Bones in Bulgaria may be of John the Baptist: study

http://phys.org/news/2012-06-bones-bulgaria-john-baptist.html

It seems that every few months some one claims to have found body parts, shrouds or other artefacts of biblical figures. The problem is: with modern scientific techniques, people who read about such finds are over generous with their certainty and credulity than is due. The fact is that these finds can scarcely be considered more authentic or certain now than they were 50 or even 100 years ago.

I’ll give you an example, for some time now archaeologists and other bone experts have had the ability to fairly well describe the ethnic origin of bone remains. Now with DNA analysis technology being faster and cheaper we are able to very accurately define the ethnic origin of bone. This is a great thing, especially when we discover a species of hominid. What does it tell us about these kinds of finds though? It tells us exactly what it would tell us about any other archeological find. Where the person was from. Unless John the Baptist is the only middle-eastern man known to have existed at the time this means very little.

The dating of the bone is faced with a similar problem, just because the bone can be dated to when a person was alleged to be alive does not make it a compelling case for the bone belonging to that person, as there were a lot of other males from the middle-east alive at that time also.

What is more slightly more compelling is the box that was found near the sarcophagus. The box had inscriptions that referenced John the Baptist as well as the date of his birth which is celebrated by Christians. This piece of evidence is also not without it’s problems though. Firstly the box was found near the sarcophagus, the body parts weren’t inside of it. Also the inscription itself is somewhat suspicious to me, the exact birthdate of people from those times was seldom known and was often arbitrarily assigned at a later date, so for the box to bear that date rings alarm bells for me. Finally the inscription itself has not been dated. It’s not too long ago that a certain documentary claimed to have found the body of Jesus only for real scientists to discover the inscription was a fake.

This brings me nicely to my final point. Always be suspicious of anything when the results are presented first by the media, especially in a high-profile documentary. Peer review of evidence by other experts in your field is the best validation you can get. So many claims fall by the way side after rigorous scrutiny from well-trained and experienced contemporaries. I highly expect this case to be no different.

 

 

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