Archaeologists say they have a "fantastic discovery" of a 2,700-year-old clay seal found in Jerusalem that possibly belonged to Isaiah, which would make it the first piece of evidence concerning the prophet found outside the Bible.
Author and archaeologist Eilat Mazar wrote in an article in Biblical Archaeology Review on Wednesday titled "Is This the Prophet Isaiah's Signature?" that that ancient Hebrew script found on a half-inch oval of clay, dating back to the eighth century B.C., could potentially have belonged to Isaiah the prophet.
The book of Isaiah in the Old Testament describes prophecies about the coming Messiah hundreds of years before Jesus Christ was born, with the Apostle Matthew quoting Isaiah later on in the New Testament when talking about John the Baptist's ministry.
The piece of clay, also called a bulla, was one of 34 of its kind originally found during the Ophel excavations at the southern wall of Jerusalem's Temple Mount in 2009. The seals were found in Iron Age garbage pits, originally located outside the wall.
National Geographic added that if the lettering on the seal is correct, it would be the first known link to Isaiah outside the Bible.
Mazar noted that the seal impression was found next to one of King Hezekiah, another biblical figure.
"It would not be the first time that seal impressions of two biblical personas, mentioned in the same verse in the Bible, were found in an archaeological context," she wrote.
"In our City of David excavations (2005–2008), the seal impressions of Yehukhal ben Sheleḿiyahu ben Shovi and Gedaliyahu ben Pashḥur, high officials in King Ẓedekiah's court (Jeremiah 38:1), were found only a few feet apart," she continued.
"Furthermore, according to the Bible, the names of King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah are mentioned in one breath 14 of the 29 times the name of Isaiah is recalled (2 Kings 19–20; Isaiah 37–39). No other figure was closer to King Hezekiah than the prophet Isaiah."
Despite the excitement surrounding the find, the archaeologist explained that it's possible that the seal doesn't belong to the prophet Isaiah, but one of the king's officials who was also named Isaiah.
One obstacle to confirming the identity of the signature, she explained, is that the word "prophet" is not legible on the bulla.
She noted that either way, questions remain about what the seal says.
"However, the close relationship between Isaiah and King Hezekiah, as described in the Bible, and the fact the bulla was found next to one bearing the name of Hezekiah seem to leave open the possibility that, despite the difficulties presented by the bulla's damaged area, this may have been a seal impression of Isaiah the prophet, adviser to King Hezekiah," Mazar noted.
The archaeologist continued: "Whether or not the bulla we found in the Ophel excavations is the bulla of the prophet Isaiah, it remains, nevertheless, a unique and fantastic discovery.
"Finding this bulla leads us to consider the personality and the proximity of the prophet Isaiah as one of the closest advisors to King Hezekiah — not only with regard to the events of his time, but also in assessing them from an informed perspective and foreseeing their influence over future events."