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Archaeological Evidence for the Bible and Book of Mormon Prophet Isaiah

Episode Transcript

Both the Bible and Book of Mormon have stakes in whether Isaiah was a real person . He is referenced in multiple biblical texts and is the most quoted prophet in the Book of Mormon. Yet some scholars have questioned whether Isaiah actually existed in history.

On that front, we’ve great news, as brought to light in a landmark publication from 2018. Respected Hebrew University archaeologist Eilat Mazar and her team uncovered an eighth-century seal impression that possibly reads “Isaiah the prophet.” A seal impression is kind of like a fossil of a signature. In the ancient Near East, people would “sign” their names on documents and property by pressing a signature bulla into clay and making a signature impression. And this particular impression contains writing in paleo-Hebrew that says l’Yesha’yah[u], or “belonging to Isaiah.”

These words take up the first readable line. The second line contains only a partial word, with the paleo-Hebrew letters for N-B-Y. Now, depending on what the missing letters are, this second line could potentially spell the word in Hebrew for “prophet” or nabi. If this seal impression does indeed say “belonging to Isaiah the prophet,” then this would almost certainly belong to the actual eight-century prophet as described in the Old Testament.

And where it was found is also important. It was discovered in a carefully conducted archaeological excavation directly south and east of Jerusalem’s temple mount. And, get this, it was unearthed only 10 feet away from the seal of King Hezekiah. He was the king over Judah during Isaiah’s prophetic ministry and occasionally consulted with Isaiah during his reign.

So between the inscription on the seal impression, the dating to the eight-century, and its location in Jerusalem next to Hezekiah’s seal, there is a good chance this belonged to THE Isaiah of the Old Testament.

Second Nephi is full of quotations from Isaiah, and later on in Third Nephi, Jesus Christ even declared, “great are the words of Isaiah”. So, for Latter-day Saints, a lot rides on his existence. And while this recently published archaeological evidence doesn’t prove Isaiah was a prophet or even that he composed all the writings attributed to him, it offers good support for his historical reality. And that’s a pretty big deal.