Raphael Golb’s Dead Sea Scroll Conviction Affirmed By New York’s Highest Court

Is he headed to jail?

On May 13 New York’s highest court affirmed the criminal conviction of Raphael Golb, son of Dead Sea Scroll scholar Norman Golb. The younger Golb had tried to support his father’s minority view of the scrolls by sending a number of fraudulent emails using pseudonyms. One of the younger Golb’s emails purported to come from Frank Moore Cross, perhaps the leading Dead Sea Scroll scholar at the time. Raphael Golb wrote other emails supposedly signed by Lawrence Schiffman, a prominent Dead Sea Scroll scholar then at NYU, in which Schiffman confesses to having stolen the elder Golb’s ideas and palming them off as his own.

Raphael Golb

Norman Golb

The court did, however, reverse 10 of the 30 counts in the indictment. In light of this, the case will be remanded to the trial judge to reconsider the appropriate penalty considering that he has been convicted on 20 rather than 30 counts. Originally Raphael Golb was sentenced to 6 months in jail and 5 years of probation.

To view the Court of Appeals’ lengthy opinions (23 pages), click here. Read the full story below.

In this case Raphael Golb, a New York lawyer and son of Norman Golb, a well known Dead Sea Scroll scholar from the University of Chicago, was convicted of criminal conduct for sending emails impersonating prominent Dead Sea Scroll scholars who supposedly agreed with his father’s minority views. In one instance the younger Golb, impersonating prominent Dead Sea Scholar Lawrence Schiffman, then of New York University, confessed to having plagiarized the elder Golb’s ideas and presented them as Schiffman’s own.

In its lengthy opinion, New York’s highest court described two scholarly views of the origins of the scrolls. One it denominated the Qumran-Sectarian theory, according to which the scrolls originated with a Jewish sect living at Qumran, generally believed to be the Essenes. The other view, championed by the elder Golb, the court called the Jerusalem-Libraries theory. According to the Jerusalem-Libraries theory, the scrolls were brought to the caves near Qumran from various libraries in Jerusalem in an effort to rescue them from the impending Roman attack on Jerusalem, which culminated in 70 C.E. with the burning of the city and destruction of the Temple.

Interested in the history and meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls? In the FREE eBook Dead Sea Scrolls, learn what the Dead Sea Scrolls are and why are they important. Find out what they tell us about the Bible, Christianity and Judaism.

The younger Golb sent a large number of emails to a variety of recipients in which he impersonated various Dead Sea Scroll scholars, supposedly supporting the elder Golb’s views. Among those impersonated by the younger Golb was the then-most prominent American Dead Sea Scroll scholar, Harvard’s Frank Moore Cross, who has since died. In this way, Raphael Golb targeted various scholars who disagreed with his father.

In what is perhaps the most egregious instance, Raphael Golb impersonated Lawrence Schiffman, then of NYU. When Schiffman was scheduled to lecture at a Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit, Raphael Golb, using the pseudonym Peter Kaufman, put an article on the web accusing Schiffman of “repeated plagiarism of [Norman] Golb’s work.” Then, using Schiffman’s name, Golb sent around emails confessing to the plagiarism. The supposed emails from Schiffman stated that “someone is intent on exposing a minor failing of mine that dates back almost fifteen years ago” and that my “career is at stake.” These fake emails were sent to Schiffman’s provost and dean at NYU. In this email, Schiffman supposedly confessed:

“It is true that I should have cited Dr. Golb’s articles when using his arguments, and it is true that I misrepresented his ideas. But this is simply the politics of Dead Sea Scrolls studies.”

The provost responded, supposedly to Schiffman but actually to Raphael Golb, that he, the provost, had assigned the matter to a dean for further investigation. Then Raphael Golb sent copies of this email from the provost plus the fake email in which Schiffman supposedly confessed to the plagiarism to five NYU student newspapers, asking them not to mention this matter, signed “Lawrence Schiffman.”

Purchase your copy of Freeing the Dead Sea Scrolls, author and BAR editor Hershel Shanks’s fascinating account of his scrapes with governments, nomads and scoundrels in a quest to make these vital tools of academic study available to the wider world.

A jury convicted Raphael Golb on 30 counts; the judge sentenced the defendant to six months in jail and five years of probation. On the defendant’s appeal to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, the conviction was affirmed.

Golb then appealed to the highest court of New York, the Court of Appeals. For various legal reasons the court reversed Golb’s conviction on ten counts, but affirmed his conviction on the remainder. Even regarding some counts that were reversed, the court observed that Raphael Golb’s impersonation of Schiffman (and others) was “more than a prank intended to cause temporary embarrassment or discomfiture, and that he acted with intent to do real harm.”

The defendant has 90 days from the date of the New York Court of Appeals’ decision to ask the United States Supreme Court to hear his case. Otherwise, the case will be sent back to the trial judge for resentencing in light of the fact that the conviction on some of the counts has been reversed.


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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Posted in Archaeologists, Biblical Scholars & Works, Dead Sea Scrolls, News.

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12 Responses

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  1. alex says

    sooooo he wanted to convince others (by fraudelant means) that the dead sea scrolls were put in the caves 70 ad instead of the (generally held opinion) of 200 bc? y would he care? o yea cause if they were there 200 b.c than that puts a dent in the whole “the prophecies were written after the events” theory for much of the prophecies.

    sorry I just was pondering.

  2. John says

    Go to jail and do your time, Raphael. It annoys many that deep pockets and conniving allows people like you to avoid justice. Pay your debt and move on.

  3. Marge says

    He is nothing but a damn thief. Trying to discredit and steal another’s reputation that has been years in the making. He should get years in jail not months. His father must be oh so proud of junior.

  4. Sidney says

    It shows how bogus Golb senior’s theory is that Golb junior has to resort to fraud to support it. No one takes it seriously.

  5. lawrence says

    H.S. : I am surprised that a distinguished scholar such as yourself could write such a biased article. You left out the key judicial fact that one of the charges reversed by the court was the only felony charge. This means, then, that Raphael Golb does not stand convicted of any felonies, only misdemeanors. THIS is why the sentence was remanded to the trial judge for reconsideration. .

    You also left out the fact that the Chief Justice of the Court dissented from the majority decision and concluded that all the charges should be dismissed.

    All this is not to defend Raphal Golb’s childish and reprehensible behavior.

    The comments of Alex, John, Marge, and Sidney are beneath contempt.

  6. Jerry says

    I was a camp-mate and a school-mate of Norman, and I can only feel utter sympathy for what has happened. I have not been in touch with Norman for 70+ years, but he is a man who would take himself and his own work very seriously, and is probably deeply bereaved by the events following the disclosure of his son’s crimes. I cannot judge Norman’s work compared to any other theory, but frankly, I believe it is all, in the end, a matter of tentativeness that attends to all theories that are derived from the commonly-found incompleteness of knowledge of ancient documents and their sources. Whatever determined his son’s actions may never be known outside the family, but it is a tragic culmination to come towards the end of a scholar’s career.

  7. Quixote says

    I was puzzled to read such a biased presentation of the facts in a distinguished scholarly journal like Biblical Archaeology.

    The author fails to mention not only that the vacated convictions include the felony, but also that the court declared New York’s aggravated harassment statute to be unconstitutional — a hideous embarrassment for the District Attorney, with 900 pending cases now to be dismissed. This is something civil rights groups had been trying to accomplish without success for the past 25 years; but, more importantly for our topic, it has been suggested that these charges were used to poison the trial atmosphere against Raphael Golb by “wreaking prejudicial havoc and deflecting attention from the real issues.” This statement appears on the widely read blog of former prosecutor Scott Greenfield. See:


    See also the pertinent discussion by Jacob Sullum, writing in Reason:


    Why no link to these important commentaries in such an important article in Biblical Archaeology? This failure itself seems to point to the author’s bias — an impression compounded by his failure to mention the chief judge’s important dissent, which argues that the convictions are “at odds with the First Amendment and the free and uninhibited exchange of ideas it is meant to foster,” The chief judge’s argument will undoubtedly play a role in further appellate litigation.

    Finally, the author arguably misrepresents the nature of Raphael Golb’s blogging and email campaign, which, I believe it is fair to say, did not “promote N. Golb’s theory” as the media has been suggesting, but rather protested — in a manner that was certainly unwise, but not uncomprehensible — against the well-known exclusion of N. Golb from ordinary channels of debate, as well as against other alleged misconduct of the particular group of academics who have, according to R. Golb, been blackballing N. Golb. See N. Golb’s pertinent article at:


    and, in general, see the case documentation at


  8. kenneth says

    I am not saying a jail term is required in this case, but the defenders of Raphael are trying to avoid speaking directly of his actions by speaking of the court case. Even if he got off on all charges due to a procedural problem it wouldn’t change the fact that his actions were underhanded and reprehensible.
    Of course there is no way his crude ruse could have gone undetected, so I doubt that it would have jeopardized anyone’s job. However it did and still does affect the credibility of the people he pretended to be as retractions are always buried.
    It matters not there are no felony charges or that the chief judge noted a dissent. What is known and has been proven is that he has fraudulently injected himself into discussions, wasted the time of researchers, sullied a man’s character and is totally unrepentant.

  9. william says

    Methinks Quixote’s real name is Raphael.

  10. william says

    This would seem to be the most detailed account.


  11. Nathan says

    Sounds civil to me….. Let the guy go and let the bad guys take up for themselves…. And of course, the scrolls were written before the fact, not after…. Heretics beware. Good news from the defenders of Golb… God bless… Let’s get back to the miracle of the scroll discoveries and not this unfortunate ordeal….

  12. Artressa says

    Yes, Nathan, this should be a civil matter. If someone’s reputation was tarnished, there is redress through the civil courts in the form of defamation litigation. If the alleged victims of Raphael Golb are afraid to put the veracity of his various claims on trial, then perhaps there is a reason for their fear. Such a case does not rightly belong in the criminal courts, taking up huge resources to do the bidding of a few scholars, instead of devoting precious resources towards truly serious crimes.

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