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. 4everFaithful

    @Peace2all and well, to everyone

    Faith, brother. Don't let the overspoken "christians" keep you from the truth. Following the Lord is not an easy life. Your every move will be judged by our society. You will make mistakes (sin) every day of your life. This is why Jesus was sent to us. This is why he died for us. So we may be forgiven. Would you rather live your life how YOU wish and die then to find out that it's all true? Or would you rather turn your heart over to the Lord. Faith, obedience, trust in the Lord. I'm telling you, your life will change for the better.
    Mark 13:32-33 NIV
    "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
    Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.

    August 4, 2010 at 6:25 am |
    • 4everFaithful2

      refreshing to see a comment like yours ...

      August 4, 2010 at 7:17 am |
    • griz5106

      Help me understand. Exactly how did the death of Jesus enable me to be forgiven? No sarcasm...I just do not get it.

      August 4, 2010 at 11:08 am |
    • 4everFaithful

      @griz5106 "Help me understand. Exactly how did the death of Jesus enable me to be forgiven? No sarcasm...I just do not get it."

      Griz-I can't tell you exactly how but from what i have read and truly believe. Romans 8:3...i'm not going to put the verse here...just read it. Will you understand 'exactly"? Probably not. But just keep reading...the Word is amazing but difficult to understand. I'm certainly no expert. It's heartbreaking reading all the posts on here...this type of world existed before...all the condemnation, greed, hatred. And God destroyed it except for a chosen few who were faithful. It was built back up again only for people to fall right back into sin. The Law (old testament) was impossible to live by, and to be redeemed was very difficult. Jesus was born into the Law, was tempted but never faltered. He was the only perfect being that ever lived. How is that? He knew why He was born...to free us from the Law so we might gain salvation and eternal life through Him...no more sacrificing of animals and all the other crazy things man had to do to become forgiven. He was born to die so we could live...sounds crazy but i'm so grateful He did!

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

    I invented the moon, shortly after myself and Chuck Norris had Jesus crucified for attempting to sabotage the Most Awesome Beard contest. I then traveled to the 1700s and fathered 10 of the Founding Fathers.
    See, I can make up crap stories with no logical evidence to support them, too. The difference is that my crap stories don't end up on CNN.

    August 4, 2010 at 6:08 am |
    • Blutarch

      Uh....I hate to be the one to break this to you, but...

      August 4, 2010 at 7:53 pm |
  3. jimmy

    David,too: You can't be that dumb – can you? We have 23 pairs of chromosones and chimps 24....what does that prove?? Hmmm... chickens and dogs have 39 pairs of chromosones, oh yeah, we can see that they are closely related! The alligator and onion each have 16 pairs, wow, they must be evolved from one another! The house fly and tomato each have 6 pairs....twins! If the alligator gains just two more chromosones, it'll become an apple! An amoeba has 25 pairs, just one more pair and becomes (drum roll please) cotton! And matt, remember: that hack Darwin graduated from bible college and was NOT educated in the sciences – which evolution is NOT.......

    August 4, 2010 at 6:04 am |
    • Bender

      I'm assuming that you have zero background in genetics, chemistry, microbiology, or molecular biology. I am assuming this because you have no idea what the heck you're talking about, and your idiocy is showing. Big time.

      August 4, 2010 at 6:12 am |
    • Langkard

      Let me get this straight... you think Christ's College, Cambridge is a "bible school"? Because it has the word christ in it? Wow, you are one seriously confused individual.

      August 4, 2010 at 6:12 am |
  4. makarios


    August 4, 2010 at 5:58 am |
    • Jim

      There is nothing beautiful about the church. The beauty is in God. God is not in the church, a church is just an expensively adorned barn, or cellar... A meeting place where people can worship together. Get a relationship with your God, don't get focused on "the church". Churches get bigger to show how grand God is... If God created everything, he doesn't need a church to appear grand, and we don't need to go to a church to get with God, we ARE in a church.

      August 4, 2010 at 8:14 am |
    • makarios

      my brother jim, i want to clarify my comment for you and anyone else reading. when referring to "the church" previously, i was speaking about the Christian faith itself. though there are many Christian faiths out there, the orthodox church presents to those searching a door directly leading to the Holy Trinity. many faiths offer good things, but here is the fulfillment of all. the millions of saints throughout time, those who have become holy and transformed,(just taking those since Christ ascended) are a great influence and motivator. Christ set a path that leads directly to him; repentance, fasting, prayer, sacraments, mercy, love, etc.. each of these can be compared to light posts we find out in the street, and each church/faith has them, but the one that has the most will provide the the most illumination along the way!!! so you are right, let us not worship the buildings and churches, let us clasp hands and help one another along our journey together.

      August 5, 2010 at 5:31 am |
    • CatholicMom

      Obviously, you do not see the Kingdom of God as the Catholic Church. [Big C] but the Bible tells us the Bride of Christ is the Church which is without stain, wrinkle, or any such thing. It is also the pillar and foundation of Truth, otherwise you would not call it a barn. The Kingdom of God is Jesus Christ and He and is Bride are One.

      We, once Baptized, have the Holy Spirit within us and this makes us members of His Body, the Kingdom of God, the mystical Body of Christ. [He in us and us in Him]. Sin can push Him out and only repentance will restore the soul to that perfected state.
      All of these dimensions of the Kingdom of God are for our benefit and all are closely related to our salvation. So do not diminish any of them for they are ways that God shows His love to us.

      August 5, 2010 at 2:12 pm |
  5. john kreegs

    Read the bible. Jesus was gay. So was John.

    August 4, 2010 at 5:40 am |
    • Ron

      Amen to that! Not to mention all the other sheep molesting perverts in that filthy book.

      August 4, 2010 at 6:00 am |
  6. Norman

    John the Baptist (Yahya in Islam) was a Prophet and the bodies of Prophets don't decompose.

    August 4, 2010 at 5:37 am |
  7. ajr

    Here we go again... The church trying to make up some more fantasies just like that last idiotic thing,,The Shroud of Turin.

    August 4, 2010 at 5:33 am |
  8. Not so fast

    What "proof" is there that this is John ?? A few bones? come on thats really grasping isn't it? I love this kind of news reporting. reminds me of all those WMD's that Iraq had too......

    August 4, 2010 at 5:31 am |
    • Mekhong Kurt

      Not so fast, well - not so fast. The blog (not news article) is passing along an item of interest to a great many people, undoubtedly (starting with millions of Christians) about a claim that others are making - the writer isn't vouching for the accuracy of the claim.

      It's a bit like UFO stories. If I claim I was abducted, that may get picked up all over the world, particularly if there is *any* possibly supporting evidence, such as surgical incisions. Of course, I might be a complete fraud, too - but the blogger or reporter can't necessarily know that, not in the beginning anyway.

      The blogger does make it clear this is passing along someone else's information - not claiming to prove it to be true.

      August 5, 2010 at 9:05 am |
  9. joe

    no his remains arent in bulgaria the bible is fiction god isnt real..so he probably never existed in the first place

    August 4, 2010 at 5:28 am |
  10. Ken

    George Carlin says.. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6RT6rL2UroE

    August 4, 2010 at 5:09 am |
  11. Gren

    Kind people of the Net. There seems to be a lot of energy being expended here that is to no real worldly effect. Let's put our keyboards down and spend some time helping people who are getting absolutely decimated in our current world. We can help families displaced by joblessness feed their children, assist older people who are afraid to leave their homes, become a big brother or sister to children missing a parent, take back and clean up a city park taken over by the drug trade, or support a military family that is struggling to hang on during these unending wars. You may not believe in Christ but clearly the story of his life contains lessons that would greatly benefit our world today. Let's take care of one another...

    August 4, 2010 at 5:03 am |
    • Mekhong Kurt

      Gren, you're correct that the story of the life of Christ does (or at least may) contain useful suggestions for today. So do a lot of novels, which, by definition, are fictional.

      I personally have long felt that whatever usefulness the Bible may have as an historical record is akin to, say, the histories of Shakespeare - not where a contemporary (21st century, I mean) Elizabethan historian would go for first references, but helpful to some extent. Or perhaps modern novels that interweave considerable history into an otherwise imagined tale.

      Part of my point is that even in the ancient world, the story of Christ isn't the only such story that holds lessons for us today. We can learn a lot from the teachings of Buddha, for instance. Closer to Christ were stories from other ancient civilizations, such as the Egyptians, Sumerians, and Babylonians, to name but three. There are surviving Greek works of value. For that matter, there are the Jewish texts - after all, there wasn't a New Testament until after the Crucifixion. (It always amazes me how many Christians overlook that Christ was born *Jewish.*) Anyway, Christ is one source of information that might give us reason to pause and reflect - but far from the *only* such source.

      Any special, supernatural significance attached to Christ and his life story is *externally* attached - we don't have recordings of Christ claiming to be the Son of God, for example, only writings by others not recorded until long after the alleged events.

      August 5, 2010 at 8:57 am |
  12. Ken

    Jesus, Moses, the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy..etc...etc.. The Bibile, its characters and plot are all based upon tales told hundreds and even thousands of years "B.C." They aren't hard to find IF you look for them. "Jesus" is a copy and paste version of these previous "gods" developed for the, then, modern age.. (ps. this age is coming to an end 2150, then the next will begin.. see your astrological sign for details.. hint, currently we are Pisces..next comes....?)

    August 4, 2010 at 4:59 am |
    • ajr

      amen to that brother! lol! enough of these fairy tales!!

      August 4, 2010 at 5:35 am |
  13. Elitesack

    Cool story. Im gonna freshen up on my history pertaining to this john fellow. I bet he liked pie.

    August 4, 2010 at 4:44 am |
    • One Whose Name Means Beloved of God

      Perhaps this research could involve eating some pie? I vote for cherry. 🙂

      August 8, 2010 at 11:47 am |
  14. JB

    Flavius Josephus, the author of the historical Book of Antiquities does indeed mention Jesus. It is one of the very few, if only authenticated reference to Jesus Christ in historical terms outside The New Testament. Written around 66 CE or AD, it covers the time period from 170 BCE or BC, to 66 CE or AD.

    August 4, 2010 at 4:42 am |
    • Langkard

      Wrong. Both small mentions by Josephus seem to have been added at a much later date by Christian scribes. There is nothing "authenticated" about it. The two references in the writings of Josephus were at least partially forgeries; since everything else in Josephus has a different style. The insertions were made into the ONLY existing historical writing of the period and area in order to make Jesus historical. That doesn't make them true. And much else in Josephus directly contradicts the Christian Bible, or utterly ignored events which would surely have been mentioned by Josephus if they had actually occurred, such as Herod ordering the death of all 2 year old children in Bethlehem. Josephus mentions marriages of entirely unimportant people in Bethlehem but fails to mention something as catastrophic as genocide? Please.

      August 4, 2010 at 5:32 am |
    • dutchblitz1

      The Babylonian Talmud and the Roman historian Tacitus mention Jesus, as well.

      August 4, 2010 at 5:42 am |
    • Langkard

      The Babylonian Talmud was written about the same time as the Gospels or later. In other words, it isn't any more contemporary than the Gospels and thus does not constitute "proof" in any way. Tacitus wrote even later, circa 200 AD and merely repeats already existing Christian legend. Again, not proof in any way, shape or form. But thanks for playing. What's a few hundred years between friends, right?

      August 4, 2010 at 6:02 am |
    • Mekhong Kurt

      JB, as far as I can tell, his writings, brief as they are, are *not* authenticated. He wasn't even born until a few years after the crucifixion of Christ. The earliest extant Christian writings date about 50 A.D., the epistles of John. The Gospels came quite awhile later. That those writings were not written at the time of the events doesn't necessarily mean they're inaccurate, but memory is more suspect than the fresh eye. Further, Josephus was, at best, repeating things he learned second-hand.

      Are his writings suggestive? Sure. Are they conclusive? No.

      After all, we don't know for *sure* when Christ was even born; the Encyclopedia Britannica Online gives the range of 6-4 B.C. And there are some curious omissions in Josephus' records.

      August 5, 2010 at 8:43 am |

    This thread is hilarious. Everyone here is saying christianity is all "fairy tales and fables e.t.c" and even refuse to consider if those bones are indeed authentic. Maybe they are not, maybe there is a mix-up, maybe it is forged, who knows? but could people consider just for one minute if they are indeed real. What happens? Nothing really. Atheists remain the same, jerks remain the same, Christiains remain the same. However, it is silly and borderline idiotic to accept dinosaur and early man finds hook,line and sinker and yet dismiss anything that might have religious connections as false. It's like saying that because the Bible has religious tones everything inside is false, despite the fact that the bible is one of the earliest recorded accounts of ancient history. That's ignoring science and archeology because of personal emotional beliefs. It's idiotic.

    August 4, 2010 at 4:38 am |
    • Elitesack

      Well from my understanding, according to John and even Jesus' own words, they didnt much care for religion either, infact if i am not mistaken, i think they despised it. Seems like they thought religion doesnt pay justice to the eternal father.

      August 4, 2010 at 4:47 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Well no one finding a dinosaur tries to claim its a particular one, such as Barney .

      'It's like saying that because the Bible has religious tones everything inside is false, despite the fact that the bible is one of the earliest recorded accounts of ancient history. That's ignoring science and archeology because of personal emotional beliefs. It's idiotic.'
      Nonsense, the bible may be accurate in some places with regards to people and places but thats about as much as you can give it. As for ignoring science.......for the bible to be correct you would have to ignore every scientific discipline going.

      August 4, 2010 at 1:52 pm |
    • Mekhong Kurt

      There are numerous texts way older than the Bible, including older than the Old Testament.

      As for believing in dinosaurs, well, that's taking the available evidence, examining it using our {God-given?} intelligence in light of what God has left us for clues, and we can explain it rather nicely without involving spirits, angels, demons, etc.

      Of course - and I mean this with all my heart - God COULD be a big jokester, and has deliberately falsified the evidence, or made us read it wrongly, or some combination of the two.

      Show me something like, say, an irrefutable feather from an angel's wing, then I'll pause and listen. Or maybe God can make at appearance.

      August 5, 2010 at 8:23 am |
    • One Whose Name Means Beloved of God

      @Cedar Rapids

      Nice to see another Iowan here.

      Also–I wish we could find Barney's bones.... ];>

      August 8, 2010 at 11:45 am |
  16. EZG427

    Some of you all are pretty bad the way you talk to each other. Christians are we? What happened to do unto others...???

    August 4, 2010 at 4:37 am |
    • Elitesack

      i'll smack you in the face and then smack myself in the face, that way god will love me.

      August 4, 2010 at 4:49 am |
  17. eno

    I have to say ..I really enjoy all comments even the really mean one about "rotting in hell" ..hell of funny.

    August 4, 2010 at 4:26 am |
  18. eno

    Thanks for all your funny and insightful comments....they rock..and better than cable

    August 4, 2010 at 4:24 am |
  19. Chuck Norris

    nice but i really don't know how his body got to Bulgaria can anyone explain please ? i lack some historical information.

    August 4, 2010 at 4:18 am |
    • Elitesack

      It said that they suspect it was a donation from byzantine or something, whatever that is, after the thing in bulgaria where they found it was built in 1100 ad or something.

      August 4, 2010 at 4:51 am |
  20. Ken

    "The Greatest Story Ever Told".. that's all it is...

    August 4, 2010 at 4:15 am |
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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.