Bones of John the Baptist?

The news has been making the rounds that bones have been found which some think might have belonged to John the Baptist. This is a story which first appeared in 2010, but which has been revived by the carbon dating of the knuckle bone to the first century.

The site Skeptic reports on the matter in a way that seems to me level-headed. But the most detailed and fair assessment, complete with suggestions about what sorts of data might be needed to make the case, is offered by Christopher Rollston. Mark Goodacre, John Byron, Michael Heiser, Jim West, and Dienekes’ Anthropology Blog have also mentioned the topic.

A documentary on the topic is apparently scheduled to air tomorrow.

In considering the historical John the Baptist, it may perhaps also be of interest to readers that John the Baptist’s execution/martyrdom is not a focus of the Mandaean tradition, whereas it is one of the main stories told about him in the New Testament (The only account of the death of John that I am aware of in Mandaean literature is in a single passage in the Ginza Rba). What’s more, their stories about John include not just alternate versions of those found in the New Testament about his parents, which I have blogged about before, but they provide a wife and children for him as well.

 

  • http://twitter.com/goodacre Mark Goodacre

    Thanks for the update, James. Added link to my blog.

  • http://www.facebook.com/matthewlkelley Matthew L. Kelley

    The duomo in Sienna, Italy claims to have the arm and hand that John used to baptize Jesus.

    • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      We can rebuild him. We have the technology to build the world’s first bionic Baptist…

      But seriously, if they did DNA testing and found that the same individual’s bones were at several locations claiming to have relics of John the Baptist, that would be interesting indeed, though it is not clear that it would tell us anything more about John the Baptist while he was alive. and even when it comes to the relics, it seems to me that first century bones could well have made their way from sites in Palestine identified later as the burial places of important figures in Biblical narratives, without the bones actually having belonged to said individuals.


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