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. nothingpetty

    ATT: Headless Horseman- Good One!

    August 19, 2010 at 9:50 pm |
  2. Olivia

    Hmm, i like how these articles always turn into religious debates. Would it be too much just to read the article, say "oh that's interesting", and then go on with our lives? Personally, I find spending hours on the computer arguing with someone you don't even know over whether God exists or doesn't, a complete waste of time. We'll just have to wait and see. If you do believe in God and you die and nothing happens, well then you were wrong. And if you don't believe in God, and you die and a man says "Hi I'm Jesus. This is heaven," well then you were wrong. Maybe Jesus will "return", maybe he won't, but it's just pointless to argue the fact when there's no real proof either way. That's just what I believe, although it seems that you're not allowed to have an opinion here.

    August 17, 2010 at 8:25 pm |
  3. XYZ

    Lies, lies, lies, more lies, more deceit. Religion: weapon of mass destruction; brainwashing machine, one of the most effective. Dont use ur brain, folks, dont use ur logic. The pope, priest, rabbi, imam will do it for u. They are thinking for you. Its been like this for millennia. Keep it like that. Believe in holograms!

    August 16, 2010 at 5:31 am |
  4. Doreen

    Wow, if I wasn't confused about religion, Jesus and God before, I certainly am now. Thank You though for a mostly intelligent and informative and sometimes hysterical read!!

    August 15, 2010 at 7:22 pm |
  5. Paul

    Jerry- U R right. By deduction- there is no such thing as electricity, automobiles, CT scans, and of course, the world is flat, and the sun revolves around the earth. Also, there is no need for aditional help from God, since only the ancients needed revelation and guidance. Modern day people need nothing else from that which was written in the Bible 2-4 thousand years ago by a handful of the faithful. And King James and his scholars were the hand-picked people on the earth that got to choose from all of the ancient writings, those that would become our modern day Bible. Some people believe things because they have taken the time to study and ask questions. Others believe because...... I'm not sure why they believe!

    August 11, 2010 at 11:43 am |
  6. jerry

    really doo dooo dooo dooo well i guess if it aint in the bible it aint fact.i am completly amazed and astonished at what some people accually believe wow

    August 10, 2010 at 9:06 pm |
  7. Paul

    The reference is not found in the Bible. It is found in the history of Joseph Smith. John the Baptist visited Joseph in the 1820's and restored the Aaronic Priesthood. That same priesthood disappeared from the earth when Christ's Apostles were killed, and it was later restored through John the Baptist to Joseph Smith. John reappeared as a resurrected being to Joseph.
    It's a facinating history; one that most people don't take the time to investigate.

    August 10, 2010 at 11:26 am |
    • Emmy

      I'm like 90% sure that Joseph Smith was insane. Just because it is accepted by one group doesn't make it true nor history. there's no proof of it and just because he claimed it doesn't make it real. Don't get me wrong, it's not just him I don't trust. The Bible was written by man, do you think I take that literally or fully trust it? No, because I thoughts and logic. If history has taught me anything, it's that man lies. That's the only thing it's good at besides war. I wouldn't trust in it but that's just me. More power to you.

      August 30, 2010 at 1:12 am |
  8. CoqCheney

    Jerry>> Fear is not a good reason to believe superstitions.

    August 10, 2010 at 8:28 am |
  9. Paul

    These bones are not those of John the Baptist, since, like Christ, John was also resurrected!!

    August 9, 2010 at 6:37 pm |
    • jerry

      mr paul can you please quote chapter and verse in the bible where is states this

      August 9, 2010 at 9:04 pm |
    • Emmy

      Actually, you're wrong. John the Baptist was never resurrected. That was just Jesus that was resurrected. You know because Jesus was divine and John wasn't, so he wouldn't have risen from the dead. Nor does scripture claim that.

      August 30, 2010 at 1:02 am |
  10. Amerikagulag

    Bones? Unidentifiable Bones? Well THAT'S certainly worth all the hubub
    In another box they were said to have a feather from the Holy Ghost.

    August 9, 2010 at 3:11 pm |
  11. Bob Dobbs

    I live in Bulgaria, very near Sozopol. I have no interest in the theological issues inherent here, but I will give you a quick lesson on Bulgarian archaeology:
    1) Find someone who is building a resort and has large sums of cash to invest.
    2) Borrow their equipment to "excavate" something interesting nearby. There are ruins every 500 meters or so, so this is relatively simple.
    3) Announce some great discovery with global importance, timed to the opening of the local resort.
    4) Convert all the hotels, souvenir stands, restaurants and bars to theme with the amazing discovery.
    5) Claim the "relic" is too precious to be examined by anyone else, hide it away quickly and move on to the next scam.

    August 8, 2010 at 8:36 am |
    • Eric G

      Very good points Bob! Just another example of those with power using a myth to herd the sheep.

      August 8, 2010 at 9:04 am |
  12. Larry

    Since when do we have to depend on the Romans to report anything unbiased? Did the Roman rulers-tyrants of those days want any news of someone greater than themselves to be known? The only time the Roman rulers wanted anything to do with Christ is to rule the masses. How? Think about it. Develope their own church in Rome. Is it true that many of the Bible writings were in Greek? Were there any distrust of foreign invaders? Particularly in the Mideast. Maybe the Romans.
    It is true the eyewitnesses died long ago. Computers that we know of, were not invented. Records may well have been forged. I hope not. Religion is based on faith. For many ,they are willing to be faithful. For others it is difficult to beleive. I suppose we will find out in the end.

    August 8, 2010 at 1:42 am |
  13. billie standifer

    depends on your definition of what is, is! understanding the inclushion of the magi in the over all story is an eye opener.

    August 8, 2010 at 1:22 am |
  14. Chris

    "When Mary when to see her cousin also Mary John the Baptist kicked in the womb, and Mary the cousin said, Bessed is the fruit of thy womb."

    My children all kicked in the womb, too. What were they predicting, the Steelers winning the Super Bowl?

    August 8, 2010 at 12:52 am |
  15. jerry

    i just love how these so called aitheists try and put all their time and energy trying to discredit the authenticity of CHRIST why dont you put all your time and energy to find out that CHRIST IS REAL you will be surprised where you end up at

    August 8, 2010 at 12:29 am |
    • CoqCheney

      How do you think Atheists become atheists? It is human to search for greater powers, and common to sample the ones closest around you (any form of christianity, here in the US). If you're paying attention, these avenues require a lot of extended belief-effort, and offer NO logical answers to even the most basic of questions. When simple-to-understand scientific concepts go against most of what ANY religion has to say about "why" anything is, or "how" it came to be, then religion just begins to look pretty silly.

      August 8, 2010 at 11:26 pm |
    • James

      Simple to understand scientific concepts? Do you refer to the Big Bang theory as one of those concepts? The basic premise of the theory is that prior to that event there was nothing. Then, magically, there was something. You can believe you can get something from nothing? Scientists cast aside their own "laws of physics" to support this theory.

      August 9, 2010 at 1:40 pm |
    • James

      As a post script; It kinda sounds like "Let there be a universe, and there was."

      August 9, 2010 at 2:48 pm |
    • CoqCheney

      My point is, simply, we don't know. So why defend the relevance of one dogma over another. There is so much more to learn.

      August 9, 2010 at 4:41 pm |
    • James


      August 10, 2010 at 12:16 am |
    • jerry

      i believe in the big bang theory god spoke and bang oups GOD SPOKE AND BANG IT WAS IT WAS A BIG WORD IN THE BEGINNING GOD CREATED THATS ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW

      August 10, 2010 at 8:07 am |
    • CoqCheney

      James>>> I tried to watch the whole thing. Really, I did. But this is just I.D. supporter propaganda. It's a Discovery Channel-like video with a bunch of "sciencey-sounding" info, woven into opinions about how complex a structure could be without being "influenced." There is NO evidence on this issue.
      You need to read Carl Sagan... get yourself acquainted with what "Billions upon billions" means in a statistical sense. Our "known universe" would not be visible if you could see the entire universe's volume at once. There is more likelihood that our DNA arrived from meteors than there is that a creator being "nudged" anything on this planet. That increases the probability of "random chance" being the culprit by an order of magnitude for each meteor's point of origin. How'd life start there? Still, nobody knows.
      Believe what you want, but understand that belief is a choice. There is, and likely never will be scientific evidence of a deity such as any mythology has proposed.

      August 10, 2010 at 8:19 am |
    • CoqCheney

      And to answer your Big Bang question, James, the current "model" does not say the universe came from nothing. Instead the term "singularity" is used, and it is well-distinguished from "nothing." It is a point where the relationships between space, force, and matter combine to a volume smaller than an atom, at densities and energy levels we don't yet understand.

      True, our current systems of analysis break down, but that is a limitation of OUR ability. No scientist is suggesting that magic pulled our universe out of a hat.

      August 10, 2010 at 8:26 am |
    • James

      Sciencey-sounding stuff? Mr. Kenyon is a professor emeritus of biology with a Ph.D. in biophysics. He also has a Bachelor of Science degree in physics. He has only gone where his research led.

      August 10, 2010 at 12:41 pm |
    • James

      Another thing to consider; Philosophically scientists must remain in the realm of the natural and material universe. Any concept outside of this may not be considered regardless of what research indicates. Very few are willing to step outside of this box.
      Evolution for example. How did we climb the evolutionary ladder when we cannot reach from one rung to the next? There is an abundance of fossil records in the world. Yet, in the 150 years since Darwin there is still not one single transitional fossil to support his theory. It seems all the transitional fossils have disappeared.

      August 10, 2010 at 1:32 pm |
    • CoqCheney

      Actually there are many examples of transitional fossils. "Archeopteryx" was the most evident - bird/lizard - but most of the path from fish, to amphibian, to reptile has been documented. We have "living fossils," as well, in the platypus, and many examples of live-birth fish (sharks) and reptiles. This argument was discarded a while ago.
      Whatever his education, Dr. Kenyon's hopes seem to be interfering with the data-only part of his research. The only answer of ANY validity is... nobody knows.

      August 10, 2010 at 2:08 pm |
    • CoqCheney

      James>> CNN chose to delete my very tame answer to your last post. I guess they don't like scientific data presented in a rational manner. So, try, try again. Look up "archaeopteryx," if you want the most obvious transitional fossil. There are numerous live-birth fish and reptiles. The platypus can ONLY be explained as a transitional adaptation... evolution.

      Nobody has the answers that lie beyond what we can ourselves examine. If they did, then they themselves would have jesus-like abilities... being extra-dimensional and all.

      August 10, 2010 at 3:01 pm |
    • CoqCheney

      Doh! Now it's back... enjoy.

      August 10, 2010 at 3:02 pm |
    • James

      I am familiar with archaeopteryx. Although there are similarities to reptiles there are also significant dissimilarities that suggest it did not evolve from reptiles. It is hardly a definitive link.
      The whole point of the fossil record post is that with billions of fossils available, with millions on display in museums, it seems there would be a clear transitional record for at least one species, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of species represented. Science cannot intentionally cause one single living cell to arise as suggested in their theory yet they expect me to believe it happened by chance.
      One thing is abundantly clear. Life exists. Logically, that suggests a Life Force exists. It is the power that drives biological machinery. It is what enters the body to make it alive and it is what leaves the body to effect it's death. If there is no Life Force there is no life.

      August 10, 2010 at 4:48 pm |
    • James

      Also on the subject of life occurring by random chance from inorganic materials; Harold Marowitz, an atheist physicist, created mathematical models by imagining broths of living bacteria that were superheated until all the complex chemicals were broken down into basic building blocks. After cooling the mixtures, Marowitz used physics calculations to conclude that the odds of a single bacterium reassembling by chance is 1 in 10 to the 100 billionth power (10 followed by 100 billion zeroes). Wow! How can I grasp such a large statistic? Well, it's more likely that I would win the state lottery every week for a million years by purchasing just one ticket each week. Mathematicians say that anything with a probability of less than 10 to the 50th power is in the realm of metaphysics or, in other words, a miracle.
      Mathematically, life by chance is impossible.

      August 10, 2010 at 6:38 pm |
    • CoqCheney

      Yes, but the "known universe" may be a tiny fraction of what is physically "out there." What is the probability that the Christian story is more correct than any other religion's?

      August 10, 2010 at 7:00 pm |
    • James

      So true. As a finite being it is near impossible to imagine infinity or eternity; but in my mind that is what is out there.
      As far as which name to call the Creator; I think every man must follow his own conscience. When it's all said and done I believe it only matters a man become the best he can be. Be thankful for this miracle of life, and strive to be pure at heart.
      Love as one wishes to be loved. I find the Bible to be a source for infallible life lessons.

      August 12, 2010 at 10:47 pm |
  16. ~Xuncu

    Nevermind that lots of people are born on June 24th. If that's ALL the have to "prove" it's the baptist, then it's just another example of how thin Abrahamics stretch anything, and how faulty the logic of the religious is to try to legitimize themselves.

    August 7, 2010 at 11:29 pm |
    • James

      My only concern is truth. Let logic and rationality prevail.
      Let's look at science. Without becoming too involved; Science observes and tests, then reports on it's findings. Scientists have observed biological and botanical beings right down to the DNA. They then reported on the workings of the system: The brain does this, the lungs do that, cells do this and DNA does that, etc. After it is all said and done there is still one important question they fail to, and cannot, answer; Why do these things do what they do? Science is full of holes. Much of scientific study is based on theory assumed to be fact. Truth is constant, science is not. How many times through the ages has it changed it's viewpoint? How many times in the future will it change it's viewpoint as new observations are made which contradict it's previous beliefs? The fact is; They are extremely limited in their access to an infinite and eternal universe. Who can definitively say what is taking place a trillion light years from here? Logic dictates I cannot look at science as the Truth.
      Here is Truth. Life exists. There is an intangible which makes life possible. Without that intangible we are nothing more than a pile of chemicals and there is no life. It is the Life Force. It is the Why mentioned previously. Man has dubbed it many things; Buddha, Allah, Yaweh, Jehova, The Great Spirit, etc. Whatever you call it, it is undeniable that it exists. Man's religion is intended to give thanks for and express reverence to this intangible. Their writings are intended as guidelines to those who wish peace and harmony in their existence.
      The established religions of the world are a corruption of the Truth. I liken them to our government which waves the Constitution in our faces while stripping us of our liberties. Atheism seems to lump anyone who believes in a greater power into these groups of misguided zealots and self-serving power mongers. Sounds a lot like bigotry.

      August 8, 2010 at 1:41 pm |
  17. bronxbabe

    To all those that state there is no eyewitness account of Jesus. Of course there was an eyewitness. John the Beloved. Who wrote Revelations. Historians (Christian and secular) believe he exsisted and he was with Jesus. Eyewitness.

    By the way, if you don't believe in Jesus, why would a story on John the Baptist interest you? I don't believe in ghosts or horoscopes and don't read about them. Just saying.

    August 7, 2010 at 11:04 pm |
    • ~Xuncu

      Because we study ALL supposed evidence, to make an INFORMED decision, not just filter out the evidence that isn't convenient to us, as you would.


      August 7, 2010 at 11:31 pm |
  18. thebigpicture

    The big picture is that something very cool has been discovered in the world of archaeology...with a historical and biblical connection. It is amusing how everyone is having a war with words over beliefs. Get the big picture, people. Be amazed at the discovery and enjoy!

    August 7, 2010 at 10:51 pm |
  19. Solution

    Here's a solution for everyone: Wait until you die to debate on who's right and who's wrong.

    August 7, 2010 at 10:46 pm |
    • jerry

      the problem with your solution is when you die without CHRIST than its too late you cant really come to a solution when you are burning in a cell in hell being tormented for eternitry

      August 8, 2010 at 12:20 am |
    • MutantZ-man


      EPIC WIN

      August 8, 2010 at 11:44 pm |
  20. thomas

    I like the 30C.E. just to prove the point. It is A.D. always has and always will be. B.C. before christ, The calander is still set at 2010 from Jesus Christs birth. It will always be from his birth. Call it a.d. or C.e. it is still forever recorded. 2010 years ago Jesus Christ was born in bethleham.

    August 7, 2010 at 10:25 pm |
    • CoqCheney

      Right... because Roman Emperor Constantine ENFORCED that calendar throughout his empire, while he ENFORCED christianity as a national religion... his version. "Current Era" and "Before Current Era" are recognized by legitimate global historic resources. The dates are the same because it would have cost BILLIONS in man-hours to change, and the confusion would have made Y2K look like a birthday party.
      December 25th was PICKED by Constantine because it fell between the winter solstice and his carefully-selected day for the new year. This fell over the Pagan Yule celebration (further disenfranchising that religion - where most Xmas customs are stolen from), and fit with an invasion he wanted to launch to start his "holy war." Ironically, this is the first appearance of a term for "holy war," and is considered to be the root of what is now called "jihad" in Islamic culture.

      August 8, 2010 at 11:36 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.