John the Baptist cave: this is "archaeology"

It’s now the second time that this excitable quack (thankfully from the other side of the Atlantic) has made it to the Yahoo! headlines for claiming to have found the cave of John the Baptist, “conclusive” evidence, he assures us, of the man’s actual existence.

The evidence? Wellllll, first of all there’s this cave. And it’s ONLY an hour’s donkey ride from John’s birthplace of Ein Kerem. And it’s got a pool at the bottom of several steps, and it looks like a ritual pool where baptisms might have been performed. Also, there’s a scratched illustration of a kind of stick-figure man on the wall, and he looks a little nutty so of course Shimon Gibson (who holds a degree from UCL) concludes it is of JTB, and therefore the cave was JTB’s.

Any weak links in the argument? First off, the dude scratched on the wall looks as much like Pigpen from Peanuts as JTB. Second, the region has got ritual baths all over the freaking place. They’re called ‘Mikvahs’ and Jews of the same period built plenty of them. Even if it could be confirmed that the pool had Christian associations, it’s far more likely (maybe I should defer to learned scholars of this period in our blog group here) that it was later ‘baptists’ who had adopted John’s tradition not John himself–since there is the tiny, explicit detail in the NT that John baptized in the Jordan and NO mention, as far as I’m aware, of him baptizing in caves.

Personally, I don’t need Judean caves to confirm the probability of John’s existence. But this kind of opportunism (is there going to be a book? Of COURSE there is! will gullible Christians buy it in the hundreds of thousands? Of COURSE they will!) makes me a little ill.



  1. I too am ill because whilst this goon will make lots of money with this, we sensible scholars will never see the big bucks. (Maybe I will write under a pseudonym: if you ever see a R.J. Headlife “discover” Jesus’ beard buried in an English cemetery be suspicious). 

    <><><><>Posted by<><> <><>< HREF="" TITLE="ronan at jhu dot edu">Ronan<>


  2. Stuart, that you managed to work Pigpen from Peanuts into a conversation about ANE archaeology totally made my day! 

    <><><><>Posted by<><> <><>Lance


  3. Lance, glad you appreciated the Pigpen reference. I say “more references to cartoon characters and less cheap ‘scholarly’ opportunism!” 

    <><><><>Posted by<><> <><>Stuart


Comments are closed.