Methodist Church

Mysterious bones may belong to John the Baptist

SVETI IVAN (Bulgaria) – Claims that bone fragments unearthed by archaeologists at the site of an ancient church here belong to John the Baptist have been bolstered by experts who have dated the bones to the 1st century.

“We got some dates that are very interesting indeed,” researcher Thomas Higham of the University of Oxford told LiveScience.

“They suggest that the human bone is all from the same person, it is from a male, and it has a very high likelihood of an origin in the Near East”, or the Middle East where John the Baptist would have lived.

There is no way, however, to be absolutely certain the bones belong to John the Baptist, who the New Testament says baptised Jesus.

The bones were found in 2010 by Bulgarian archaeologists Kazimir Popkonstantinov and Rossina Kostova while excavating an old church site on the island of Sveti Ivan, which translates to St. John. The church was constructed in two periods in the 5th and 6th centuries.

Beneath the altar, the archaeologists found a small marble sarcophagus, almost 15.5 cm long. Inside were six human bones and three animal bones. The human bones in the box included a knucklebone, a tooth, part of a cranium, a rib and an ulna, or arm bone.

The following day, the researchers found a second box just half a metre away. This one was made of volcanic rock called tuff. On it, an inscription read, “Dear Lord, please help your servant Thomas”, along with St. John the Baptist’s name and his feast date (also called a holy day) of June 24.

The findings paint a story of a man named Thomas charged with bringing relics or body parts of St. John to the island to consecrate a new church there. It was common in the 4th and 5th centuries for wealthy patrons to pay for new churches and to give saintly relics to the monks who staffed them, Dr Higham told LiveScience. – United Methodist News Service.