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A Strange Evangelist (1 of 8)
Series: John the Baptist
British archaeologist, Shimon Gibson, has uncovered a cave in the mountains outside of Jerusalem in which he believes John the Baptist lived. The cave is about an hour's ride on a donkey from
the village where tradition says that John was born. It is also on the edge of the Judean desert, where John was known to preach.
The cave is located on the side of a mountain in an area covered
by pine forests, close to a riverbed in a steep sided valley. In 1999 people in the area first told Gibson about the existence of the cave, which had been hidden behind a mass of vegetation for years.
With the attitude of Indiana Jones, Gibson crawled through a hole into the cave, which was filled with rocks and dirt. He decided to start excavating after discovering a crudely-drawn picture of John the Baptist carved into the limestone walls "dressed in camel hair robes" as described in the gospels.
Several crosses and a rough drawing of a severed head were also carved into the walls, illustrating his death by beheading at the hands of Herod Antipas the ruler of the region at the time. These
drawings were the work of Byzantine monks between 500 and 1000 AD who used to gather in the cave to tell his story.
Excavations, which took place between 2000 and 2003 revealed
a large cave 75 feet long and 15 feet wide with 18 steps leading down to a large rectangular pool. Gibson said, "It's use for baptism rituals dates back to the era of the kings of Judea."
They discovered tens of thousands of pieces from clay pitchers
which date back to the time of John the Baptist. Just outside the entrance, further excavations revealed several huge pools for collecting rainwater which fed the main pool inside the cave.
The cave has now been restored and is open for the public to see.
Scripture doesn't tell us where John lived or how he lived. But it does tell us he lived in the desert ...
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