John the Baptistís Cave
In the news has been the report that John the Baptistís Cave had been found. These headlines were misleading because the location was known to people living nearby at Kibbutz Tzuba, Israel, and it was one of their number who suggested to Dr. Shimon Gibson that he dig there. Of course following on the heels of the report were the usual criticisms by people who had not made the ďdiscoveryĒ claiming this could not possibly, or at least was unlikely to be the place.
Letís examine some of the things that are known about this particular site. First of all the plaster on the walls date between 500 and 800 B.C., which means it had been there a long time before John the Baptist was born. Secondly, the cave is located about 2 Ĺ miles from Ein Karem, which is the modern day name for the city where John was born. The location was far enough away so John could isolate himself as a hermit and close enough so that he could keep an eye of his family. Third, the early Byzantines thought this was Johnís cave. They carved seven important pictures on its walls depicting the Baptistís life. Fourth, the Bible conveys a sense of John the Baptist coming a distance to perform his ministry at the Jordan River which would agree with this siteís location about 25 miles from that location.
The cave was lost for a time during the Crusades, which probably helped to protect it from the Catholic building programs which are still used to venerate other sites and impede research. During that time it also became filled with soil and debris which also served to further preserve the site till this day.
Ergon Lass, an American archeologist, one of the excavators of Johnís cave says the site is ďterribly unusual.Ē It is plainly no traditional milkveh, Jewish immersion ritual bath. It has a large pool area 24 yards long by 4 yards wide and 4 yards deep. Perhaps once a cistern in the wilderness it was converted to a baptismal pool at some time. For me even the timing of this report is important for Christians need their faith bolstered as they face the difficult days ahead. For me, it all makes sense.
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