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. AJ

    You know folks that these are *scientists* with probably who are clearly interested in their findings. I am sure that each team member of the archeologists have more education and understanding regarding their findings than any one of us, yet we find the need to contradict/criticize their findings from an office cube doing our average and mundane job (not criticizing anyone’s job as I like my job). I take this to mean that we know more than they from in some cases thousands of miles away based on some images and text.

    August 4, 2010 at 2:24 pm |
  2. Dennis


    "Had it ever occured to you that theism, a deity, or God resides beyond the Universe?"

    Shane... Prove string theory. Prove the existence of gravitons. You make one of the most ignorant arguments yet. I can at least respect some here for their beliefs even if I disagree with them. But your argument is just outright stupid. There are a thousand if not more theories just in quantum physics that will NEVER be proven. Its not for me to prove or disprove them or the existence or lack of existence in God. Quite frankly, string theory is just that a THEORY, its just as unprovable as a God. Your comparison lacks any standing and is well outside the concept of what theism is.

    August 4, 2010 at 2:20 pm |
    • oneStarman


      August 4, 2010 at 3:52 pm |
    • oneStarman

      LOVE may be the HIGGS Boson of Humanity. That which gives it meaning and calls it into being. If the implications of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle are correct – that particles exist only in a state of probability until they are called into specificity through observation – Then the observer before creation – the author of the evolution that led to human consciousness – is consciousness itself – the GREAT I AM

      August 4, 2010 at 3:59 pm |
  3. LTF1

    The overwhleming majority of historians accept the existence of both Jesus and John the Baptist. The oldest gospel concerning Jesus (Mark) was written just three to four decades after his execution. The letters of Paul, also attesting to the existence of Jesus are even earlier, just fifteen to 25 years after his death. Furthermore, it is clear a Jesus movement was in existence in the Empire by mid-century. If Jesus didn't exist, he clearly had disciples risking their lives in believing he did to spread his message (which had reached Rome in around two decades after his death).

    As usual, the harshest critics of Christianity hurt their case by insisting upon something nonsensical like "Jesus didn't even exist" when the facts (and even common sense) point otherwise. To deny the existence of Jesus is as 'bout as scientific as denying evolution. Btw fwiw, while I believe it obvious that Jesus walked the earth, I doubt very much that he physically rose from the dead.

    August 4, 2010 at 2:17 pm |
  4. RicS

    @Russel in Texas RE "this generation will not pass". The Bible keeps time through people. The days of Noah, The days of Solomon, Joseph, Abraham,... The passage you quoted is generally regarded to infer the world will remain in the generation or days of Jesus until his second coming. There is an interesting site that predicts the actual date. I have several questions with it's time line but check it out for yourself at wecanknow.com
    Have fun!

    August 4, 2010 at 2:13 pm |
    • oneStarman

      5 to 1 Baby, 1 in 5 No ONE gets out of here alive – We all have an End Time coming and you will not know the Hour – Like a thief in the night you will tremble at its Power – We all fade like the Grass and like the flower.

      August 4, 2010 at 2:25 pm |
  5. johnrj08

    If you're a Christian who is secure in your belief, then you have to be willing to read things which may contradict your beliefs. All Christians should take a moment and Google "Mithras". It will shake the foundation of your beliefs and give you nightmares.

    August 4, 2010 at 2:12 pm |
    • Jim

      The only reason to be shaken in your faith by the Mythrain cult is either one has no understanding of Christinaity (and pre-Talmudic Jewish beliefs) and/or one looks at Mythrianism at a very surface level AND knows little of Christianity. There are almost zero similarities when one looks closely at the two religions and under closer examination – there are zero similarities.

      That false belief (of supposed similarities and/or borrowing) from mystery cults has been discredited in the academic world (those who actually study those subjects [Mythraism, early Christianity, the phallus cult, etc]) many years ago. Unfortunately it does remain popular with those academics who have virtually no knowledge of the particular subjects and it remains popular with the general public which knows even far less than the academics.

      Grace and Peace,

      August 4, 2010 at 3:16 pm |
    • oneStarman

      MYTHS about the nature, origin and purpose – of the manifestation of God in Jesus came from Mithra by way of Osiris and Isis to give people a framework for understanding. Love comes from God

      August 4, 2010 at 3:47 pm |
  6. Smellie

    When you ridicule or scoff at someone's sacred or core belief system, and call the believer ignorant, uneducated, gullible etc. then you put your own core value system at risk of ridicule and dismissal, even when yours does not involve a deity. You may disagree vehemently with how or why another person has arrived at their particular understanding of human existence & interaction, but do so with earnest intentions, if you care at all to generate understanding appreciation for you own POV. Nothing engenders more destructive hatred among people than intentional disrespect and humiliation.

    August 4, 2010 at 2:11 pm |
  7. dg

    @Don't close your eyes: Sorry, but you are mistaken. The earliest gospel (Mark) was not written until almost four decades after the Cricifixion and Resurrection. Only Matthew is speculated (not proven) to have been an "eyewitness" to the events he narrates. Paul's epistles are older than the oldest gospel, so the claim that the gospels themselves are contemporaneous eyewitness accounts is simply an error.

    August 4, 2010 at 2:11 pm |
  8. oneStarman

    TE DEVIL made them do it.

    August 4, 2010 at 2:10 pm |
  9. nedclark

    ...it just took them awhile to sort the human bone-fragments out from the warehouse full of fragments of "The True Cross" – and the "hogs-head barrels" full of "True Nails" that hawkers were peddling to the gullible when Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) toured the Holy Land near the turn of the last century. It was a fake industry then, people...it's still fake now.

    August 4, 2010 at 2:07 pm |
  10. Dennis

    CoqCheney. Your 'theories' on comma usage are incorrect. You dont replicate pauses in speech with commas. Thats specifically noted in many grammatical instruction books.
    Furhtermore, no, practically none of the worlds problems stem from religious disputes. Only someone with a very cursory and shallow understanding of events could claim that. Do you seriously believe that if all the sudden all the world had only one religion or had no religions the violence in the world would end? Conflict, oppression, war, famine, and violence have roots in very few human emotions, namely greed, envy and hate. Religion is merely the veneer with which tyrants and extremists use to focus their hate. And what are you? How different do you find your statements if I change the subject, your statements and dismissiveness of theists is just as loaded with hatred and intolerance as those you criticise. Its people like you who cant see beyond your own issues that want to frame everyone elses beliefs in your own understanding of them that created or abided the Holocaust.
    As for superstring theory, yes I have read it, as well as M-theory and many others. NONE of them dispute or prove the existence of a deity. Your simplistic narrow minded understanding of a Christian God misses, by far, the point of theism. You seem to grasp God in very simple terms as some guy who lives in the clouds and manipulates or fails to manipulate man just like Zeus on Olympus. Thats A type of theism, but is NOT THE ONLY TYPE of theism and you show a very narrow understanding of God or what quantum physics is if you think that one disproves the other. M-theory, string theory, and all others explain the physics of THIS UNIVERSE. The very foundation of all of them is draws heavily on the big bang theory. Had it ever occured to you that theism, a deity, or God resides beyond the Universe? There are at least a couple of books by physicists converting to theism but not to 'Christianity'. Perhaps you should open your mind a little and stop being so bigoted against religion.

    August 4, 2010 at 2:07 pm |
    • Shane

      "Had it ever occured to you that theism, a deity, or God resides beyond the Universe?"

      Has it ever occurred to you that you cannot back up a statement like that with anything that resembles proof? It's like Russell's teapot argument. If I told you that there was a tiny little teapot orbiting the planet Saturn, but that it was so incredibly small that it completely evades detection by our most precise instruments, would you believe me?

      August 4, 2010 at 2:11 pm |
  11. AJ

    So BobEar, I know Scientist that became Christians after their own intellect succumb to the reality of what was right before them (they believed as you believe at a point in their lives). Where do they fall into the mix? Are they scientific hypocrites?
    Why does everything fall back on science? I mean we live in a scientific and technological world, but are we so goofy to the concept of *faith*? Does the wind NOT exist since you can’t see it? I would hate to think that the billions of *Christian* in the world folks are really just foolish, and that there is NOTHING to what they believe.

    August 4, 2010 at 2:03 pm |
  12. John

    All this disbelief of people are already predicted or written in bible as an end of age phenomena. There is nothing to worry those who believe and those who are waiting for the coming of christ. Its all part of the time and time itself will prove, and its so near. There is no more signs other than jonah but keep in mind that when fig tree sprouts, be sure its going to be summer and when the disasters, war and all other things of darkness happens, be sure its time for a change and the coming of a golden era.

    August 4, 2010 at 2:02 pm |
  13. Lonnie

    Contrary to many of your comments there is factual proof of Jesus existence in ancient texts. Roman texts talk of Jesus and even of his crusifiction. whether you believe who he said was or not, fact is he existed. Also, the biblical texts that make up the New testament have been authenticated to the 1st century. those like the book of judas and mary were not written until the 3rd and 4th centuries. Please do research before you post if something existed or not.

    August 4, 2010 at 1:59 pm |
    • brad

      @Shane: It should not come as a surprise that "proof" of Jesus existence has not been found. Has CNN taken notice of you or me? Well, neither did the Jerusalem Post notice a little person Jesus or his followers. The Roman Times certainly didn't notice what was taking place in a far-flung place called Palestine with a little group of "rabble rousers" and their leader. And if it did, it would have reported on war, politics, and the like. The assertion "Jesus never existed" has no meaning. Further, we know that the Sanhedran, Pontius Pilate, Herod, Caesar and so forth DID exist. If Jesus didn't exist, you have a huge problem: how did a mythical person manage to influence the last 2000 years of history.

      August 4, 2010 at 2:16 pm |
    • Lonnie

      I have done plenty of research by both sides of the fence. Reality of the matter is that all mainstream respected and educated historians agree Jesus existed. also, the Biblical texts all pass the test as reliable and accurate from a Historians point of view. Don't rely on info. from those who have a axe to grind. Look at multiple sources from an honest and fair perspective.

      August 4, 2010 at 2:20 pm |
    • Shane

      "you have a huge problem: how did a mythical person manage to influence the last 2000 years of history."

      That is really quite silly. How did Zeus manage to influence the Greeks? How does the Buddha manage to influence so many? Obviously mythological figures can still manage to influence. If you were not so enraptured by your cult, you would see this obvious fact quite quickly.

      August 4, 2010 at 2:44 pm |
    • brad

      @ Shane: "If you were not so enraptured by your cult, you would see this obvious fact quite quickly." And what cult do I belong to, Shane? I gave you little evidence. You should try to use scienctific method in these matters.

      August 4, 2010 at 3:02 pm |
  14. Golden Arms


    i was raised in a church all my life, as i got older i began to question life and its meaning, i am no more a christian than i am a nonbeliever, in my heart i wish for something more after this life... but i cant tell you there will be.... If nothing at all the Bible is a manual on how to live... If you take nothing from it all, then at least love your neighboro, and treat others as you would like to be treated. Our world is in such moral decay, we resort to point fingers and making fun of those that feel a certain way or ones belief... some of us never stopped picking on people even after school, there is so much more to life than this. We all find it in OUR own way....peace to all....

    August 4, 2010 at 1:58 pm |
    • oneStarman

      I'M SLOW TODAY – It took me a while to read you vertically – Very Good.

      August 4, 2010 at 2:56 pm |
  15. brad

    As an engineer who works with metals, I offer an analogy from science. If a piece of plain steel is placed near a magnet, the plain steel will be drawn to the magnet by the unseen force called magnetism. A type of stainless steel when placed near the magnet is not drawn to the magnet. The property that allows the plain steel to be drawn to the magnet is absent in the other steel, or is so weak as to be useless.
    This describes the difference between atheist and spiritual person. Spiritual people, like the plain steel, possess an inner property or condition – a soul – which allowas him to be drawn by the unseen strength of God. The atheist, like the stainless steel, is not drawn to God. His soul isnon-existent or too weak to be of value. The atheist, then, is truly an animated corpse. He has not the capacity to ponder anything greater than himself and must be satisfied with what he can observe in his lab.

    August 4, 2010 at 1:52 pm |
    • oneStarman

      NUCLEAR TRANSMUTATION – bombardment of an element by neutral particles changing one element into another. Transmogrification – changing from one appearance to another, conversion, metamorphosis, transfiguration, transformation, translation, transmutation, TRANSUBSTANTIATION

      August 4, 2010 at 2:07 pm |
    • brad

      @ oneStarman: I was offering an analogy only. I'm not sure of the intent of your response.

      August 4, 2010 at 2:43 pm |
    • oneStarman

      Another Analogy Lending Support to Yours

      August 4, 2010 at 2:52 pm |
    • CoqCheney

      The dogma of any god-myth has nothing to do with a being's personal connection to the universe, or spirituality if you prefer.

      August 4, 2010 at 3:06 pm |
  16. oneStarman

    WAIT – till they find the BONES of cousin JOSHUA.

    August 4, 2010 at 1:41 pm |
  17. Jim

    Why is my reply at 101PM still awaiting moderation when I am seeing replies to the same string at 131PM?

    August 4, 2010 at 1:40 pm |
    • oneStarman

      Because sometimes the Nanny thinks our words are too scary.

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

    Gary, you are correct as each person(s) /group will do what they want, when they want to get what they want. Hence, the need for a Redeemer.

    August 4, 2010 at 1:32 pm |
  19. CoqCheney

    Dennis>> If you've read ANYTHING about Superstring Theory or quantum mechanics, you would have NO room in your mind for the fables children are told.

    August 4, 2010 at 1:30 pm |
    • oneStarman

      'In the beginning, from a nothingness–bereft of even empty space, burst forth a great explosion of being. An undifferentiated chaos which soon divided itself into light and darkness. The light divided itself into particulate quanta of energy and matter, and the darkness divided itself into a matrix of points of singularity around which the quanta swirled and congealed into galaxies. But because chaos can exist only as probability without differentiation into specificity; (this being known as the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle) the consciousness that is being and the beginning of time; remained in the order of all that is.'

      August 4, 2010 at 1:45 pm |
    • CoqCheney

      You should read some of my other posts on this forum. What you're referring to is ancient Hebrew mysticism. THAT interpretation alligns with the Kabbalist view of the "Torah," and I would not argue that it seems intriguing. I think that those texts reflect a deeper understanding of our universe... one we do not see through all the religious add-ons that have come since.
      But the Kabbalist has a different idea of "god" in the context such things. A Kabbalist may be an atheist or agnostic... you cannot commit blasphemy against a philosophy.

      August 4, 2010 at 2:09 pm |
    • Jim

      And anyone who has a basic understanding of M Theory KNOWs the theory is a wonderful hoped-for theory (in the loosest sense of the word theory) because the theory is not even as advanced as Intelligent Design theory, there is ZERO positive evidence for the theory (and hence not falsifiable which is a basic when it comes to testing theories), there is no way to prove the theory as true since most of the actual evidence (positive evidence as in what we can measure, touch or see NOT what is missing and then we hypothethyze about just "what" it is that we think is missing) if there is inaccessible and even the most ardhent supporters like Clegg admit to these problems.

      There is far more evidence for Scripture being the word of God than M Theory being true.

      Grace and Peace,

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

      I REMEMBER hearing that HITLER was skeptical of Physics based on "ancient Hebrew mysticism" – which is why the research required to produce an atomic weapon was delayed. Much of "The Theory of Everything" will remain closer to Metaphysics than Physics until we are better able to peer into this realm – Large Hadron Collider not withstanding. From what little I understand of this method of understanding all that is I am drawn closer to and not farther from god.

      August 4, 2010 at 2:48 pm |
    • CoqCheney

      Jim>>> You should take a look at "Group Theory," as it expanded from algebraic geometry. When particle physicists got word of what group theorists were doing, they took EVERYTHING back to the fundamentals, and started over. The math works too well, for reasons we have tested enough to believe. There are ways in which things may happen, and they follow the ratios that exist among matter, distance, temperature, and the like. It's not about knowing everything... just knowing more.
      And the ancient civilizations... well, their philosophers spent a lot of time pondering numbers. It would not be surprising if they had ideas that would astonish today's number theorists. The Pythagoreans had a 3-D proof for the geometric relevance ofthe cube-root of 2.

      August 4, 2010 at 3:05 pm |
    • oneStarman

      FOR NOW – we see as through a (poor quality, ancient, looking- )glass – DARKLY.

      August 4, 2010 at 3:16 pm |
    • Jim


      Group theory is not based (speaking cosmologically) on evidence but only on mathematics. That is good but not hard science. Euhlers, Gauss, Galois, Guzman, et al. havea mathematical guess based solely on theorems and not actual evidence.
      We have the mathematics down to where we (at least we believe) can travel at warp speeds (given the proper materials and power source) by warping space and time. the math for this theory is better known and complete than for M Theory or Group Theory but this is not backed by evidence and until evidence comes to the fore it is in the realm of science fiction because we really don't know – we just have a mathematical model that looks like it would work if we tried it.

      In the end, they may be correct but reasonable people do not accept suspect "theories" until there is evidence for the theories. That is sci-fi not science.

      Grace and Peace,

      August 4, 2010 at 3:43 pm |
  20. AJ

    Fear mongering/fear mythology??? If you don't believe in God and his son Jesus; then you have nothing to fear cause hell does not exist, or at least the way I see it....
    I believe cause I want to believe because it makes more sense to believe in a God and creation then to believe in the statistical probability that we all ended up on earth by some random chance. However, that is a separate discussion. What I find interesting is we all think we are so intelligent because we have Phd’s etc; and that we can figure God.

    August 4, 2010 at 1:29 pm |
    • CoqCheney

      Yes... so you admit that religion is a choice, yes? That is the main goal of the atheist thought process...

      August 4, 2010 at 1:33 pm |
    • BobEar

      In a world without science and discovery, I guess believing in god would work, much like santas elves, but as I grew older I began to understand how the toy companies made the toys and my parents had to buy them. That makes more sense now. In a world of science and discovery, the scientist is quick to abandon his old theories as new proof emerges. Religion is always trying to deny new discovery or rethink how it "has to fit" into the old written therories.

      August 4, 2010 at 1:40 pm |
    • CoqCheney

      well said, bob

      August 4, 2010 at 1:43 pm |
    • Shane

      You should study Pascal's Wager, and the refutations of it. You ignore the possibility of a god that takes offense to people who believe ANYTHING without sufficient proof. You ASSUME that God rewards people that believe in Him without proof.

      August 4, 2010 at 2:19 pm |
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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.