World's press caves in to speculation

Did you hear that they discovered the cave of John the Baptist? It's in all the papers (691 Google News links so far). The Associated Press, which claims an exclusive on the story, calls it "potentially a major discovery in biblical archaeology."

No one is more excited than British/Israeli archaeologist Shimon Gibson, who uncovered the site.

"I am now certain that this cave was connected with the ancient cult of John the Baptist. Indeed, this may very well be 'the' cave of the early years of John's life, the place where he sought his first solitude in the 'wilderness' and the place where he practised his baptisms," he said. "For the first time, we can point to a spot and say it is highly likely that this is where John the Baptist was baptising and undertaking his rituals. That is amazing."

Elsewhere, he's quoted as saying "The site we've uncovered is seemingly the connecting link between Jewish and Christian baptism." And "John the Baptist, who was just a figure from the Gospels, now comes to life." And ""In addition to John the Baptist, there's a possibility that Jesus used this cave as well."

A press release explains it all. "Tradition holds that John was born and raised in the area and that his mother Elizabeth hid with her infant son in a cave to escape the child slaughter commanded by King Herod. There are several churches in the area dedicated to John or claiming to be sites from which he conducted his ministry … "

Oh wait. This is a press release from April 2000. Huh. But surely the finding that it's John the Baptist's cave is new, right? Uh, not really. The Charlotte Observer suggested as much on its front page back in Easter 2000. And the latest details aren't too new for Gibson ...

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Launched in 1999, Christianity Today’s Weblog was not just one of the first religion-oriented weblogs, but one of the first published by a media organization. (Hence its rather bland title.) Mostly compiled by then-online editor Ted Olsen, Weblog rounded up religion news and opinion pieces from publications around the world. As Christianity Today’s website grew, it launched other blogs. Olsen took on management responsibilities, and the Weblog feature as such was mothballed. But CT’s efforts to round up important news and opinion from around the web continues, especially on our Gleanings feature.
Ted Olsen
Ted Olsen is Christianity Today's editorial director. He wrote the magazine's Weblog—a collection of news and opinion articles from mainstream news sources around the world—from 1999 to 2006. In 2004, the magazine launched Weblog in Print, which looks for unexpected connections and trends in articles appearing in the mainstream press. The column was later renamed "Tidings" and ran until 2007.
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