An example of a tri-fold scroll and
bulla with an impression of the string.
A bulla is a hardened clay seal impression.
When an official document was written on papyrus, it would be rolled and folded into thirds and
tied with a string. A lump of clay would be pressed into the string and impressed by a seal from the signet ring of
the writer or official. Dried with the seal's impression, the bulla would guarantee the validity of the document while
in transient as a message or in archival storage.
Conflicts involving destructive fires hardened the bullae so that they were impervious to normal
erosion and decay; thus, hundreds of bullae have been recovered by archeological excavations and clandestine diggers.
In many instances the underside of the bullae still have remains of the embedded strings.
At this time, four bullae indirectly confirm the historical existence of the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah, the author
of the books Jeremiah and Lamentations, was a major prophet during the decline and fall of the southern kingdom of
Judah. Prophesying about 40 years during the reigns of the last five kings of Judah, Jeremiah began his ministry in
the 13th year of Josiah's reign (626 B.C.) until the capture of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in the 11th year of
Zedekiah's reign (586 B.C.).
The book of Jeremiah is an account of Jeremiah's life and prophetic messages, and Lamentations is
Jeremiah's song of mourning over Jerusalem's destruction, which he saw and experienced.
Chosen by God (Jer 1:5-10) to confront His people,
Jeremiah warned the nation of Judah of their covenant rebellion and exhorted their return to God. Salvation was through
God not by military alliances with Assyria, Egypt or Babylonia.
Despite fierce opposition to his message of divine judgment
(Jer 26:8; 38:6-9),
Jeremiah becomes God's means of announcing a New Covenant between God and His people
The first bulla, known as the Baruch Bulla, was discovered in 1975 and sold to an antiquities collector who
allowed Israeli archaeologist Nahman Avigad to study and publish the finding. Dated to the late 7th or early 6th
century B.C., the bulla measures 17 by 16 mm, and is stamped with an oval seal, 13 by 11 mm. A single line borders
the impression, and it is divided by double horizontal lines into three registers bearing the following inscription:
Pre-exilic ancient Hebrew linear script and its translation
lbrkyhw: Belonging to Berechiah
The translation reveals that this bulla was from the impression of Baruch ben Neriah, and confirms the historical
existence of the scribe who wrote to the dictation of the prophet Jeremiah
Later in 1996, a second bulla was found with the identical impression indicated that it was made with the same seal.
Also impressed was a partial fingerprint which many speculate as the actual fingerprint of Baruch himself.
Avigad published his findings on a second bulla which was the impression of the seal of Baruch's brother Seraiah.
The translation of the second bulla was "Belonging to Seraiah Neriah."
Seraiah ben Neriah was the brother of Jeremiah's scribe Baruch ben Neriah. The Bible records
Seraiah as a manager of the household of king Zedkiah and, when captive in Babylon, carried a message from Jeremiah
predicting the destruction of Babylon (Jer 51:59-64).
There is little doubt that the Seraiah bulla confirms the historical existence of the biblical Seraiah ben Neriah.
The third and fourth bullae, discovered by Israeli archeologist Eilat Mazar in 2005 and 2008, are significant in
that two 2,600 year old bullae confirm two biblical names that appear in the same biblical verse
The translation of the third bulla reads, "Yehuchal (or Jehucal)] ben Shelemyahu (Shelemiah)".
The translation of the fourth bulla reads, "Gedalyahu (Gedaliah) ben Pashur".
Biblical accounts record Jehucal son of Shelemiah and Gedaliah son of Pashhur as two officials
of king Zedekiah who disagreed with Jeremiah's prophetic message, and in response, imprisoned Jeremiah in a cistern
to die (Jer 38:1-6).
As with the first two bullae, there is little doubt that the biblical officials, Jehucal son Shelemiah and Gedaliah
son of Pashhur, were true historical figures.
With these four bullae, with the same dating, confirming the historical existence of characters mentioned in
the book of Jeremiah, they indirectly confirm the historicity of the prophet Jeremiah and a basis supporting the
view of his work as non-fiction. This is significant, because through Jeremiah, God reveals the New Covenant.
1. Schoville KN, "Top Ten Archaeological Discoveries of the Twentieth Century Relating to the Biblical World" in Stone Campbell Journal, vol 4, no. 1, Cincinnati: Stone-Campbell International, (2001).
2. "Jeremiah, Prophet of the Bible, Brought Back to Life", from the website Bible History Daily.