Conviction Upheld in Dead Sea Scrolls Identity Theft

In yesterday’s news about the final stop for the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit, I mentioned some of the controversy surrounding scroll scholarship. One of the more bizarre sideshows in the world of the DSS is The Sorry Saga of the Golbs.

Raphael Golb is the son of scroll scholar Norman Golb, a man who has managed to master a great deal of knowledge about the DSS, and then come to all the wrong conclusions.  In an effort to discredit his father’s critics, Golb fils impersonated several academics, sending out emails in order to damage their reputations.

This morning, courtesy of Robert Cargill’s XKV8R  blog, I see that 29 of Raphael Golb’s 30 convictions have been upheld. Here’s the court’s summary:

Defendant is the son of an expert on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Defendant set up email accounts in which he pretended to be other scholars who disagreed with defendant’s father’s opinion on the origin of the Scrolls. Among other things, defendant sent emails in which one of his father’s rivals purportedly admitted to acts of plagiarism.

Defendant’s principal defense was that these emails were only intended to be satiric hoaxes or pranks. However, as it has been observed in the context of trademark law, “[a] parody must convey two simultaneous – and contradictory – messages: that it is the original, but also that it is not the original and is instead a parody” (Cliffs Notes, Inc. v Bantam Doubleday Dell Pub. Group, Inc., 886 F2d 490, 494 [2d Cir 1989]). Here, the evidence clearly established that defendant never intended any kind of parody. Instead, he only intended to convey the first message to the readers of the emails, that is, that the purported authors were the actual authors. It was equally clear that defendant intended that the recipients’ reliance on this deception would cause harm to the purported authors and benefits to defendant or his father.

Dr. Cargill has done the digging, so I’ll let him fill in the details, but you really should go to his site if only to gaze at the impressive table of crimes committed by a man trying to destroy respected scholars like Lawrence Schiffman. Even the revered Frank Moore Cross got dragged into this mess.

The theory of Golb pere–that Qumran was a fort without connection to the scroll caves, and that the caves were a repository for scrolls of many sects out of Jerusalem–is an interesting but long-discredited footnote in the story of Qumran and the scrolls. The unpleasant part is the vehemence with which both Golbs have attempted to advance that theory.

One of their boosters (and I’m not completely sure it wasn’t one of Raphael Golb’s sock puppets) has haunted my comboxes and posted criticism of some of my writing on a HuffPo community blog. I’ve only ever written about the scrolls here or in the National Catholic Register, which means I’m a complete nobody in the world of Dead Sea Scrolls scholarship and opinion. Anyone taking efforts to swat me down is more than a little obsessed.

In any case, Golb will appeal, and his case will continue to wind its way through the legal system before his convictions are finally upheld. I wish I could say I feel sorry for either father or son, but they’ve been a uniquely nasty pair in their attempts to discredit anyone who disagrees with them.

About Thomas L. McDonald

Thomas L. McDonald writes about technology, theology, history, games, and shiny things. Details of his rather uneventful life as a professional writer and magazine editor can be found in the About tab.


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