BIBLE HISTORY DAILY

Dead Sea Scrolls Scholar’s Son Off to Jail

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.

Raphael Golb

Norman Golb

Lawrence Schiffman

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.”


What is the significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls? Why are they so important to our understanding of the Bible, Christianity and Judaism? In our free eBook The Dead Sea Scrolls: Discovery and Meaning, find out what the scrolls tell us about the Bible, Christianity and Judaism.

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.


Visit the Scholar’s Study page on the Raphael Golb trial for coverage of the case.


 

Notes:

* 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.


 

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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10 Responses

  1. Geoff Hudson says:

    Regardless of any legal considerations, I am very grateful to Raphael that he has stirred the pot. Of this I am now sure: that the scrolls found near the Dead Sea were not produced at Qumran by a sect, but in Jerusalem by the priests of the day.

  2. Quixote says:

    The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers has filed an amicus brief specifically concerning this case… (Perhaps BAR should contact the court and join the brief? We know how much Hershel believes in justice.) The brief is posted online at:

    http://raphaelgolbtrial.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/raphael-golb-amicus-brief.pdf

  3. Aviv says:

    My comment was garbled. I will try once more and give up if it doesn’t work:

    Raphael Golb has so far not been “sent to jail”; his sentence has been stayed by the New York Court of Appeals in Albany which has granted Golb’s request to have the case heard. See:

    http://www.volokh.com/2013/03/15/new-yorks-highest-court-agrees-to-hear-the-golb-dead-sea-scrolls-e-mail-impersonation-case/

    Meanwhile, Lawrence Schiffman’s lawyer has exchanged words concerning the case with Prof. Eugene Volokh of UCLA. See:

    http://www.volokh.com/2013/03/13/prof-lawrence-schiffmans-lawyer-demands-removal-of-post-containing-the-text-of-a-court-opinion/

    http://blog.simplejustice.us/2013/03/13/schiffman-meet-streisand.aspx

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130314/17275122332/internet-is-baseless-legal-threats-popehat-greenfield-volokh-triple-streisand-edition.shtml

    Hershel’s note on choosing the “strongest argument” is somewhat unclear given the number of different charges involved in the case. Is he suggesting Golb should have refrained from any discussion of the satirical nature of Internet impersonation, or perhaps that he should have focused only on the “harassment” counts, under which he was convicted for sending anonymous email complaints with the intent to “annoy” the people he was complaining about?

  4. Aviv says:

    Raphael Golb has so far not been “sent to jail”; his sentence has been stayed by the New York Court of Appeals in Albany which has granted Golb’s request to have the case heard.

    See:

    Meanwhile, Lawrence Schiffman’s lawyer has exchanged words concerning the case with Prof. Eugene Volokh of UCLA.

    http://www.volokh.com/2013/03/15/new-yorks-highest-court-agrees-to-hear-the-golb-dead-sea-scrolls-e-mail-impersonation-case/

    http://www.volokh.com/2013/03/13/prof-lawrence-schiffmans-lawyer-demands-removal-of-post-containing-the-text-of-a-court-opinion/

    http://blog.simplejustice.us/2013/03/13/schiffman-meet-streisand.aspx

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130314/17275122332/internet-is-baseless-legal-threats-popehat-greenfield-volokh-triple-streisand-edition.shtml

    Hershel’s note on choosing the “strongest argument” is somewhat unclear given the number of different charges involved in the case. Is he suggesting Golb should have refrained from any discussion of the satirical nature of Internet impersonation, or perhaps that he should have focused only on the “harassment” counts, under which he was convicted for sending anonymous email complaints with the intent to “annoy” the people he was complaining about?

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10 Responses

  1. Geoff Hudson says:

    Regardless of any legal considerations, I am very grateful to Raphael that he has stirred the pot. Of this I am now sure: that the scrolls found near the Dead Sea were not produced at Qumran by a sect, but in Jerusalem by the priests of the day.

  2. Quixote says:

    The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers has filed an amicus brief specifically concerning this case… (Perhaps BAR should contact the court and join the brief? We know how much Hershel believes in justice.) The brief is posted online at:

    http://raphaelgolbtrial.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/raphael-golb-amicus-brief.pdf

  3. Aviv says:

    My comment was garbled. I will try once more and give up if it doesn’t work:

    Raphael Golb has so far not been “sent to jail”; his sentence has been stayed by the New York Court of Appeals in Albany which has granted Golb’s request to have the case heard. See:

    http://www.volokh.com/2013/03/15/new-yorks-highest-court-agrees-to-hear-the-golb-dead-sea-scrolls-e-mail-impersonation-case/

    Meanwhile, Lawrence Schiffman’s lawyer has exchanged words concerning the case with Prof. Eugene Volokh of UCLA. See:

    http://www.volokh.com/2013/03/13/prof-lawrence-schiffmans-lawyer-demands-removal-of-post-containing-the-text-of-a-court-opinion/

    http://blog.simplejustice.us/2013/03/13/schiffman-meet-streisand.aspx

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130314/17275122332/internet-is-baseless-legal-threats-popehat-greenfield-volokh-triple-streisand-edition.shtml

    Hershel’s note on choosing the “strongest argument” is somewhat unclear given the number of different charges involved in the case. Is he suggesting Golb should have refrained from any discussion of the satirical nature of Internet impersonation, or perhaps that he should have focused only on the “harassment” counts, under which he was convicted for sending anonymous email complaints with the intent to “annoy” the people he was complaining about?

  4. Aviv says:

    Raphael Golb has so far not been “sent to jail”; his sentence has been stayed by the New York Court of Appeals in Albany which has granted Golb’s request to have the case heard.

    See:

    Meanwhile, Lawrence Schiffman’s lawyer has exchanged words concerning the case with Prof. Eugene Volokh of UCLA.

    http://www.volokh.com/2013/03/15/new-yorks-highest-court-agrees-to-hear-the-golb-dead-sea-scrolls-e-mail-impersonation-case/

    http://www.volokh.com/2013/03/13/prof-lawrence-schiffmans-lawyer-demands-removal-of-post-containing-the-text-of-a-court-opinion/

    http://blog.simplejustice.us/2013/03/13/schiffman-meet-streisand.aspx

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130314/17275122332/internet-is-baseless-legal-threats-popehat-greenfield-volokh-triple-streisand-edition.shtml

    Hershel’s note on choosing the “strongest argument” is somewhat unclear given the number of different charges involved in the case. Is he suggesting Golb should have refrained from any discussion of the satirical nature of Internet impersonation, or perhaps that he should have focused only on the “harassment” counts, under which he was convicted for sending anonymous email complaints with the intent to “annoy” the people he was complaining about?

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