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. kathy miller

    Actually Langhard I have the complete works of Josephus and I would like to read you a quote. In fact there is an entire dissertation on Jesus the Christ, John the Baptist and James the just labeled dissertation 1. Dissertation 1 contains many citings about all three of these men.(If Jesus can be referred to as a man) In fact Josephus said that he wondered if it should even be legal to refer to Jesus as even being a man. Josephus said , " that Christ , the true God was incarnate, and crucified, and on the third day rose again:and whose writings are reposited in the public library." Please read the works of Josephus and the dissertations at the end of the book. It's great that you have read, just read a little more. God loves you and sent His Son for you too. I hope you read the Bible. It's a book of perfect love written for all of us.

    August 4, 2010 at 10:20 pm |
    • verify

      You have the *original* works of Josephus ... wow!

      Josephus was a Jew and remained a Jew all of his life. Don't you think he would have converted if he believed that Christ was God incarnate?

      Even early Christians didn't cite his works as proof of Jesus' divinity... evidence points to Eusebius having added this in the fourth century.

      August 4, 2010 at 10:44 pm |
  2. antonio

    The bible has made it clear "my children will suffer for lack of knowledge" guys even nostredamus knew it.
    There is no faith anymore in the word and the test of all our faith have started the finding of noahs ark no before that the 7 cities beneath the sea, the findings of the black hole now the remains of john the baptist , and many more ,hey guys start reading and get enough knowledge, jesus is lord and none of us know it all

    August 4, 2010 at 9:38 pm |
    • Eric G

      Your argument is circular. You need to try harder next time. By the way..... those who think they know everything really annoy those of us who do.

      August 4, 2010 at 10:01 pm |
  3. micheal

    Very Interesting The true resting place of all martyres is not heaven

    August 4, 2010 at 8:42 pm |
  4. Eric G

    Want more proof that the bible is just made up bunch of hooey? Have you ever noticed that every person mentioned in the bible just happens to have a biblical name?

    August 4, 2010 at 7:48 pm |
    • Nat

      Are you a total moron? The existence of the bible is WHY people say a name is a "biblical" name.

      August 4, 2010 at 8:07 pm |
    • Eric G

      Nat..................buddy.................I hope you got the joke because it kind of takes something away from it when you have to explain it.

      August 4, 2010 at 8:18 pm |
    • Mickey G

      Touche, Eric! Touche! I thought the joke was quite funny, thanks!

      August 4, 2010 at 8:35 pm |
    • Cristovao

      Eric's joke...very nice.
      Nat calling someone a moron...priceless.

      August 4, 2010 at 10:45 pm |
  5. 12C4Truth

    Look at society today, folks. It's pretty bad, poverty vs. extreme wealth, common good vs. polarization, morals vs. anything goes, God vs. Atheism, Corporate greed vs. middle-class taxpayers and "A Country For The People By The People" vs. World Control by the rich and powerful through econmics. The farther the world goes away from God the worse things will get.

    I pray, God blesses the faithful and forsakes the wicked...

    August 4, 2010 at 7:32 pm |
  6. David

    Wounders shall never cease.May God deliver us.When all this is happening,be ware Jesus coming is at hand

    August 4, 2010 at 7:30 pm |
  7. Emmy

    Everybody on here needs to relax! Stop fighting about theology, you all are wrong anyway. no religion is right so calm the hell down. Yes, the Romans wrote about a man that sounds like Jesus but it has never been confirmed. There is no record of Jesus' crucifixion in Roman writings. By the way, there is a difference between history and theology. A lot of people in general, get the two confused. It seems that a lot of people are missing the point of this article. It is not a theology debate or even an historical debate. If the bones they found are indeed the remains of John the Baptist, who cares! That has nothing to do with any belief system whatsoever. He's a saint and if the remains are his, now there are relics. That's it. End of discussion. There are no repercussions to this find, no belief structure is going to be shattered. It would be a great archeological find and that's it. There's no need to blow this out of proportion.

    August 4, 2010 at 7:27 pm |
    • Nat

      I disagree... in fact, (scientifically) proving one fact (i.e. the existence of John the Baptist) disproves MANY other things. And would be considered HISTORY not theology as you claim.

      August 4, 2010 at 8:31 pm |
    • Emmy

      Nat, I didn't say it was theological, if you care to read my comment again. My point was that there were far too many people making this a bigger deal then it needed to be. By the way, as I stated before, no religion is going to be shattered by this find. Any of the religions that revere him as a prophet, which there are many, nothing states that his remains wouldn't be found here on earth. It's archaeological not history, again there's a difference. It may be one day but as right now, it's not, just as I stated before. Did you actually read my comment in its entirety? Also, proving one fact DOES NOT, in any way, shape, or form disprove many other things, especially in this specific case. That's just a stupid statement, there's no other way to describe it, it's just stupid. Maybe you should try not acting so damn high mighty and thinking you know everything because you don't.

      August 30, 2010 at 12:34 am |
  8. uzo

    The bible is right jesus came and he is coming again. Look at all the healing that has happen to people who belief in his holy name. Yes we sometimes have to question things so as to get an explaination but what we shouldn't do is to discredit an historical fact. I believe in jesus, and for those who don't believe please don't speak against my belief and faith. Religion is personal and we have to respect that. If judgement day comes it is every person for him/herself.

    August 4, 2010 at 6:38 pm |
  9. philip

    what a faithless world we live in. God help you all

    August 4, 2010 at 6:25 pm |
  10. abreusdb

    CNN, please, the HOLY BIBLE is HOLY! if someone don't believe will make mistakes writing about it.

    August 4, 2010 at 5:59 pm |
  11. Kevin

    There is nothing sadder than so called religous "Experts" running off on long winded tangents that have nothing to do with the article.

    August 4, 2010 at 5:56 pm |
  12. lilly579

    OMGOSH...people, we should be so happy..even it turns out not to be that of John the Bap...it is a wonderful find..come on..stop with whose right and wrong about what the bible says..it is the written word and we should not add or take aways from it..it is Gods word..anyway, back to the find..it would not have been found if it was not meant to be found..I think it is wonderful, exciting simply fantastic..so don't ruin the mood of the find..don't worry be happy..I just wish after watchinf the video that the people handling it wore gloves..this is totally awesome..

    August 4, 2010 at 5:50 pm |
    • GetReal

      yes, "you shall not take away or add to it". I remember gloating those words with my non-christian friends back when I was a christian. I've since come to learn via a Masters in psychology that that concept is a basic rule of any brainwashing technique: never question, always accept unconditionally and don't change any of the rules or systems or else harm will come to you.

      August 4, 2010 at 6:25 pm |
  13. Juan

    The bible is nothing more than a collection of fables passed down from one ignorant middle eastern goat herder to another. As a matter of fact, all three major western religions were invented by ignorant middle eastern goat herders.

    It is quite possible that fables describing John and Jesus were in fact speaking of the same person. Unfortunately, John didn't meet the criteria to be a messiah. They took the fables about John, added a magical birth and a magical death and voila, Jesus was born.

    Just what did Jesus do that made him so famous? Compared to many religious leaders, like Mother Teresa, Jesus was quite the slacker. No, take away the martyrdom and you are left with just another of the thousands of soothsayers that wandered the middle east begging for money.

    Jesus has been MIA for 2000 years and yet these fools still think he is going to pop out of the ground any day now. How long do you wait for your date to show up before you realize that he's not coming? Another 2000 years? 6000?

    Faith is the act of believing that something is so, without a single shred of supporting evidence.

    The only thing that christianity has brought to the earth is a long period of time that we fondly refer to as the dark ages.

    Myths are religions that nobody believes in anymore. Religion is an elixir for folks who prefer to not think for themselves.

    August 4, 2010 at 5:47 pm |
    • Miguel

      Are you honestly searching for truth? Based on your comments you are either a fool or a knave. Have you read anything that requires you to think, or do you stop at Hitchens and Dawkins?

      August 5, 2010 at 3:05 am |
    • b johnston

      "And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts."

      August 5, 2010 at 4:32 am |
    • Juan

      You do not find truth in fables and you do not prove your point by quoting fables. There is a reason that religious leaders refer to their followers as a flock. They are mindless sheep.

      August 5, 2010 at 9:11 am |
  14. Deb

    All I know is that the cathedral in Seville, Spain, has claimed for years to have the head of John the Baptist. I smell a feud brewing between Spain and Bulgaria!!!

    August 4, 2010 at 5:45 pm |
  15. Sunyjose

    John the baptist 'heralded' the coming of the messiah, Jesus and I could only see 'heralded' and not 'prophesy' as some confusionists commented.

    August 4, 2010 at 5:44 pm |
  16. Jim

    Quick! Chop him up into relics and put 'em on ebay!

    August 4, 2010 at 5:39 pm |
  17. billfromny

    Gee, there have to be literally thousands of people all over the world named John who are Baptists – and baptizers. Some of them are remains, and some of them are living right now.

    What's the point?

    August 4, 2010 at 5:12 pm |
  18. Lulu

    What I don't get is why those who are so secure in their non-belief still find themselves reading articles about religion & religious belief. If you really are that certain of your assertation, shouldn't you be content to bask in the superiority of your knowledge and leave the rest of us to our so-called "myths" (very offensive, btw, but that was your intent, huh ?) ?

    Belief in a higher power or powers will never go away. It gives purpose to our lives and peace when looking toward death. We all want that.

    August 4, 2010 at 4:37 pm |
    • Shane

      Lulu... Do Christians try to change the minds of pagans? Do you see this as evidence of their own insecurity about their beliefs? That's rhetorical, btw.

      Myths are powerful. And they have their place in society. But taking a myth to be the same as a literal history is foolish.

      I agree that beliefs in supernatural things will never go away. People still fear the number 13, for example. But that doesn't mean that the beliefs are in any way valid, or flow logically from the facts presented.

      You're offended because you see no value in the mythology of Jesus. You only find value to the story if, in fact, you can ascribe some sort of historicity to Jesus. That's a deficit in your own mind, not ours.

      August 4, 2010 at 4:53 pm |
  19. tag

    "You cannot go on 'explaining away' forever: you will find that you have explained explanation itself away. You cannot go on 'seeing through' things for ever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it."
    – C.S. Lewis

    August 4, 2010 at 4:33 pm |
  20. In Tennessee

    To Russell in Texas...I also have questioned the statement "this generation shall not pass away" so I asked and I got the same answer from the three different preachers i asked of and its this..the generation is that of the time when Isreal became a nation which was in the 1940's....so He must have prophesied that Isreal would become a nation therefore that generation has not yet passed away

    August 4, 2010 at 4:26 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.