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. Scootsy

    Waiting for someone to spell prophecy correctly.

    August 4, 2010 at 1:26 am |
  2. too funny

    Can they find Hoffa? Or better yet Bin Laden?

    August 4, 2010 at 1:25 am |
  3. Steve

    Why does it matter that we we find the bones of John the Baptist? Maybe it isn't as important to rest in peace after your baptisms and prophecies in the river made you kind of important to our modern day thought constructs? Or, at least, since you've been resting for over 2000 years – and it's somehow logical to us that you've gotten enough rest – that you've gone on resting long enough? Whereas, somehow it is now okay to disturb your resting place and dig you up and put you on a shelf and, from time to time, shave bits of dust from your skull for further analysis? In any case, if it is John the Baptist, surely such findings would inspire at least one new street festival with parades and markets... prayer gatherings, beer. I hope it's him. The party, if nothing else, would make it worth it! I hope it's worth it!

    August 4, 2010 at 1:24 am |
  4. ENicolas

    It's a long, long ride from a requilary with a date on it to the verified remains of John the Baptist. And just how do you verify that?

    August 4, 2010 at 1:23 am |
  5. Billllll

    oh this must mean god exists!!!! NOT. Stop trying to get people to come to your country and spend money seeing a lie!!!! This is such a crock of crap! What a waste of time to read. Religies will listen to anything told to them about their lie....religion.

    August 4, 2010 at 1:22 am |
  6. Essenne Book Of The Chicken Stir Fry

    These archeologists always jumping to conclusions trying to sell sensationalism! Jesus never existed, so fat chance John The Baptist did. It's all a hoax cooked up by the Roman Catholic church, and borrows 100% of the story from previously existing mythology from Egypt and other ancient myths. The Pope's have admitted this, on record. The whole thing is a money and political power-oriented measure of crowd control. If there's one thing Christians never want to learn about, it's the origins and development of their own oddball and extremely destructive religion. Jesus was a gnostic. Mary Magdalene was royal Egyptian lineage. Trying to educate around Israel was a difficult thing! Things were always better in India, where wisdom truly flourished.

    August 4, 2010 at 1:22 am |
  7. midwestmatt

    Arlington Cemetery mixes up as many as 6k graves and these guys dig up a box and proclaim it's the bones of someone who lived two thousand years ago because of a date in the reliquary?

    Why is that even remotely possible?

    The Catholic Church, and it's various branches, have been attaching themselves to "relics" for some bizarre reason. Let it go, people, let it go... There are no splinters of the cross Jesus may or may not have been crucified on that some churches claim to have. There is no Shroud of Turin.

    Why must you have a hunk of something...oh yeah, because it keeps your flock docile and afraid of your authority. It proves your superiority by simply having in your possession a "piece" of someone powerful.

    Believe me, if Jesus came back tomorrow, he'd be all like, "What the eff, people??? What's wrong with you??! Just do the right thing. Really. It's that simple".

    August 4, 2010 at 1:18 am |
  8. GodIsForImbeciles

    Yeah, sure. I also heard that a Bigfoot corpse was found by two rednecks in Georgia. CNN's really going to the dogs.

    August 4, 2010 at 1:15 am |
  9. Abbas

    These can't be the remains of John the Baptist. He was a Prophet of God and the the bodies of the Prophets of God do not decompose. Where ever the body of this revered Prophet is, it is still the way it was when it was buried.

    August 4, 2010 at 1:14 am |
    • me

      Actually, I think that is only for "incorruptibles". I don't know if John was an incorruptible...I have not heard anyone say he was. Not all Saint are incorruptibles...but, there are definately ones who are.

      August 4, 2010 at 5:46 am |
    • only the truth

      thank you I was looking for a comment that was fact based. True the bodies of all the prophets of Allah will not decompose.

      August 4, 2010 at 9:45 am |
    • Abbas

      @me: That is because you believe him to be a saint and not a Prophet. All Prophets are incorruptible.

      August 5, 2010 at 12:02 pm |
    • One Whose Name Means Beloved of God


      So–Elijah wasn't a prophet?

      August 8, 2010 at 11:10 am |
  10. David S

    "John the Baptist Remains Found?" Or does he remain lost? Poorly worded headlines aside, how can anyone know? Relics abound, and no way to check for DNA. I've got some pieces of the True Cross I bought form Black Adder. Any takers?

    August 4, 2010 at 1:12 am |
    • midwestmatt

      Yes, please mail them to me for carbon dating first and then we'll have a successful transaction.

      August 4, 2010 at 1:20 am |
    • David S

      carbon dating, matt? oh ye of little faith! 😉

      August 4, 2010 at 1:30 am |
    • Dawkins

      At least a DNA test would verify that the tooth, skull and hand came from the same person.

      August 4, 2010 at 3:50 am |
  11. Raymond

    John the baptist is also a prophet of the Muslims. His shrine is in Damascus, Syria.


    John in Arabic is YAHYA.

    "'Zecheriah, We bring you the good news of the birth of a son whose name shall be John, one whose namesake We never created before.' He said: ‘My Lord! How can I have a boy when my wife is barren and I have reached an extremely old age?' He answered: ‘So shall it be.' Your Lord says: ‘It is easy for Me', and then added: ‘For beyond doubt, I created you earlier when you were nothing' (Quran 19:7-9).

    Zecheriah is believed to be the father of JOHN THE BAPTIST according to Islam.

    August 4, 2010 at 1:11 am |
    • DanW

      John is only "Yahya" among Muslim speakers of Arabic. Christians call him "Yuhanna." The early Muslims used an alphabet that did not use points to distinguish between n, y or t and they simply did not read John's name right.

      August 4, 2010 at 3:43 am |
  12. god

    My son's follower has finally been found. Place his remains in an earthen bowl and return it to whence it came, into the earth. Nonbelievers, the time is coming close for my son's coming. Repent and follow the church !!

    August 4, 2010 at 1:09 am |
    • DangerMouse

      LOL....Mom, get off the internet!!!

      August 4, 2010 at 2:17 am |
    • peace2all


      Alrighty then..... I guess we better get a movin'.....? Her son is coming..... Can you give us a hint as to when... A lot of us are curious.....?


      August 4, 2010 at 2:22 am |
    • Jim

      I assume you're being sarcastic god... However, if that was a serious post, could you show me the book and chapter where the Son said "follow the church", please...

      August 4, 2010 at 2:41 am |
    • me

      @ DangerMouse

      I get it. Your life is crappy and I am sorry...I can tell from your posts. I hope you find joy in it someday and freedom.

      August 4, 2010 at 5:55 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      @ DangerMouse
      I get it. Your life is crappy and I am sorry...I can tell from your posts. I hope you find joy in it someday and freedom.'

      Sounds to me like he is enjoying his life.
      Don't you have a deity somewhere to bother?

      August 4, 2010 at 12:59 pm |
    • One Whose Name Means Beloved of God

      Your son is coming? Oh good. I've got some questions for him...

      Also– just so we don't think him crazy or kill him or something–could you have him wear a pink carnation or something? Thanks.

      August 8, 2010 at 11:07 am |
  13. Pleseus

    "bone fragments of a skull, a hand and a tooth"

    Sounds like proof positive to me!

    August 4, 2010 at 1:09 am |
  14. DangerMouse

    The only usefulness that I can see to finding bones of someone who died under the thumb of religious indoctrination, is the possibility of comparing the genetic information to better help us understand which genes are responsible for our suseptability to indoctrination.

    Then we can all start a course of genetic correction and finally rid this planet of the madness that is religion and cult-like groups of deluded people.

    August 4, 2010 at 12:15 am |
    • GodIsForImbeciles

      Where's Penfold?

      August 4, 2010 at 1:20 am |
    • DangerMouse

      Are you asking me "how's it hangin'?"

      August 4, 2010 at 1:46 am |
  15. alex

    It is sad that men today are totally confused. Evidentially John and Jesus Christ are historical figures. The Bible is a HISTORICAL document. There are 20,000 manuscripts to proof its authenticity. We are truly overwhelmed by the avalanche of information and theories to a point that we are unable to separate facts from fictions. Time to slow down and reflect on the truth and wonder at God creations as well as marvel on the best of His creation Man!!

    August 4, 2010 at 12:06 am |
  16. sunnyd

    Do i hear the tour bus ....all aboard.

    August 3, 2010 at 11:55 pm |
    • David

      All donations gratefully accepted. Suggested donation $50.00. No photos allowed.

      August 4, 2010 at 6:43 am |
  17. David

    Wow! John the Baptist? For real? What are the odds? No, seriously... what-are-the-odds.

    August 3, 2010 at 11:30 pm |
    • midwestmatt

      A bajillion to none.

      August 4, 2010 at 1:20 am |
    • DangerMouse


      That's good.

      August 4, 2010 at 1:48 am |
  18. Redux

    Find a fragment of the jaw of a monkey and, presto! – we all descended from apes. Find the bones of a person written about in ancient texts and, zing! – all the Christians are sniffing fairy dust. Apparently, archeological digs that support evolution are "science," and the ones that support intelligent design are looney. Beautiful double standard...

    August 3, 2010 at 11:09 pm |
    • Jim

      Nothing about a find such as this supports, or destroys, the concept of intelligent design. It may be the bones of J. t. B., but that doesn't mean intelligent design is correct or incorrect. It just means he is, or is not, John the Baptist.

      Likewise; There are few who could draw an absolute line down the path of evolution, and we may find that what we believed was a fork in the road that human evolution turned down was actually misread... Who knows?

      But, we can always make educated suppositions...

      August 4, 2010 at 12:04 am |
    • midwestmatt

      Jim- No one, not Darwin or any reputable researcher ever claimed a straight line of evolution. In fact, that peg, on which many creationists hang there denier hat on, never existed.

      Intelligent design is another term for creationism which is 4th century lunacy. There is great wonder in all that is around us, so wonderful as to imply a higher force but intelligent design isn't part of it.

      August 4, 2010 at 1:23 am |
    • loa

      If John the Baptist were discovered in Bulgaria it wouldn't prove that the Bible was true. It would just prove that Christians are some sick weirdos carting around the remains of a dead guy for hundreds of years.

      August 4, 2010 at 1:57 am |
    • David, too

      There are several lines of evidence that indicate that we and chimps and bonobos evolved from a common source animal. For example, we have 23 pairs of chromosomes. Chimps have 24 pairs. It appears that since our split from chimps, two of our chromosome pairs have merged into one. As one would expect from a merger, the telomeres that indicate the ends of a chromosome appear in the middle of that specific chromosome pair. I'm not a microbiologist (I'm a programmer), but that is a part of a body really strong evidence. We routinely throw people in prison on much weaker evidence than common decent.
      On the other hand, we know from formal criticism that nearly half of the books of the bible written by Paul almost certainly weren't written by Paul. The evidence of divine inspiration of the bible is zero, and the evidence for evolution is far, far stronger than what Darwin knew about, and Darwin's evidence was already stronger than the bible.

      August 4, 2010 at 2:23 am |
    • me

      @ David, too

      David, science also once believed that the earth was flat. We learn new things everyday, so don't count too much on what we know through science, eventually that will change too. Everything that has evolved in some way had to – at some point – be created. It is the Creator that who exists and always will. Everything else will change, including what science proves to be true. God Bless

      August 4, 2010 at 5:34 am |
    • Arglebargle

      No such thing as intelligent design. Sarah Palin and Fred Phelps and every televangelist and politician should be proof of that!

      August 4, 2010 at 7:37 am |
    • FifteenElbows

      @Redux I dont see where lots of Christians are getting on here saying "Thank God finally they have found John the Baptists remains! We must repent, this surely is the truth!" No. Actually I dont think most Christians would believe his remains turned up in Bulgaria in a reliquary dated some 500 years after JtB death. Christians arent "sniffing fairy dust" over this "discovery" as you say. The ones that are should probably take a step back and just think about it first.

      August 4, 2010 at 10:41 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Nothing double standard about it Redux.
      The first is part of a long broad line of natural discoveries that can be used, with other sciences, to help determine how we evolved. The second claims to be the remains of a specific individual mentioned in a 2000 year old book. Can you see the distinction between the two?

      August 4, 2010 at 12:49 pm |
    • Mekhong Kurt

      Redux, I can clear that up for you. There AREN'T any digs supporting the tales around Christianity, specifically, not that little fiction some love to spin out there, "intelligent design." So, there's no double standard. There's science for science, and beliefs for religion.

      August 5, 2010 at 6:36 am |
  19. priyath


    August 3, 2010 at 11:01 pm |
    • Hawaiikaos

      Chill out. He's dead, he doesn't care. Now go rent Weekend at Bernie's.

      August 4, 2010 at 5:49 am |
  20. Chris

    Hate to be a killjoy but the remains are really those of John`s lesser knowen cousin "Lenard the Luthern" who frequented the isle of Sveti Ivan during the 5th century.

    August 3, 2010 at 10:52 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.