This Could Prove Biblical Prophet's Existence. Or Not

Clay seal reading 'Isaiah' up for debate
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 22, 2018 10:00 AM CST
Is the seal the real deal?   (Getty Images/fotokris)

(Newser) – A clay seal found in an ancient garbage pit in Jerusalem might have belonged to the prophet Isaiah, who's described as predicting the virgin birth and Jesus' death in the Old Testament. Or, less exciting, it might have belonged to some random guy named Isaiah. At present, it's impossible to know for sure, but there are clues that point to the famous Isaiah as the seal's owner, which, if true, would mean the first evidence of the prophet's existence outside of the Bible, per the Daily Beast. Why the uncertainty? As archaeologist Eilat Mazar explains in the Biblical Archaeology Review, the 2,700-year-old seal is damaged, so only a portion of its impression is visible. While it might have once read, "Belonging to Isaiah the prophet," it now shows the name Isaiah ("Yesha'yah[u]" in Hebrew) and "nvy," reports National Geographic.

If the Hebrew letter aleph appeared with "nvy"—Mazar notes it might be obscured by damage—this second word would read "prophet." "Without an aleph at the end, the word 'nvy' is most likely just a personal name," Mazar tells the Jerusalem Post. There's other evidence that keeps her interest sparked, however. Mazar notes the half-inch seal was found just 10 feet from another seal bearing the personal mark of King Hezekiah, whom the prophet Isaiah served as an adviser, according to the Hebrew Bible. The timing is right, too, as Hezekiah reigned from the late eighth to the early seventh century BC. Yet with no aleph on the seal, the prophet's ownership of it "cannot be confirmed," expert Christopher Rollston tells National Geographic. (This find may support the biblical story of King Solomon.)

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