(Biblical Archaeology Society) On May 23, 2012 the Israel Antiquities Authority announced the discovery of a 2,700 year old bulla bearing an inscription reading “Bethlehem.” The discovery marks the earliest known mention of ancient Bethlehem, a city best remembered as Jesus’ birthplace centuries later.
A bulla, or stamped piece of clay used to seal a document or container, was used to mark the identity of the sender or author of a document, and was an essential means of marking ownership in ancient transactions. The 1.5 cm bulla found at the City of David in Jerusalem bears the inscription:
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Ancient Bethlehem plays a central role in the Hebrew Bible before its New Testament prominence as Jesus’ birthplace. First mentioned in the Bible as Ephrath in Genesis 35 during the burial of Rachel,* ancient Bethlehem played an important role in the life (and birth) of King David. The city, located just 5 miles south of Jerusalem, is best known from the Gospels as Jesus’ birthplace.