American professor says skeleton may be of John the Baptist

Source: Associated Press
Publication date: 2002-08-01
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JERUSALEM (AP) — A skeleton discovered near the site where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found may be the 2,000-year-old remains of John the Baptist, an American professor announced Thursday.

But Israeli archaeologists disputed his theory as being far-fetched and said the burial site unearthed is probably that of an 18th century Bedouin man.

Professor Richard Freund, director of the Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Hartford in Connecticut, was part of an expedition at Qumran in the Judean Desert that made the discovery on Monday.

Freund said there was “circumstantial evidence” that the well-preserved skeleton may be the “Teacher of Righteousness,” the founder of the Jewish sect called the Essenes whose scribes authored the ancient Hebrew scrolls.

He also said that the leader of the Essenes may be the same person as John the Baptist, the prophet who anointed Christ.

“It is possible that a single person like John the Baptist, a leader in the New Testament, may have been this anonymous mysterious person, the Teacher of Righteousness, mentioned in the text of the Dead Sea Scrolls,” he said.

Magen Broshi, one of the heads of the expedition and an expert on the Dead Sea Scrolls, dismissed Freund’s theory.

“No person in the world believes there is a connection between the two. There is nothing to it. What we have unearthed is most probably a skeleton of a Bedouin man from about two or three hundred years ago,” he said.

Broshi said there was too much of a discrepancy in the dates of the John the Baptist who was killed in A.D. 29 and the sect who lived from 150 B.C. to A.D. 68.
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Adolfo Roitman, curator and director of the Shrine of the Book where the scrolls are kept at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, said some scholars tried to identify the founder of the sect with historic characters mentioned in the New Testament to try and resolve the riddle of the ancient texts.

“We don’t know who the real person behind the title Teacher of Righteousness is. But attempts to try and identify these people as the first Christians is a theory most scholars including myself don’t accept,” he said.

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