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some empathy for him. john the baptist -- >> judgment is coming! >> the fearless prophet who hails the coming of the new messiah. he believes that some reckoning is imminent. >> it's at that moment that something profound changes in jesus. >> now science joins the quest to connect past and present, testing john the baptist's relics to discover a link to the man the bible says was john's cousin, jesus himself, to help us answer who really was john the baptist?
♪ the judean desert in the first century. a wild, forbidding place at the fringes of the roman empire. this outpost on the banks of the river jordan is home to a revolutionary firebrand who promises the coming of a new savior. his name, john the baptist. >> john the baptist is the first chapter to the long and amazing story of jesus.
he tees it up for jesus to come in and to really be the true messiah. >> he comes with the fire, and he wants people to feel it here. who are you? are you saved? why do you come here? he even questions their motives. this is a very intense figure. out in the wilderness, and the wilderness is where things really happen spiritually. >> he's a mysterious figure. he's strange. he's out there. he's dressed in this very, very odd way. and slightly dangerous and scary. >> yet today, the unique appeal of this charismatic prophet has been lost to history. who was this fiery preacher who
would herald the coming of the messiah? and what was it that drew jesus to him? now, science joins history in a new quest. in the future, it may be possible to establish a blood link between john and jesus. today, their mission is to test fragments of bone believed to be john's. >> for the first time in history, we're able to place these relics in their proper time and proper date in order to understand more about their history and how they come down to us. >> palestine in the first century is buzzing with
prophets. they follow in the tradition of old testament preachers, men like isaiah and elijah. >> but from the fringes of this civilization, one voice is louder and reaches further than any other. even though john the baptist bases himself at the edge of the wilderness, people come from far and wide to hear his uncompromising message. >> geographically speaking, he's actually from the margins. he goes out away from the center of power to the wilderness and draws people to himself. >> it might seem to us today obvious that jesus is more important, but at the time, if we had been alive in first century palestine, we would know the name of john the baptist, but we might not know the name of jesus. >> the son of a jewish cleric, john now condemns the religious establishment. >> my god, john was angry with the priestly aristocracy because they'd become a very exploitive class.
>> in an echo of old testament prophecies, the gospels recount his passionate belief that the end of the world is close. >> judgment is coming. >> and with it the coming of a new messiah. >> the kingdom of heaven is coming. >> to prepare themselves, john urges people to repent and cleanse their sins. and to do that they must be baptized. >> to encounter john in the wilderness is to encounter a person who is bringing to your eyes the fact that you have sinned and fallen short of god's best for you. and you had, by golly, better repent. >> john is like an apocalyptic preacher. he's a firebrand preacher. in john's case literally about fire. >> this firebrand was telling them the whole crop of israel is going to be burned up unless you repent. >> it talks about judgment. he talks about god's anger.
>> so he really is the sort of preacher of coming judgment. >> the kingdom of heaven is at hand. repent. >> in the centuries after his death, bone relics of john the baptist begin spreading out from the holy land as early christians seek a physical connection with the man who played such a decisive role in the life of jesus. >> his relics become extremely important all over the world. so there are lots of narratives of discovering parts of his body, whether it's his head or other relics, his hand and arms seem to be incredibly important because he points to jesus during the baptism. >> by the 15th century, there are over 200 relics of john the baptist across europe. far more than could possibly be genuine. whether authentic or not, each piece is a clue to the growth of
the early church. using carbon dating and dna techniques, scientists hope to build a map showing the crucial role played by relics in the spread of christ's message. >> we're obviously aware of the fact that the vast majority of the material of the relics that we'll be testing are probably not going to fall into the period which historically we would expect, but this is just the first step in a big project in which we're looking at other similar relics, getting dates for them, getting reliable scientific data from them to find out more about who these people were, where they came from. >> the ambitious project to draw that historical map across europe begins in bulgaria in 2010 with an excavation that makes headlines around the world. buried beneath the ruins of a fifth century orthodox christian monastery dedicated to john the baptist, a box the church
believe contains relics of his bones. >> bulgaria was the first time that we had really formally investigated using modern scientific techniques a relic that was found in a place which had a very reliable context. >> and when the results of the carbon dating finally come in, they discover something truly remarkable. >> when it came through, my jaw was a little bit down on the floor. >> right there, 30 a.d., that's when john the baptist is thought to have died. you can see the date fits right within that margin. >> 30 a.d., a date consistent with the death of john the baptist. the dna results go even further, indicating the bones came from a middle eastern man. could these actually be the bones of john the baptist and a connection to what the bible points to, a possible blood link
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hampton. we go together. always get the lowest price, only when you book direct at hampton.com at florida's natural, our "straight-from-the-grove" taste... and our straight-from-the-heart holiday greetings... go directly from our family... thank you. ...to yours. florida's natural. the story of john the baptist's relationship to jesus derives from luke's gospel. >> the gospel of luke describes mary, the mother of jesus, and elizabeth, the mother of john the baptist, as being relatives.
it uses a vague term "kinswomen." and our best guess is that means something like cousins. >> not all the gospels mention the episode, but in luke, the story begins when one night jesus' mother, mary, is visited by an angel. >> do not be afraid, for you have found favor with god. you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him jesus. >> but mary cannot believe the angel's message since she is still a virgin. the child to be born will be holy. he will be called son of god. >> when mary is told by the angel that she's carrying the messiah, she's shocked and
surprised. and she feels very humbled. she says she's unworthy of this kind of great honor, but she's willing to accept it. >> luke describes how the angel gabriel then reveals to mary that her cousin, elizabeth, is also pregnant. mary then sets out on a 70-mile journey to find her cousin in the judean hill country. >> she comes to visit her cousin, elizabeth. the one person she could really talk to about this unusual turn of events in her life. so by tradition, she would have come here to ankara. perhaps she hurries along a street like this looking forward to being with her cousin with whom she can share this amazing secret.
>> elizabeth, elizabeth! >> elizabeth tells mary how, despite being too old to conceive, she really is now six months pregnant. >> as soon as i heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. >> when mary goes to elizabeth and they're both pregnant, john the baptist leaps for joy in elizabeth's womb. we can imagine that there's a rapport between these women. >> there is an attempt throughout the gospels to portray john as the forerunner who prepares the way for the coming of the lord, the lord being jesus himself. >> 2,000 years on, the possibility that john and jesus are related has triggered fresh
investigation into the study of john the baptist's relics. with their ongoing quest to trace how his relics were scattered, british researchers tom higham and george kazan have come to the nelson-atkins museum in kansas city, missouri. they want to analyze an ancient treasure reputed to be the finger of john the baptist. could it come from the same individual as the bulgaria find? >> this is containing the relic. it's gilt silver. it dates from about the year 1400. >> what's really exciting about the kansas relic is for the first time we'll be able to compare the carbon data relic with the one we've already obtained from bulgaria. >> the bone has been identified as a human bone coming from a hand. >> what's interesting about the finger is it's part of a medieval treasure, the guelph treasure, that has connections with the german lord henry the lion.
we know that he visited constantinople and requested relics. but it's possible that may have had origins much older than that. ♪ >> should we get the bone out and have a look at it now? >> sitting in an elaborate gilt housing dating back to the 14th century, for the researchers the challenge will be thou remove the bone from its precious casing. ♪ and when they try to extract the bone from its mount, there's a problem. >> the mount does not come off of the bone. >> oh, you mean i can't actually take the bone out? >> no. >> and that means tom will struggle to reach the central part of the finger containing collagen, the most reliable material for carbon dating. >> it's very tricky in order to get a decent-sized sample.
so we're constantly battling against curator's wishes not to take too much and our own scientific requirements in order to get just enough, and it's often a very interesting play that takes place over the course of the hour or two that it takes us to take a sample. >> judgment is coming. >> 2,000 years earlier on the banks of the river jordan, john the baptist's magnetic preaching continues to pull in the crowds. one of those drawn here is a man who will change not just the course of john's own life but the course of history. ♪ it's a calling. a love affair. a quest.
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the earliest gospel, that of mark, records how jesus arrives on the banks of the jordan to find john the baptist. luke's gospel tells us jesus is 30 years old. >> i think one of the few indisputable facts about the ministry of jesus that we as historians can be clear about is that jesus was indeed baptized by john the baptist and began his career within the ministry of john the baptist.
>> the new testament doesn't reveal whether this was their first meeting or if they had met before. >> we know that jesus respects john the baptist enough and is drawn in by his charisma, his persona and his teaching enough to go and get baptized himself. so he's certainly drawn to john. >> until now, john the baptist is the undisputed leader of his movement, but today, meeting jesus, something unexpected happens. >> i need to be baptized by you. do you come to me? >> but jesus dismisses john's plea. it is he who has come to be baptized by john. his baptism will be like no
other. >> i think the baptism of jesus by john is a crucial part of the story. it tells us, if nothing else, that jesus absolutely endorsed what john was doing. >> i myself baptizing by water for this reason. that he might be revealed to israel. >> and it means that he endorsed people did need to repent. they did need to receive forgiveness for their sins. ♪ >> and just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the spirit descending like a dove on him. and a voice came from heaven. "you are my son, the beloved.
with you i am well pleased." >> it's at that moment that something profound changes for jesus. and now he feels this vocation, this call to go spread his own message. this is the beginning of jesus' ministry. >> when they met, when john the baptist's charisma, when his preaching ability, when his apocalyptic fervor, when his criticisms of the powers of the day, when all of that hit jesus' ears, i imagine it sparked all of that latent ability to preach that jesus had and launched him into his ministry. >> but for biblical historians, there's a dilemma. >> there's something that's not being said here. all the gospels really emphasize that john the baptist was subordinate to jesus, and yet he's the one that's doing the baptizing. >> in the gospels, you see this
trying to tackle this problem of jesus being baptized by john, indicating jesus was in a subordinate position which was a problem for the early church. >> for all the attempts by the gospel writers to reconcile john's status with that of jesus, what is certain is that ultimately it is jesus' movement that survives and prospers. >> initially, it seems that john is a mentor figure to jesus. after all, he's baptizing jesus in the river jordan and has attracted him there. but afterwards they go their separate ways. >> one of the great lines of john the baptist that i really, really love is, as jesus is growing in popularity, while john still has a ministry, his disciples say to him, look, everyone's going over to jesus' baptism. and john says, i must decrease, and he must increase.
that amazing humility of john to know that he is about jesus and not about himself to me is such a witness of humility and of discipleship. >> jesus will never meet john again. but following his baptism, he takes a page from john's book and heads into the wilderness on his own journey of self-discovery. >> in the book of the prophet isaiah, it says in the wilderness prepare the way of the lord. so they thought of that desert as wilderness and went out there to prepare for the coming of the lord. >> for 40 days and nights, he goes without food. he has been touched by god. now he must face the devil.
>> according to the gospel of luke, the devil takes jesus aside and tempts him three different ways. ♪ first he tempts him to turn rocks into bread. because he knows that jesus hasn't eaten and he's hungry. >> jesus casts him away with the words "it is written, one does not live by bread alone." >> the next one he offers him power. he offers him control over all
the kingdoms of the world. >> worship the lord, your god, and serve only him. >> and the third temptation, he takes him to the pinnacle, the highest point, and he tells jesus to fling himself off so that he can be rescued by angels. >> it is said do not put the lord your god to the test. >> we know that jesus doesn't fold. if it had been me, you'd have lost me at turning stones into bread. just imagine if you could get past the temptation of hunger when you haven't eaten for days. if he could make it through that trial, all the other ones were probably a piece of cake. >> john, too, is changed forever
fired up by his meeting with the coming messiah, jesus, john the baptist walks with a new sense of conviction. for all his appearance as the wild man of the desert, john knows what he is doing by speaking out against sin. fearless of the consequences, he vents his anger on the moral corruption of herod, the puppet ruler installed by palestine's roman overlords. herod of antipas. i'm here to warn you! >> in the first century, in the roman world, you weren't allowed to criticize a ruler. so someone like herod antipas had his own private army. he was watching everything very carefully. >> herod antipas was absolutely the worst kind of leader that you could hope for.
he really needed to prove himself to rome. and because of that, he was a little bit overzealous, let's say. >> with the protection of rome, herod antipas rules galilee with all the contempt of an auto autocrat. but herod has made his first serious miscalculation. he's turned his back on jewish law by marrying his brother's wife, herodias. >> this was in violation of a law in leviticus which says that a man must not uncover the nakedness of his brother's wife. >> herodias is the wife of your brother. >> john the baptist was very critical of the political regime. in particular, he was critical of herod for having married his brother's wife. and he was critical of their
immorality and their treatment of the people. >> jews feel themselves oppressed by a foreign power that they can't do anything about. john gives them a vision of someone who can do something about it. >> ignoring the peril, john openly accuses herod and his wife of violating jewish law. >> give up this woman! send her away! >> if john the baptist said out loud what everybody else was really murmuring about, then that put him in the category of someone who could be accused of sedition of treason. he would be like a terrorist. >> if john the baptist is successful in his campaign against herod antipas, it could spark a political revolution. john's provocation puts him in mortal danger as he enters a duel with the jewish leader in which only one man can emerge
the winner. >> repent or you should be >> you know, you've done this before. you know what you're doing. >> okay. well, we'll just have to see how it goes, i think. >> in kansas city, professor tom higham of oxford university is trying to figure out a way of drilling into a relic of john the baptist. >> i think it's best to go in here. >> he hopes to date the carbon inside the bone and perhaps even get a dna profile that can then be matched against the first century relic he has already tested from bulgaria. >> it's the collagen part of the bone that we want to date. that's the protein part. and that, in modern people, is about 20% by weight. but of course, in older materials, the collagen decays and degrades. and so it's often not present in that large an amount. and of course, when we're dating very small relics, tiny bones, it becomes very, very difficult to get a useful enough sample size if we're to extract the
collagen for dating. >> with limits to how far he can drill, he can't be sure they've got enough to determine whether this bone could have belonged to john the baptist. in jerusalem, the more john the baptist denounces herod, the more he risks inflaming herod's anger. with all the danger that could follow. >> you could talk about repentance and judgment day and maybe not get into much trouble. but you start to attack herod personally, and he's going to attack you personally. >> what's wrong? >> i see herod antipas as a really divided soul. he was really kind of caught between his ambition, his desire to rule and his desire for his wife. by marrying his wife, he had transgressed jewish law, and
that put him in a difficult situation as he sought the control of his power. >> a man insults your wife and you let him get away with it. >> herodias was a formidable character. >> you're not a man. you're a coward. >> she acts on her own desires, her own lust, and breaks laws by doing so. >> arrest him. >> humiliated by john, herod antipas is forced to put a stop to his verbal assaults. he arrests him as a threat to state security. and even then john will not be silenced. >> judgment is coming, herod! you are the criminal! not me! ♪ while you're watching this,
keep on pushing on. >> in the despair of his isolation, john now faces his own demons. >> john's had lots of time where he's in prison to think about the jesus movement and actually to worry about it. is this indeed the one that he had been prophesying, or wasn't it? >> alone in confinement, john starts to agonize over the wisdom of placing his faith in jesus as the coming messiah. >> this is someone who had a fire burning in his heart to change people's lives, to change society. and he had been thwarted. so that's the reason he reached out to jesus. are you really the one? because that could give him hope
from his prison cell. >> finally, john sends his followers on a mission to find jesus and ask an urgent question. >> forgive us our sins for we also forgive those who sin against us. >> the answer that comes back from jesus will prove one of the most famous moments in the new testament. >> jesus asks these disciples to tell john that he's doing all these things. it's all about action. >> you met with him. >> yeah. >> what did he say? >> the good news is preached to the poor. the lame walk. the blind see. i'm doing all of this stuff, john. so i am what you expected to happen. >> as he languishes in his prison cell, jesus' words are like a comforting balm to john the baptist, filling him with courage for what lies ahead.
♪ >> he believes that this really is the messiah and that all of the injustice that john has witnessed in the world is about to be righted. >> confess your sins. god will see who you truly are. >> john's stinging attack on herod's immoral marriage to his brother's wife humiliates herod at court. even with john in jail, herodias is still not satisfied. she seeks revenge and demands herod deals with the outspoken prophet once and for all. >> he had criticized herod for divorcing his wife and then marrying his half-brother's wife. >> confess your sins. >> but he knew what it was really about was that he was a threat. >> prepare the way of the lord.
>> while herod seems reluctant to go further, herodias knows prison will never silence john's smears on her honor. according to the gospel of mark, herodias makes her move against john at a banquet for herod's birthday where her daughter salome is providing the entertainment. ♪ it may seem like a harmless dance, but it's part of an elaborate plot by herodias to force herod's hand. she has instructed salome to dazzle herod so he will do
exactly what herodias wants. herod agrees to grant her whatever she desires. she pleased herod and his guests, and the king said to the girl, ask me for whatever you wish, and i will give it. and he solemnly swore to her, whatever you ask me, i will give you, even half of my kingdom. >> it was a parlor game. the result of a good dance. >> mother, what should i ask? >> for herodias, it's the chance she's been scheming for, to finally rid herself of her tormenter. >> give me the head of john the
baptist. ♪ >> guards! >> i think when john the baptist realizes that herod is going to execute him is this astonishing sense of ending and conclusion. and he knew, as a prophet, this is the completion of a prophetic call. >> the scientific quest to date the kansas city finger bone attributed to john the baptist is reaching its climax. successful in retrieving enough material for an accurate reading at oxford university's archaeology research lab, they prepare the sample for the accelerator mass spectrometer. the machine will analyze the
amount of radiocarbon in the sample and, through that, determine the relic's age. >> using scientific techniques now for first time it's really possible to build up a template of scientific similarities between different individuals who understand more about the movement and the passage of relics across this part of the world during the first millennium a.d. >> now the scientists' work is done. they can only wait for a final answer. could this bone belong to john the baptist? of a better network. get up to 50% off our hottest android smartphones, like the samsung galaxy s6. only till december 27th.
visionary prophet. impassioned preacher. fearless revolutionary. following herod's sentence of death, john the baptist awaits his fate. >> there's nothing in scripture that would cause me to believe that he had doubts or even fear in that moment. >> john was executed as a cautionary tale to others that might stand up publicly against them as john did. >> in 2010, the world of archaeology was galvanized by
the discovery in bulgaria of a relic whose date and dna are compatible with those of john the baptist. in oxford's archaeology lab, tom and george wait for the results of this new test. as they work to build up a comprehensive date map of john the baptist's relics across europe, could this latest test match the individual from bulgaria? >> here's the actual date between 661 to 770 a.d. >> right. >> so that's much younger than john the baptist.
it's not john the baptist. >> so it's not the same finger that we looked at in bulgaria. >> the result isn't surprising to me. there are many bones attributed to john the baptist. and they can't all be. in this particular case, using radiocarbon, we've managed to show that the date from this particular bone is about six centuries later than it ought to be. >> we've tested now two relics of john the baptist. we had one date from the 1st century and one from the 7th or 8th century and we're just starting to get a feel for what there is out there. so it's very exciting. it gives us a new bit of information. i'm hopeful that we'll go forward from here and ask more questions and test more relics. >> for tom and george, the investigation goes on. with as many as 200 relics associated with john the baptist, they hope they may once again find a piece that could be a match for him bringing science closer to the man who may actually have been jesus' blood relation. >> the science does matter. even if a relic is 1,000 years old or 1500 years old, venerating a relic maintains that connection with the tradition, with our past. >> we hear from the gospels that when jesus heard that john died, he actually withdrew into the
wilderness and spent some time on his own. it was obviously a traumatic event in jesus' life. >> the idea of someone dear to you that had been beheaded must have struck his heart, but it didn't change anything about the mission. in fact, it must have emboldened him. >> jesus saw john as the catalyst for change. as the person that signaled now was the hinge, now was the turning point in the story. >> john the baptist was, in a sense, the model for jesus in that he never compromised. we see jesus in the same way even unto death. >> in mobilizing his followers to repent and turn towards god,
john the baptist had dared to speak truth unto power. and for this, he pays the ultimate price. >> i think he understood that he was a martyr. he was a martyr in the cause of something greater. he was the martyr in the cause of a beautiful kingdom of god on earth, which is what he had preached all his life. >> i see jesus and john as being very similar in terms of their conception of god, in terms of what they wanted people to do, in terms of their call for repentance, in this idea that the world would be transformed. and they're calling people really to start it in the here and now. >> in the wake of john's death, many of his followers turn to jesus as john's movement slowly declines. eclipsed by the new growing christian church whose message spreads across the world. >> john's disciples are still
around long after the death of jesus. perhaps the biggest difference is that ultimately, in the early jesus movement, there's an appeal to gentiles and as soon as the gentiles are converting to this new movement, we get a much more successful global kind of mission. >> but john's voice can still be heard in a very direct way through one of jesus' most famous teachings, the lord's prayer itself. >> father, hallowed be thy name. >> the words spoken by jesus were directly inspired by john. >> give us this day our daily bread. forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
the true cross. the actual cross that jesus of nazareth was crucified on. wood infused with his blood and tears. >> it is literally the scaffolding upon which jesus saved the world. >> but the relic was thought to be lost to history. then, a roman empress, helena, sets off on a dramatic quest to find it. >> helena changed everything. >> the discovery of the cross is shrouded in mystery. there is intrigue. there's murder. there's sex. e'