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Friday, April 12, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Dead Sea Scrolls Fight Turns Criminal

MANHATTAN (CN) - An attorney trying to influence the debate over origins of the Dead Sea Scrolls was convicted of using online aliases to harass and discredit scholars who disagreed with his father's views on the ancient texts. Raphael Golb, son of Dead Sea Scrolls scholar Norman Golb, created more than 50 phony email accounts and dozens of blogs to promote his father's theories and criticize his detractors, a state jury said.

The jury found Golb guilty of 30 counts, including identity theft and criminal impersonation. The scholar's son faces up to 4 years in prison.

One of Golb's five victims was Lawrence Schiffman, a department chairman at NYU who specializes in the scrolls. Golb set up an email account in Schiffman's name and admitted to plagiarism - while posing as Schiffman in an email to NYU faculty.

"Using fictitious identities to impersonate victims is not what open academic debate seeks to foster," District Attorney Cyrus Vance said in a statement. "It is true that the vast majority of identity thieves seek to steal their victims' money, but in some cases identity thieves maliciously intend to damage their victims' reputations and harass them, while cowering in anonymity. Such was the case here."

Golb, 50, received his law degree from NYU and had access to the university's computers, which he used to mask his true identity online, according to prosecutors.

He also has criticized the way the Dead Sea Scrolls are displayed at museums, claiming exhibits do not pay sufficient attention to his father's theories.

Scholars' traditional view is that the scrolls were assembled by an ancient Jewish sect, which many call the Essenes. The sect is believed to have lived in a settlement in Qumram, near the caves where the scrolls were found.

The more than 2,000-year-old texts were discovered in the West Bank between 1946 and 1956, and contain portions of the Hebrew Bible.

Norman Golb, a professor of Jewish History and Civilization at the University of Chicago, has maintained that the scrolls were not the work of the Essenes, but of several Jewish sects and communities of ancient Israel, who hid the scrolls in the caves at Qumram while fleeing Jerusalem from the Romans.

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