A New York appellate court has affirmed the criminal conviction of Raphael Golb, son of Dead Sea Scroll scholar Norman Golb, for impersonating another Dead Sea Scroll scholar, Lawrence Schiffman. In this guise, Schiffman (actually an email account Raphael Golb created in Shiffman’s name) admitted to plagiarizing the work of Raphael Golb’s father Norman.
Norman Golb and Schiffman had been at odds in their interpretation of the scrolls. (Schiffman was not the only Scroll scholar who disagreed with Norman Golb. A recent book on the scrolls by Yale’s John Collins characterized Norman Golb’s view as “not respected in the scholarly community.”*) By the impersonating emails, Raphael Golb hoped to help his father’s case.
Raphael Golb appealed his conviction by a jury for which the trial judge had sentenced him to six months in jail. The three-judge appellate court unanimously affirmed the conviction.
In his appeal, Raphael Golb argued that his impersonation of Lawrence Schiffman was only a parody. In essence, he was only kidding, not to be taken seriously. The court rejected this argument: “The evidence clearly established that the defendant never intended any kind of parody.”
Raphael Golb also argued that his emails in Schiffman’s name were constitutionally protected free speech. This too the upper court rejected: “The fact that the underlying dispute between defendant and his father’s rivals was a constitutionally-protected debate does not provide any First Amendment protection for acts that were otherwise unlawful … The First Amendment protects the right to criticize another person, but it does not permit anyone to give an intentionally false impression that the source of the message is that other person.” [Emphasis in original]
Raphael Golb made numerous other arguments which the court summarily rejected. **
Raphael Golb, who is himself a lawyer, may still appeal to New York’s highest appellate court, the New York Court of Appeals. If he loses there, he may ask the United States Supreme Court to hear his case.
* John J. Collins, The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Biography (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton Univ. Press, 2013), p. 217.
** For those interested in litigation strategy, also often applicable to scholarly debate, see Judge Learned Hand’s approbation of a distinguished lawyer who had the wisdom to rely on his strongest argument: “He dared to rest his case upon its strongest point, and so avoided the appearance of weakness and uncertainty which comes of a clutter of arguments. Few lawyers are willing to do this; it is a mark of the most distinguished talent.” “In Memory of Charles Neave,” in Irving Dilliard, ed., The Spirit of Liberty, Papers and Addresses of Learned Hand (New York: Knopf, 1959), p. 97.
Interested in Dead Sea Scrolls scholarship? The BAS DVD The Scrolls, Scripture and Interpretation explores the meaning and significance of these thousands of fragments and manuscripts in relation to the Biblical text and covenants. Learn directly from renowned scholars Peter W. Flint, Sidnie White Crawford, Ronald S. Hendel, James Sanders and Henry W.M. Reitz. Read more >>
Related Content in the BAS Library
“Strata: Raphael Golb Convicted,” Biblical Archaeology Review, January/February 2011.
“Strata: Scroll Scholar’s Son Indicted for Identity Theft to Support Father’s Views,” Biblical Archaeology Review, November/December 2009.
Lawrence H. Schiffman and Geza Vermes, “The Dead Sea Scrolls: How They Changed My Life,” Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August 2007.
Lawrence H. Schiffman, “Bible Books,” Bible Review, August 2001.
Lawrence H. Schiffman, “New Light on the Pharisees,” Bible Review, June 1992.
Lawrence H. Schiffman, “The Significance of the Scrolls,” Bible Review, October 1990.
Baruch Halpern and Lawrence H. Schiffman, “Bible Books,” Bible Review, Summer 1986.
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