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Have Archeologists Found John the Baptist's Cave?

The Associated Press is reporting about an archeological find outside of Jerusalem. It is a cave with 28 steps leading down to a large pool believed to be used for baptism, located near John the Baptist' reputed hometown. There are also various drawings in the cave depicting a man holding a staff and wearing animal skins, as well as pottery shards likely used in baptismal ceremonies. The drawings were likely drawn in the fourth of fifth century.

One set of archeologists seem convinced these drawings accurately represent a local tradition dating back to John the Baptist's activities in the area. Another set see no clear evidence linking the location to John the Baptist. Apparently a book will be forthcoming soon. Given the roller coaster ride of the recent "James the brother of Jesus Ossuary" caused, this could be interesting. Although unlike that controversy, there seems to be no doubt about the legitamacy of the site itself, only with the conclusions based on it.


I saw this and noted from the ABC News account: "However, others said there was no proof that John the Baptist ever set foot in the cave, about 2 1/2 miles from Ein Kerem, the preacher's hometown and now part of Jerusalem. 'Unfortunately, we didn't find any inscriptions,' said James Tabor, a religious studies professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte." We need to be careful with this, but it is intriguing.

The press releases (from AP and other new sources) are related to the upcoming publication of a book by the chief archaeologist of this find, Shimon Gibson, entitled _The Cave of John the Baptist_. The find itself dates back to March 2000, with an article appearing on the web site for the University of North Carolina back in April 2000. See article at:

A more recent article appeared on the web site of The Foundation for Biblical Archaeology, and includes pictures. It can be seen at

From my readings, the evidence looks reasonable that the site was used for ritual washings, possibly in the 1st Century (something required by Jews of the 1st Century), but the connection to JBap seems to be based on some 5th Century drawings, and traditions held by the Orthodox (who built a church over the site in the 6th Century). From this it looks like the probable connection of the cave to JBap is tenuous.

Interestingly, the Israeli news suggests that the discovery of these caves are evidence for the father of John the Baptist:

"The researchers claim that a water cistern that was uncovered a number of years ago in the cellar of the village's Church of St. John the Baptist is none other than a mikveh, a Jewish ritual bath, from the Second Temple period (from 536 B.C.E. to 70 C.E.). This discovery could be important for Christianity as well, since the cistern is the first evidence to support the traditional view that Zachary, St. John the Baptist's father, lived in Ein Karem." From Mikveh proves earliest Jewish presence in Ein Karem, By Amiram Barkat

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