DNA and the Relics of John the Baptizer/Baptist

This past Sunday was the Nativity of John the Baptist.  Many, if not most, Western Christians rarely think of any “nativity” feast excepting Christmas, but in the Eastern Churches, we certainly do.  Moreover, many in Western Europe and America assume an antagonism between science and religion.  I thought the recent scientific studies of DNA from some relics were an intriguing example of both coming together.  Bulgaria has relics that are consistent with their assigned role as relics of St. John the Baptist:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/15/us-britain-bulgaria-bones-idUSBRE85E0U220120615

http://news.discovery.com/history/john-baptist-bones-120615.html

2 thoughts on “DNA and the Relics of John the Baptizer/Baptist

  1. Interesting. This reminds me of our conversation the other day about the authenticity of relics, and it’s very intriguing to have a more “suspect” relic get a boost of authenticity from DNA testing and carbon-dating. Normally I would be especially skeptical of things like this: a tiny sarcophagus found in a church in Bulgaria… it just seems awfully convenient. But the fact that the evidence we have lines up makes in a really remarkable find.

    • Yes, I thought of our conversation and others I have had over the years on this topic. I was intrigued to see the Bulgarian Orthodox Church in collaboration with contemporary science. I think the results have shown a both/and effect. That yes, people would throw in an animal bone or two to try to make the reliquary more substantial in appearance, but that does not eliminate the existence of actual relics. Of course, skeptics can always allege that monks robbed a first century Palestinian grave or something. There’s no way to prove a group of monks didn’t do such a thing, but one can’t prove a negative anyhow. What we can say is what you’ve said: what evidence we do have lines up. I also think this find is a testament to oral history and tradition, that ecclesiastical church names and traditions can be reliable in ways we might not always realize in our contemporary era.

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