Profile: Shimon Gibson's Belief That He Has Found The Site Where John The Baptist Might Have Performed His Baptisms
All Things Considered: August 30, 2004
McCARTHY: Gibson and other experts spent three years excavating the cave. Among their finds, a quarter of a million shards of small vessels dating back to the first century, perhaps used in baptismal rights. They unearthed a stairway leading to a large immersion pool and a stone bearing a deep indentation in the shape of a foot that according to one theory was for ceremonial foot washing. Biblical scholar James Tabor says the cave was used for rituals, rituals he believes were associated with John the Baptist and his many disciples.
Mr. JAMES TABOR (Biblical Scholar): If we can show that there was this ritual baptism kind of activity going on in the cave in the first century, and it's the period of John and it's in the region where John lived, it's not such a stretch, then, to think that people are going there in association directly with John if not John himself.
McCARTHY: The Israel Antiquities Authority, which licensed the dig, says the science of the excavation is solid and that the cave is unique. But the director of excavations at the Antiquities Authority, Gideon Avni, says it is a stretch to conclude that John the Baptist was here, and says while the drawings likely depict John, their significance is questionable.
Mr. GIDEON AVNI (Director of Excavations, Israel Antiquities Authority): It's a kind of graffiti. It should be treated as a kind of a local archaeological phenomenon, which means there was a village nearby, maybe a monastery, some hermits going, wandering down hills and choosing this place for these depictions.