8 months later: bar finally ‘reports’ on the golb scandal

Raphael Golb

Raphael Golb, son of Norman Golb

Norman Golb

University of Chicago historian Norman Golb

Hershel Shanks, Editor of Biblical Archaeology Review

Biblical Archaeology Review Editor Hershel Shanks


biblical archaeology review has finally ‘reported‘ the march 5, 2009 arrest of raphael golb. while they did mention it in a byline news blurb a few months ago, the magazine that has arguably made its name reporting the original dead sea scrolls ‘scandal’ and other scandals from the world of biblical archaeology (remember the ‘fleas‘ issue 16/2 of mar/apr 1990) has finally acknowledged the existence of the dead sea scrolls scandal of this decade: the identity theft and smear campaign of raphael golb on behalf of his father, university of chicago history professor norman golb and his largely unaccepted views on the origin of the dead sea scrolls and the nature of qumran. (be sure to read the interesting comments following the chicago maroon article by sara jerome.)

Biblical Archaeology Review Cover of March/April 1990 issue (Vol. 16, No.2)

according to the very short, unsigned report in the strata section, bar states:

According to an indictment handed down last summer by a Manhattan grand jury, son Raphael adopted some unorthodox methods to support his father’s views. The indictment charges Raphael Golb with assuming the identity of prominent Dead Sea Scroll scholar Lawrence Schiffman of New York University; the indictment charges Raphael Golb with creating more than 50 e-mail accounts and dozens of internet blogs, in which Raphael Golb (posing as Schiffman) espoused the views of Norman Golb and (again, as Schiffman) confessed to plagiarizing from Norman Golb.

Raphael Golb also allegedly opened other e-mail accounts in the names of Dead Sea Scroll scholars Jonathan Seidel and Stephen Goranson.

that’s it. other than a brief introduction that can be read for free on the website, the two remaining paragraphs are little more than information gleaned from the manhattan da’s press release from march 2009.

for a magazine (bar) and an editor (shanks) that appear to crave controversy and love the dead sea scrolls, this story seems like a no-brainer. in fact, it has been somewhat of a mystery why bar has not already run a feature length exposé or two on this story. it hasn’t been on the cover. it has received no in depth investigation. it hasn’t even attracted from bar a simple investigative inquiry that bar readers have come to expect on issues relating to biblical archaeology. the intriguing story of a man using the cloak of the anonymous internet to weave together a network of aliases to write blogs, send emails, leave comments, send letters, dupe media outlets, harass in a most aggravated manner, and in the end, steal the identity of and impersonate another scholar, all in an effort to promote norman golb and criticize his perceived opponents has been largely ignored, save for this late acknowledgment and the initial byline news item.

some have speculated why shanks may have held his tongue on this scandal. when hershel shanks published a facsimile of the dead sea scrolls manuscript mmt, prompting elisha qimron later to sue shanks and win in court, norman golb testified in shanks’ defense. some speculate that shanks has held his tongue as a form of repayment – a kind of ‘thank you’ to norman golb for earlier testifying on his behalf. of course, this is merely speculation, but it does give one pause because it appears to be completely out of character (and certainly not at all profitable) for shanks not to report this story (especially when there is so much evidence are so many details of the campaign catalogued on the internet and readily available to the public).

whatever the reason, biblical archaeology review has finally reported on the golb scandal. but this ‘report’ obviously lacks the expected vigor, insight, and detailed attention that mr. shanks regularly shows to other disputes, like the james ossuary, the talpiot tomb, the hazon gabriel, his ongoing rift with with shuka dorfman and the iaa, and other past dss-related issues. i know of one person who was recommended to mr. shanks by a respected qumran archaeologist as one who could knowledgeably write about this for bar, but as of the writing of this post, bar still has not contacted him. i’m beginning to wonder if this particular dead sea scrolls scandal is simply being given a ‘minimalist’ amount of attention for reasons other than a lack of a public interest. it seems the last time someone was arrested for a biblical archaeology related crime, bar paid a little more attention. in fact, they even held their own trial. (see also here and here and here and here.)

sometimes, the deafening silence says more than words ever can.

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One Response

  1. [...] 8 months later: bar finally ‘reports’ on the golb scandal (oct 30, 2009) [...]

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