In 2009, archaeologist Eilat Mazar discovered 33 bullae (small clay seal impressions) in the Ophel area of Jersualem. In 2015 she announced that one of the bullae bore the impression of the seal of King Hezekiah.  Now, she has announced that one of those bullae may belong to the Biblical prophet Isaiah.

Isaiah bulla

Discovery location

If valid, this would be the first archaeological evidence of the prophet.

The bulla in question was discovered less than 10 feet from King Hezekiah’s bulla.  Given the close relationship between the two men, it would not be surprising to bullae belonging to both of them in close proximity.  But is this truly the bulla of Isaiah the prophet?

The bulla measures less than ½” in diameter.  It is divided into three sections called “registers.”  The top and left portions of the bulla are damaged[1], so the top register is almost completely gone.  It appears to have contained no text, but merely an image of a grazing doe.

The middle register reads “(belonging) to Yesha’yah.”  This is the Hebrew spelling of “Isaiah,” lacking only a “u” at the end (Hebrew letter vav) due to the damage on the left side of the bulla.

It is virtually certain that this bulla originally contained the name Isaiah.  But which Isaiah was it?  There were many individuals who bore that name.  However, most people did not own seals.  Only those who were wealthy or involved in the business of the king would own a seal.  The lower register identifies which Isaiah the seal belonged to.

The lower register reads “Nvy.”  If these were the only letters present on the original seal, then this is the name of a person.  While Nvy is not found anywhere in the Bible, it is found on two bullae from Lachish, a seal impression on a jar handle, and other seals.  If this reading is correct, then the seal in question belonged to some unknown Isaiah, son of Nvy.  There is good reason to believe, however, that the seal contained one more letter at the end.  On the right side of the bulla we see the remnants of an oval outline formed by the seal.  If we extend the outline, we can reconstruct the size of the seal itself.  When doing so, it is obvious that there is enough room for one more letter at the end of Nvy.

Because seals were so small, they tended to use all available area, leaving no blank spaces.  There would be a blank space, however, if the word on the lower register ended in “y” (Hebrew yod).  If only three Hebrew letters were used on the lower register, we would expect for them to appear more centered in the register to eliminate the space and appear more symmetrical.  Since it is not centered, this suggests the presence of an additional letter.

What letter might that be?  The most natural reading would be the Hebrew word nvy’, which means prophet.  This word is formed by the simple addition of aleph to the end of Nvy.

If this is a title (“prophet”) rather than a surname (“Nvy”), however, one might expect for the Hebrew definite article (Hebrew letter heh) to appear before Nvy’ since most bullae that contain titles contain the definite article.  This is not definitive, however, since there is at least one known bulla that lacks the definite article.  Furthermore, the Bible does not always use the definite article with titles.  The use of the definite article seems to be optional.

It’s also possible that the Isaiah bulla did contain the definite article, but at the end of the second register following Isaiah’s name rather than at the beginning of the third register before “prophet.”  There is enough room for the heh after Isaiah’s name, and we know from other bullae (including the Hezekiah bulla) that words can be spread over more than one line, similar to the English practice of hyphenation.

So is this truly the seal of Isaiah the prophet?  We cannot be certain, but it’s highly suggested given the preponderance of evidence.  We know this bulla comes from right time (that of Hezekiah) and the right place (Jerusalem).  We know it belonged to a person named Isaiah.  Given the size of the seal, we know it’s likely that additional letters appeared on the damaged side.  And we know that if “nvy” contained one additional letter at the end, the most likely Hebrew word is the word for prophet.  There are good grounds, then, for concluding that this bulla bore the seal impression of the biblical prophet.  Of course, there is a possibility that the reconstruction is incorrect and this bulla belonged to Isaiah son of Nvy rather than Isaiah the prophet.  Perhaps a similar seal will be discovered in the future that will allow us to answer this question with certainty.  In the meantime, the mere probability that this bulla bears the seal image of Isaiah the prophet is a truly exciting prospect!

The Trumpet has a great :12 video exploring this find that I would recommend viewing:



[1]The top portion is missing while the left side was damaged 2700 years ago when someone touched the soft clay, flattening the seal impression. The fingerprint is still visible.


Unfortunately, someone took the scrolls from the cave years ago.  We can only wonder where those scrolls are now.

Two new books have been published reporting on the discovery of 25 Hebrew Bible texts, at least some of which may be part of the Dead Sea Scrolls.  There have been ~70 such texts that have appeared on the antiquities market since 2002.

The provenance of these manuscripts is uncertain since they were found on the antiquities market, but they may have come from the Qumran caves. They are believed to be ~2000 years old.

Nehemiah was the only book that was not found among the original Dead Sea Scrolls. This new cache of manuscripts, however, contains portions of Nehemiah (2:13-16), as well as Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Samuel, Ruth, Kings, Micah, Nehemiah, Jeremiah, Joel, Joshua, Judges, Proverbs, Numbers, Psalms, Ezekiel, and Jonah. Given the unknown provenance, however, the manuscript may not be part of the Dead Sea Scrolls, even if it dates from the same period of time.

Work is currently underway to investigate the manuscripts to make sure they are not forgeries.

News articles:

Live Science



hezekiah-toiletArchaeologists have uncovered what they believe to be a toilet in a pagan shrine in Lachish. We know the practice of installing a toilet to desecrate a shrine was practiced from an account of King Jehu doing so in 2 Kings 10:27. The toilet in question, however, dates to the time of Hezekiah. While there is no Biblical record of Hezekiah doing the same, 2 Kings 18:4 tells us that he destroyed pagan sacred places. It would not be unexpected that he also desecrated pagan sacred sites by installing toilets. Tests indicate the toilet in question was never used, and just had a symbolic purpose.



It was announced last week that another King Hezekiah bulla has been found (initially discovered in 2009).  This is a small clay seal (13×12 millimeters) used by Hezekiah to seal and authenticate a document. It was molded around the strings that tied the document shut. In fact, we can still see the impression from the fibers on this bulla.

We already had eight other bullae bearing King Hezekiah’s name, but they were unprovenanced. This new bulla was uncovered during an official excavation at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem by Dr. Eliat Mazar. It reads, “Belonging to Hezekiah, (son of) Ahaz, king of Judah.”

There’s a nice video on the find here.

The discovery of this bulla should remind us again that the Bible is not a book of fairy tales. It is written as history, and archaeological finds such as this prove that it is based on real historical people and real historical events.

"Jesus said to them, 'My wife'" highlighted.

“Jesus said to them, ‘My wife'” highlighted.

I had previously written about the so-called Jesus’ Wife fragment that was brought to the public’s attention in 2012 by Karen King of Harvard Divinity School (here, here, and here). It was greeted by a lot of controversy regarding its authenticity, with the evidence leaning heavy in the direction of forgery. We had been waiting for tests to be performed on the papyrus and ink for well over a year to see if they also pointed in the direction of forgery. Those results finally came out in April 2014. It turns out that the materials are old (~8th century A.D.), but not nearly as old as King initially suggested and the paleographic evidence indicated (4-5th century A.D.).

Despite the ~300 year difference between estimated age and actual age of the papyrus, this seemed to be a vindication for King against those who argued that it is a modern forgery.  But is it?  Couldn’t it be a modern forgery using ancient materials?  After all, no forger buys his paper at the local Wal-Mart!  We would expect a forger to use an old papyrus for his forgery, so an analysis of the materials alone is not sufficient to tell us whether this is a forgery (it can confirm forgery, but not preclude it).  The analysis of the contents (vocabulary, grammar, writing style, etc.) is equally important, if not more important than the material composition itself for evaluating authenticity.


James Ossuary

James Ossuary

Amnon Rosenfeld et al recently published an article in the Open Journal of Geology citing further evidence vindicating the authenticity of the James Ossuary.


HT: Ben Witherington


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