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.

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

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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  • 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.

  • 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….

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