those who don’t believe; I am just sad by their unbelief.

    August 4, 2010 at 12:52 pm |
    • CoqCheney

      You don't mock... but you continue the fear-mongering. "You don't want to go to hell, do you? Better believe, just in case." That's what the Romans told newly-conquered peoples after Constantine launched the "Holy Roman Empire."

      There is no benefit to fearing mythology... if god, then wouldn't that god be more concerned with WHO YOU ARE, relative to the world around you? Christians give god so little credit. Why would your god have to work in such convoluted ways? If that being is omnipotent, it's sure playing cat-and-mouse with our race... no?

      August 4, 2010 at 12:58 pm |
    • Gary

      AJ. America is still one of the best places to live in but America was founded on stealing land and slaughtering native Indians,enslaving africans, gun fights annexing land from Mexico ....

      August 4, 2010 at 1:20 pm |
  6. Jim

    Relic hunting is foolish and not worthy of attention. My goodness, the Roman church claims they possess 27 toes of Jesus...
    There is nothing positive about finding bones of any biblical figure so concentrating on obeying the King's expectations might be a better focus of our energy.

    August 4, 2010 at 12:47 pm |
  7. Dennis

    Got news for the "atheists" here. First off, you are not atheists. You are anti-theists. I have met few real atheists. You know the difference? True atheists actually have a belief and are intelligent enough to accept that other people dont agree. You petty little anti-theists here havent the knowledge or maturity to be atheists, all you have is an anti-christian idea. Thats not a belief, thats an anti-belief, and its the way fools who are too stupid to actuall have a belief justify themselves. Not by having a belief and being comfortable with it, you have such small minds and even smaller egos, you can only try and belittle people that do have a belief. Heres a suggestion, get a life and read some books. Your opinions are irrelevant and you are sad little creatures that have sad little lives.
    As for 'proof' of Christ or John the Baptist. Read some history books, specifically Josephus and Tacitus, then maybe some quantum physics and the theories surrounding the 'big bang'. Maybe once you can do more than sputter childish insults and sentence fragments, people might listen to you.

    August 4, 2010 at 12:37 pm |
    • CoqCheney

      A person in the midst of his own ideological lie, appraising the status of those who don't subscribe to ideologies, by labeling them as being from different ideologies. Therein may be found the root of the religion-delusion.

      August 4, 2010 at 12:45 pm |
    • Jim


      Arrogance and thinly disguised disdain is not being Christ-like my friend. Your speech is suppose to be like salt and light not cutting and then salting the wound.

      Grace and Peace,

      August 4, 2010 at 1:52 pm |
  8. Bebe

    Did Gladiators really perform all those superhuman feats? I don't know if I believe in them or not, I didn't see them or have a spiritual relationship with them.

    August 4, 2010 at 12:35 pm |
  9. Jayco

    Jesus did say "this generation will not pass" he was referring to his resurrection not the end of time. They did see Him coming and then descending into the heavens. No one can make you believe – but there have been many historians that went out to prove everything was all wrong and then ended up believing. Same thing has happened to scientist. I think that I would rather believe and live my life as Jesus would want and die and find out I'm wrong than to live my life as though Jesus never existed, die and find out I'm wrong. I personally believe HE LIVES!

    August 4, 2010 at 12:33 pm |
  10. David

    Wow...some of you so-called Christians really need to do some spiritual enlightening. Reading the book "Blue Like Jazz" by Donald Miller should be a requirement for those who claim to be Christians. As the fairly mediocre group D.C. Talk (a Christian Rap Group) put it in their song "That if I Stumble": "The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieveing world simply finds...unbelievable."

    People claiming to be Christians and them bad-mouthing others and demeaning them...wow.

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

      Imagine people not bad-mouthing others... just because. Not for religion... just because it's a better way. Being nice to others pre-dates "Jesus" or ANY religion by at least a few millenia.

      August 4, 2010 at 12:48 pm |
    • Jim


      Great post!

      The cross is already a big offense to humans, being offensive (there is abig difference between being offensive and someone being offended as well. I asked a coworker the other day, "how are you doing? (with nothing attached to it, just a regular question) and that coworker was "offended" because that person THOUGHT I meant something like he/she was looking haggard!) to them is not Christ-like.

      Grace and Peace,

      August 4, 2010 at 2:23 pm |
  11. Kay

    All any of this proves is that whoever carved those words into the box wanted people to believe the bones belonged to John. It doesn't prove anything else, least of all that they WERE John's. There are plenty of fake relics around. Those bone fragments could belong to just about anybody.

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

    It's really silly how crazy people get at the thought of religion. Archeologists believe they have found the bones of a real human being who might be the historical figure John the Baptist. This is a completely possible finding. It has less to do with religion and more to do with tracing the story of Christ. It is a completely reasonable pursuit to understand the origins of a religion which still has so much impact on the world we live in. You don't have to be religious to believe that John the Baptist and Jesus Christ walked the earth.

    August 4, 2010 at 12:25 pm |
    • Bebe

      Exactly. Give them their science and they get scared.

      August 4, 2010 at 12:36 pm |
    • CoqCheney

      To a historian, these are just possible characters in one of many mythologies. Maybe it IS his old rotted bones. Maybe not. The methods the use to deduce the subject's tale will have nothing to do with mythology, so we should not jump the gun. That's not how science works.

      August 4, 2010 at 12:53 pm |
    • Bebe

      Mythology? That turned out to be the Greek's false religion.

      August 4, 2010 at 1:03 pm |
    • CoqCheney

      All religion is mythology... most can be traced back to the same sun-worship the ancient Egyptians practiced. The Greek mythology comes right out of ancient Jewish mysticism... but they would have called it alchemy, and that was the science of the day.

      August 4, 2010 at 1:14 pm |
    • Bebe

      Mythology was their Science of the day huh? That's telling.

      August 4, 2010 at 1:18 pm |
    • CoqCheney

      WE made it mythology. For them, it was the names of materials, chemicals, and processes. Like "Summoning the essence of fire upon the Salt of the Earth, and the water from above..." would mean dissolving salt in boiling water. This is a mock-up of an example, but "names of God and the Angels," or the names of Greek "deities," are most likely references to these kinds of things. Not actual beings.

      August 4, 2010 at 1:28 pm |
  13. Anon

    What? No, Gladiators were fake. Anyways back to this John the Baptist deal.....

    August 4, 2010 at 12:23 pm |
  14. Heathen


    Christmas is mostly a pagan celebration. So, it is not unusual that people that aren't Christian would celebrate it.

    August 4, 2010 at 12:19 pm |
  15. Pockets

    BREAKING NEWS !!! Jesus Christ and his brother James Christ and his parents Joseph and Mary Christ all found alive living in the deep south. They run a large and prosperous chicken ranch, which Jesuse keeps replenishing by miracles. What a guy to keep the family operation going like that.

    August 4, 2010 at 12:19 pm |
    • Anon

      Didnt swedish scientists recently come to the conclusion that the chicken came first?

      August 4, 2010 at 12:22 pm |
  16. Leah

    Hey I'm a prophet! I predict I'm going to work tomorrow.

    August 4, 2010 at 12:13 pm |
    • Anon


      August 4, 2010 at 12:14 pm |
  17. religionsux

    Juts what the bible thumpers need......a reason to believe...........hey, did you hear they just found the remains of God and Bigfoot in Vegas?.........you religious suckers fall for this crap...........God = Fantasy.........God is a make believe figure.....

    August 4, 2010 at 12:10 pm |
    • Leah

      Then why did you read the article and comment?

      August 4, 2010 at 12:12 pm |
    • Anon

      Wow your not even an Athiest...where did you come from? Do you have proof to back that up? Do you have sources to back that up? Or is that your belief that its fake? Oh...you have a belief? So do we...stop hating. 🙂

      August 4, 2010 at 12:13 pm |
    • Luke

      Finding John the Baptist's remains is a completely worthwhile and historically significant pursuit. Finding John the Baptist's remains could aid in constructing a more appropriate model of the historical Jesus.

      August 4, 2010 at 12:14 pm |
    • Anon

      Guys....I think we just bit the troll bait....

      August 4, 2010 at 12:16 pm |
    • religionsux

      Religion is a joke and full of lies......If you believe in GOD, then I have a Ocean Front home for sale in Arizona........If there is a GOD, then why does so much pain and suffering go on in the world???........oh, that's right cause the lord wants us to suffer......

      You all post your feelings about religion, so deal with mine!.......

      August 4, 2010 at 1:42 pm |
  18. Ron Wilson

    The article says that john prophesied about the birth of Jesus. He was only 6 months older.......he prophesied about him, but not his birth. He prophesied about His coming.

    August 4, 2010 at 12:08 pm |
    • Anon

      This concept is old news. Read the comments.

      August 4, 2010 at 12:10 pm |
  19. Tom R

    They concluded that these are Johns remains because of a date and a nearby 11th C Monastery? How stupid could you be? There could be a trillion meanings for that date and the monastery was built 1000 + years after John died. Honestly religeous people can be so dumb. They are so desperate to find somthing to affirm their faith that any little thing like a piece of toast with an image on it gets them all worked up. Well ive got a birthmark that looks like Jesus Ill let you kiss it for $20 guess where it is.

    August 4, 2010 at 12:08 pm |
  20. diesel2u

    let the lunacy begin

    August 4, 2010 at 12:08 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23
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.