The first archaeological evidence of the historical reality of the Gospel story.
From a historical point of view, the uniqueness of this cave is that it contains archaeological evidence that comes to us from the very time of the personalities and events described in the Gospels. For here is the largest ritual bathing pool ever found in the Jerusalem area, and found in the village where John the Baptist was born, showing unmistakable signs of ritual use in the first century AD. Also in the cave is the earliest ever Christian art, depicting John the Baptist as well as the three crosses of the crucifixion.
By using the forensic techniques available to the modern archaeologist, Gibson and his international team have been able to draw information from the drawings, pottery, coins, bones, remains of ritual fire and pieces of cloth found in the cave and match these up with the contemporary literary sources. This is a unique opportunity to build up a picture of the very first Christians, how they lived and even what they believed.
As Gibson writes: “By fitting together the new archaeological facts with the historical information available (and sometimes buried) in scholarly literature, I believe I am able to throw an amazing amount of light on the personality and mission of John the Baptist. Who was he? Where did he come from? What were his beliefs and what was the baptism all about?”
From the Hardcover edition.
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|Title of Religion eBook: The Cave of John the Baptist|
|Release Date: 08-17-2004|
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|Publisher: The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group|
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The Cave of John the Baptist
Discovering the Cave of John the Baptist
The Suba cave must be the most unusual archaeological site that I have ever excavated. During many years spent digging in Israel/Palestine I have been party to the recovery of a wide variety of ancient vestiges, from city walls and opulent town houses to burial caves and industrial installations, but none of this prepared me for the appearance of the strange remains in this cave. There were so many anomalies in the archaeological record that trying to puzzle it all out gave me numerous sleepless nights. Finding the cave in the first place was an incredible stroke of luck. Luck is an important feature of archaeological work: some archaeologists have a nose for important discoveries and possess the instincts of bloodhounds, others are not so lucky, however hard they might persevere in the search for the discovery of a lifetime. Some important discoveries simply fall into the lap of those who are least expecting it.
Before I say something about the circumstances of the discovery of the cave and the story of how we went about excavating it, I should first explain where the cave is located, to set the scene. The cave is in the hills immediately west of Jerusalem, about ten minutes' drive by car from the modern outskirts of the city. Forging their way between the undulating hills are narrow valleys, almost V-shaped in profile, with the flanking slopes covered with trees or agricultural terraces that were built in serried fashion (plate 1a). The countryside round about was originally cultivated with Mediterranean-type crops: vineyards and olive groves, orchards of fruit trees, and some grain crops in the valleys. The val