Seals of Hezekiah, Isaiah focus attention on Herbert W. Armstrong offshoot

Religion News Service | 11/7/2018 | Staff
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(RNS) — Two tiny clay seals attributed to King Hezekiah of Judah and an Isaiah who could be the biblical prophet have drawn global notice this year — and raised the visibility of a tiny American church involved in their discovery.

Called bullae, the seals were discovered in a 2009 archaeological dig in Jerusalem under the direction of Eilat Mazar of Hebrew University. The items were found in the same layer of earth within a few yards of each other, suggesting they came from the same time period. It’s also known from biblical accounts that Hezekiah frequently consulted the prophet.

Isaiah - Seal - Prophet - Clay - Piece

However, it’s not certain the Isaiah seal is that of the prophet: The small clay piece is inscribed “Isaiah nvi,” omitting the Hebrew vowel aleph that would form the word navi, or prophet, according to a report Mazar published in a special issue of Biblical Archaeology Review magazine earlier this year.

Among the assistants processing the area where the seals were found were two students from Herbert W. Armstrong College in Edmond, Okla., operated by the Philadelphia Church of God. The group, which says it has around 5,000 baptized members meeting in congregations around the world, is one of the larger offshoots of the Worldwide Church of God, which was founded by Armstrong but underwent massive schisms after his death in 1986.

Jan - Seals - Exhibit - Philadelphia - Church

Through Jan. 27, the seals are on exhibit at the Philadelphia Church’s headquarters in Edmond, a city of about 95,000 just north of Oklahoma City. The display at the group’s Armstrong Auditorium, the first public exhibition of the seals, has drawn more than 5,000 visitors so far, officials said.

“Both the Hezekiah and the Isaiah bullae are credible, provenanced discoveries,” said Robert R. Cargill, an assistant professor of classics and religious studies at the University of Iowa who also edits Biblical Archaeology Review.

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