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“The Cave of John the Baptist”

August 22nd, 2004

(Newsbreak: Wednesday August 18, 2004)

“This is he of whom it is written,
Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
Who will prepare your way before you”

(Luke 7:27, ESV)

The Toronto Star (Wednesday August 18, 2004) recently reported, “Archaeologists said Monday they have found a cave where they believe John the Baptist anointed many of his disciples—a huge cistern with 28 steps leading to an underground pool of water. During a tour of the cave, archaeologists presented wall carvings they said tell the story of the fiery New Testament preacher…British archaeologist Shimon Gibson, who supervised the dig… said the cave was carved in the Iron Age, somewhere between 800 and 500 B.C., by the Israelites, who apparently used it as an immersion pool. It apparently was adopted by John the Baptist, who wanted a place where he could bring people to undergo their rituals. Gibson further posited, “…a foot washing stone… also constituted strong circumstantial evidence that John used the cave ” (Karen Laub, Associated Press).
Essentially, then, this discovering speculates that (1) John the Baptist used this cave, and (2) He used the cave for religious ritual purposes. The evidence seems to center around: a. the cave’s proximity to John’s home (Ain Karim) b. carvings which seemingly depict the life of John, and c. that the cistern easily coincides with John’s baptismal ministry. However, Matthew and Mark report that John baptized, “…in the river Jordan” (Matthew 3:6;Mark 1:5); secondly, near Bethany beyond the Jordan (John 1:28);and, thirdly, “… in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there” (John 3:23). If a cave was a part of his ministry we are not told. We are told in Scripture, however, that John “was not the light, but came that he might bear witness of the light” (John 1:8).
As the world media delights in this latest discovery of a cave near Jerusalem, we, as Christians, remember an empty tomb.

–Robert M. Housby

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