Biblical Archaeology Review 37:1, January/February 2011

Strata: Raphael Golb Convicted

After only five hours of deliberation, a New York jury returned a verdict of guilty on 30 of 31 counts against 50-year-old Raphael Golb, son of University of Chicago Dead Sea Scroll scholar Norman Golb. Thus ended Raphael Golb’s three-week trial in which he admitted to originating hundreds of e-mails and blogs, in some of which he used fake accounts to impersonate prominent scroll scholar Lawrence Schiffman of New York University.

Signing his name as Schiffman, Raphael Golb made it appear that Schiffman was confessing to having plagiarized from Raphael Golb’s father, Norman, whose offbeat views on the scrolls differ markedly from Schiffman’s. The prosecution charged the younger Golb with identity theft, forgery and harassment. Four additional scholars were also victims of Golb’s impersonation.

The press reported that Raphael Golb sat stock still, without emotion, as the jury forewoman read guilty 30 times. Golb has vowed to appeal, saying the verdict violated his right to free speech and that the e-mails and blogs were only parodies. The prosecuting attorney, on the other hand, claimed Golb stole his victims’ identities.

The targeted scholars disagree with Golb’s father about the origin of the scrolls. Norman Golb contends that Qumran, near the caves where the scrolls were found, was a military fortress, not the communal home of a group of Essenes, as most scholars believe, and that the scrolls originated not with the Essenes but from several libraries in Jerusalem.a

On November 18, Raphael Golb was sentenced to six months in prison, followed by five years’ probation.

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