Sneak Peek of “Bible Secrets Revealed” on History, beginning Nov 13, 2013

Dr. Bart Erhman (UNC, Chapel Hill) appears on

Dr. Bart Erhman (UNC, Chapel Hill) appears on “Bible Secrets Revealed” airing on History beginning Nov 11, 2013.

You can sneak a peek at the first teaser/trailer of “Bible Secrets Revealed” on the History web site.

Drs. Bart Ehrman, Candida Moss, Francesca Stavrakopoulou, and Reza Aslan are shown inviting viewers to come and watch.

The series begins airing on Nov 13, 2013 at 10/9c. The series airs every Wednesday for the next six weeks.

I can also reveal a list of some of those scholars who will be appearing in the series. This partial list (in alpha order) includes:

Reza Aslan (University of California, Riverside)
Gary Burge (Wheaton College)
Robert R. Cargill (University of Iowa)
Bart Ehrman (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)
Lori Anne Ferrell (Claremont Graduate University)
Israel Finkelstein (Tel Aviv University)
William Fulco (Loyola Marymount University)
Jeffrey C. Geoghegan (Boston College)
Bryan Givens (Pepperdine University)
Mark Goodacre (Duke University)
Bradley Hale (Azusa Pacific University)
James Hoffmeier (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School)
Amir Hussain (Loyola Marymount University)
Alvin Kass (NYPD)
Chris Keith (St. Mary’s University College)
Peter Lanfer (University of California, Los Angeles)
Jodi Magness (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)
Dale Martin (Yale University)
Candida Moss (University of Notre Dame)
Bob Mullins (Azusa Pacific University)
Elaine Pagels (Princeton University)
Yuval Peleg (Israel Antiquities Authority)
Pnina Shor (Israel Antiquities Authority)
Jordan Smith (University of Iowa)
Daniel L. Smith-Christopher (Loyola Marymount University)
Francesca Stavrakopoulou (University of Exeter, UK)
James Tabor (University of North Carolina, Charlotte)
David Wolpe (Sinai Temple, Los Angeles)
Jennifer Wright-Knust (Boston University)

I invite those of all faith traditions, sects, and denominations, as well as atheists, agnostics, secular humanists to watch the series, as History presents a scholarly look at the difficult texts and traditions within the Bible.

New History Channel Documentary “Bible Secrets Revealed” Begins Airing November 11

History logoI’m pleased to announce that a new documentary series will begin airing on History beginning Monday, November 11, 2013 at 10:00pm / 9:00 Central.

The series is entitled, Bible Secrets Revealed, and is produced by Prometheus Entertainment for the History channel.

The titles of the six episodes and their schedule of appearance are as follows:

“Lost in Translation” – November 11, 2013
“The Promised Land” – November 18, 2013
“The Forbidden Scriptures” – November 25, 2013
“The Real Jesus” – December 2, 2013
“Mysterious Prophecies” – December 16, 2013
“Sex and the Bible” – December 23, 2013

The documentary features dozens of the world’s top biblical scholars, religious studies scholars, archaeologists, and historians, who offer different points of view while addressing some of the more difficult readings in the biblical and extra-biblical texts.

It is also worth note that portions of the documentary were filmed on site during the 2013 season of archaeological excavation at Tel Azekah.

Please tune in to this documentary, which seeks to address difficult biblical scriptures and teachings in a responsible, academic, yet entertaining manner. The series is certain to be compelling as much for its scholarship as for its examination of secrets buried deep within the biblical texts, that have often traditionally been known only to scholars.

NY Court of Appeals Upholds Raphael Golb’s Conviction on 29 of 30 Counts

Still Guilty - Raphael Golb

Dr. Raphael Golb, son of University of Chicago Oriental Institute historian Dr. Norman Golb, was found guilty on 30 felony and misdemeanor counts of identity theft, forgery, criminal impersonation, aggravated harassment, and the unauthorized use of a computer in the Criminal Division of the New York Supreme Court, September 30, 2010. On January 29, 2013, the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department upheld the convictions on 29 of 30 counts for which Golb was convicted.

Word from the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department this evening is that a three-judge panel ruled unanimously to uphold the convictions on 29 of 30 felony and misdemeanor counts for which Raphael Golb was convicted in 2010.

In November of 2010, the Criminal Division of the New York Supreme Court found Dr. Raphael Golb, son of University of Chicago Oriental Institute historian Dr. Norman Golb, guilty of 30 felony and misdemeanor counts of identity theft, criminal impersonation, forgery, aggravated harassment, and the unauthorized use of a computer.

Prior to the trial, Golb turned down a plea bargain agreement in which he would have pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors, paid a fine, served 80 hours of community service, and been placed on three years probation.

Instead, Golb was convicted of 2 felony counts and 28 misdemeanors, and was sentenced to six months in prison and five years of probation, in addition to incurring the cost of a jury trial defense and an appeal.

The Court of Appeals issued this decision:

People v Golb
2013 NY Slip Op 00436
Decided on January 29, 2013
Appellate Division, First Department
Published by New York State Law Reporting Bureau pursuant to Judiciary Law § 431.
This opinion is uncorrected and subject to revision before publication in the Official Reports.

Decided on January 29, 2013
Mazzarelli, J.P., Renwick, Richter, Gische, Clark, JJ.
9101 2721/09

[*1]The People of the State of New York, Respondent,
v
Raphael Golb, Defendant-Appellant.

Ronald L. Kuby, New York, for appellant.
Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., District Attorney, New York (Vincent
Rivellese of counsel), for respondent.

Judgment, Supreme Court, New York County (Carol Berkman, J.), rendered November 18, 2010, convicting defendant, after a jury trial, of identity theft in the second degree (2 counts), criminal impersonation in the second degree (14 counts), forgery in the third degree (10 counts), aggravated harassment in the second degree (3 counts), and unauthorized use of a computer, and sentencing him to an aggregate term of six months, unanimously modified, on the law and facts, to the extent of vacating the identity theft conviction under the first count of the indictment and dismissing that count, and otherwise affirmed. The matter is remitted to Supreme Court, New York County, for further proceedings pursuant to CPL 460.50(5).

One of the two felony counts was vacated and dismissed, but the Appellate Division unanimously denied Golb’s appeal and reaffirmed the guilty verdict on the other 29 counts, including one felony.

The chart below (updated from the who-is-charles-gadda.com website) lists each charge, conviction, and appellate decision of the convicted felon Raphael Golb.

CHARGE
DATE
CHARGE
SUMMARY
VERDICT (Sept. 30, 2010)
APPEAL DECISION (Jan. 29, 2013)
1. 7/1/2008 – 12/31/2008 PL 190.79(3). Identity theft in the second degree
(E-CLASS FELONY) (1 of 2 counts)
Assumed identity of Lawrence Schiffman and committed/attempted to commit felony of Scheme to Defraud 1st Degree.
GUILTY
Vacated and Dismissed
2. 7/1/2008 – 12/31/2008 PL 190.79(3). Identity theft in the second degree
(E-CLASS FELONY) (2 of 2 counts)
Assumed identity of Lawrence Schiffman and committed/attempted to commit felony of Falsifying Business Records 1st Degree
GUILTY
UPHELD
3. 8/1/2008 – 12/31/2008 PL 240.30(l)(a) Aggravated harassment in the second degree
(1 of 3 counts)
Aggravated harassment of Dr. Lawrence Schiffman
GUILTY
UPHELD
4. 8/3/2008 PL 190.25(1) Criminal impersonation in the second degree
(1 of 14 counts)
Created larry.schiffman@gmail.com email account
GUILTY
UPHELD
5. 8/4/2008 PL 190.25(1) Criminal impersonation in the second degree
(2 of 14 counts)
Sent email from larry.schiffrnan@gmail.com to Dr. Schiffman’s students
GUILTY
UPHELD
6. 8/4/2008 PL 170.05. Forgery in the third degree
(1 of 10 counts)
Sent email from larry.schiffrnan@gmail.com to Dr. Schiffman’s students
GUILTY
UPHELD
7. 8/5/2008 PL 190.25(1) Criminal impersonation in the second degree
(3 of 14 counts)
Sent email from larry.schiffman@gmail.com to multiple NYU email addresses
GUILTY
UPHELD
8. 8/5/2008 PL 170.05. Forgery in the third degree
(2 of 10 counts)
Sent email from larry.schiffman@gmail.com to multiple NYU email addresses
GUILTY
UPHELD
9. 8/5/2008 PL 190.25(1) Criminal impersonation in the second degree
(4 of 14 counts)
Sent email from larry.schiffman@gmail.com to NYU Dean Stimpson
GUILTY
UPHELD
10. 8/5/2008 PL 170.05. Forgery in the third degree
(3 of 10 counts)
Sent email from larry.schiffman@gmail.com to NYU Dean Stimpson
GUILTY
UPHELD
11. 8/5/2008 PL 190.25(1) Criminal impersonation in the second degree
(5 of 14 counts)
Sent email from larry.schiffman@gmail.com to NYU provost
GUILTY
UPHELD
12. 8/5/2008 PL 170.05. Forgery in the third degree
(4 of 10 counts)
Sent email from larry.schiffman@gmail.com to NYU provost
GUILTY
UPHELD
13. 8/6/2008 PL 190.25(1) Criminal impersonation in the second degree
(6 of 14 counts)
Sent email from larry.schiffman@gmail.com to NYUNews.com, forwarding email from Provost office.
GUILTY
UPHELD
14. 8/6/2008 PL 170.05. Forgery in the third degree
(5 of 10 counts)
Sent email from larry.schiffman@gmail.com to NYUNews.com, forwarding email from Provost office.
GUILTY
UPHELD
15. 11/22/2008 PL 190.25(1) Criminal impersonation in the second degree
(7 of 14 counts)
Created email account seidel.jonathan@gmail.com
GUILTY
UPHELD
16. 11/22/2008 PL 190.25(1) Criminal impersonation in the second degree
(8 of 14 counts)
Sent email from seidel.jonathan@gmail.com to Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)
GUILTY
UPHELD
17. 11/22/2008 PL 170.05. Forgery in the third degree
(6 of 10 counts)
Sent email from seidel.jonathan@gmail.com to Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)
GUILTY
UPHELD
18. 11/24/2008 PL 190.25(1) Criminal impersonation in the second degree
(9 of 14 counts)
Sent email from seidel.jonathan@gmail.com to Risa Kohn (ROM’s curator for Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit)
GUILTY
UPHELD
19. 11/24/2008 PL 170.05. Forgery in the third degree
(7 of 10 counts)
Sent email from seidel.jonathan@gmail.com to Risa Kohn (ROM’s curator for Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit)
GUILTY
UPHELD
20. 11/24/2008 PL 190.25(1) Criminal impersonation in the second degree
(10 of 14 counts)
Sent email from seidel.jonathan@gmail.com regarding Norman Golb
GUILTY
UPHELD
21. 11/24/2008 PL 170.05. Forgery in the third degree
(8 of 10 counts)
Sent email from seidel.jonathan@gmail.com regarding Norman Golb
GUILTY
UPHELD
22. 12/6/2008 PL 190.25(1) Criminal impersonation in the second degree
(11 of 14 counts)
Sent email from seidel.jonathan@gmail.com regarding Stephen Goranson internet post
GUILTY
UPHELD
23. 12/6/2008 PL 170.05. Forgery in the third degree
(9 of 10 counts)
Sent email from seidel.jonathan@gmail.com regarding Stephen Goranson internet post
GUILTY
UPHELD
24. 7/1/2008 – 12/31/2008 PL240.30(l)(a) Aggravated harassment in the second degree
(2 of 3 counts)
Aggravated Harassment of Stephen Goranson
GUILTY
UPHELD
25. 8/7/2008 PL 190.25(1) Criminal impersonation in the second degree
(12 of 14 counts)
Created email account steve.goranson@gmail.com
GUILTY
UPHELD
26. 7/20/2008 PL 190.25(1) Criminal impersonation in the second degree
(13 of 14 counts)
Created email account frank.cross2@gmail.com
GUILTY
UPHELD
27. 7/20/2008 PL 190.25(1) Criminal impersonation in the second degree
(14 of 14 counts)
Sent email from frank.cross2@gmail.com regarding Bart Ehrman and the Jewish Museum
GUILTY
UPHELD
28. 7/20/2008 PL 170.05. Forgery in the third degree
(10 of 10 counts)
Sent email from frank.cross2@gmail.com regarding Bart Ehrman and the Jewish Museum
GUILTY
UPHELD
29. 6/1/2007 – 3/1/2009 PL 240.30(l)(a) Aggravated harassment in the second degree
(3 of 3 counts)
Aggravated harassment of Robert Cargill
GUILTY
UPHELD
30. 7/1/2008 – 3/1/2009 PL 156.05 Unauthorized use of a Computer
(1 count)
Unauthorized use of NYU computers to commit criminal offenses and otherwise in violation of NYU computer use policy
GUILTY
UPHELD

The rest of the appellate court’s decision reads as follows:

Defendant’s convictions arise out of his use of emails to impersonate actual persons. Nothing in this prosecution, or in the court’s jury charge, violated defendant’s First Amendment or other constitutional rights.

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.

The court’s charge, which incorporated many of defendant’s requests, fully protected his constitutional rights, and the court was not required to grant defendant’s requests for additional instructions. The court carefully informed the jury that academic discussion, parody, satire and the use of pseudonyms were protected by the First Amendment.

The court also ensured that the jury understood the terms “fraud” and “defraud” by [*2]expanding their definition and advised the jury that “without the intent to deceive or defraud as to the source of the speech with the intent to reap a benefit from that deceit, there is no crime.” The court was under no obligation to limit the definitions of “injure” or “defraud” – terms used in the forgery and criminal impersonation statutes – to tangible harms such as financial harm (see People v Kase, 76 AD2d 532, 537-538 [1st Dept 1980], affd 53 NY2d 989 [1981]). The court also properly employed the statutory definition of “benefit” as “any gain or advantage” to defendant or to another person (Penal Law § 10.00[17]).

Defendant argues that it is constitutionally impermissible to include an intent to influence a constitutionally-protected academic debate within the concept of fraud, injury or benefit, that allowing injury to reputation to satisfy the injury element would effectively revive the long-abandoned offense of criminal libel, and that, in any event, the alleged truth of the content of the emails should have been permitted as a defense. However, the evidence established that defendant intended harm that fell within the plain meaning of the term “injure,” and that was not protected by the First Amendment, including damage to the careers and livelihoods of the scholars he impersonated. Defendant also intended to create specific benefits for his father’s career. The fact that the underlying dispute between defendant and his father’s rivals was a constitutionally-protected debate does not provide any First Amendment protection for acts that were otherwise unlawful.

Defendant was not prosecuted for the content of any of the emails, but only for giving the false impression that his victims were the actual authors of the emails. The First Amendment protects the right to criticize another person, but it does not permit anyone to give an intentionally false impression that the source of the message is that other person (see SMJ Group, Inc. v 417 Lafayette Restaurant LLC, 439 F Supp 2d 281 (SD NY 2006]).

We have considered and rejected defendant’s remaining arguments concerning the court’s charge. We similarly reject his claims that the statutes under which he was convicted were unconstitutionally vague or overbroad. None of these statutes was vague or overbroad on its face or as applied (see People v Shack, 86 NY2d 529, 538 [1995]; Broadrick v Oklahoma, 413 US 601, 611-616 [1973]). The People were required to prove that defendant had the specific fraudulent intent to deceive email recipients about his identity, and to obtain benefits or cause injuries as a result of the recipients’ reliance on that deception. The statutes criminalized the act of impersonation and its unlawful intent, not the content of speech falsely imputed to the victims.

The verdict was based on legally sufficient evidence and was not against the weight of the evidence, with the exception of the identity theft conviction under the first count. The theory of that count was that in the commission of identity theft in the second degree (Penal Law § 190.79[3]), defendant attempted to commit the felony of scheme to defraud in the first degree [*3](Penal Law § 190.65[1][b]). However, there was no evidence that defendant intended to defraud one or more persons of property in excess of $1,000 or that he attempted to do so (see id.). The People’s assertions in this regard rest on speculation.

THIS CONSTITUTES THE DECISION AND ORDER
OF THE SUPREME COURT, APPELLATE DIVISION, FIRST DEPARTMENT.

ENTERED: JANUARY 29, 2013

CLERK

(emphases mine)

If Dr. Golb stays true to form, he will almost certainly appeal this again, perhaps in some other jurisdiction. If nothing else, this case has demonstrated that certain people have tremendous difficulty putting down the shovel after digging themselves into a hole.

Still, I am pleased with the court’s decision. While the wheels of justice turn slowly, and afford the guilty every possible avenue of defense, the process has demonstrated that it works in the end.

2010 debate on the reliability of scripture between bart ehrman and craig evans

If you have an hour, you really ought to listen to the 2010 debate between Dr. Bart Ehrman and Dr. Craig Evans on the reliability of scripture. Below are the YouTube videos in 9 parts.

Dr. Bart D. Ehrman is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Craig A. Evans is the Payzant Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Acadia Divinity College of Acadia University, in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada.

The audience is the First Family Church in Kansas City and Dr. Ehrman acknowledges at the beginning that most people there will not agree with him. However, throughout the debate you will notice a growing trend: Dr. Ehrman demonstrates the discrepancies and inconsistencies and errors of the biblical text, and dismantles any possibility of an “inerrant” or “infallible” text. In response, Dr. Evans does not dispute Dr. Ehrman’s arguments, but instead dismisses these errors as “insignificant” or attempts to argue that the text is still reliable despite the textual problems.

I’ll let you decide whose argument is more compelling. However, I agree with the moderator, Pastor Jerry Johnston, who states after one of Dr. Evans’ responses (Pt. 3, @ 3:37), “Sounds like an evangelist.”

The key questions are as follows:

  1. Are the gospels reliable? (Pt. 1 @ 3:50)
  2. Do the gospels accurately preserve the teachings of Jesus Christ? (Pt. 2 @ 3:42)
  3. Do the gospels accurately preserve the activities of Jesus Christ? (Pt. 3 @ 3:42)
  4. Do the gospels contain eyewitness tradition? (Pt. 4 @ 4:25)
  5. Do archaeologists and historians use the gospels as sources? (Pt. 5 @ 4:05)
  6. Have the gospels been accurately preserved down through the centuries? (Pt. 6 @ 6:22)
  7. Do scribal errors and textual variants significantly impact any teaching of Jesus or any important Christian teaching? (Pt. 7 @ 7:33)
  8. Final Remarks (Pt. 8 @ 7:01)

Here are the videos. Enjoy!

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Part 5:

Part 6:

Part 7:

Part 8:

Part 9:

i stand with bart ehrman: a review of the ‘ehrman project’

Ehrman Project

The "Ehrman Project" provides dissenting, Christian responses to the biblical scholarship of Dr. Bart Ehrman.

If fundamentalist criticism of a biblical scholar is the truest sign of credible scholarship, then Dr. Bart Ehrman of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has quickly found himself at the top.

A collective of concerned Christians have launched the Ehrman Project, a website that provides dissenting, “Christian” responses to the biblical scholarship that Dr. Bart Ehrman has presented in his recent books, including Misquoting Jesus, God’s Problem, and Jesus, Interrupted.

It’s kind of like Josh McDowell’s books on Christian apologetics, except… well… actually it’s exactly like Josh McDowell’s apologetics, only online.

The website states it was launched by a campus minister and an undergraduate religion major to provide counter-arguments to the research of Bart Ehrman. But, since most of Ehrman’s textual arguments are essentially the well-established and long-accepted consensus views of just about every worthwhile critical biblical scholar not teaching at a Christian university, seminary, or school with the word “Evangelical” in the title (Ehrman admits as much beginning at the 7:50 mark in the video here), the site is essentially little more than an online video version of Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ, where conservative scholars attempt to refute the biblical scholarship that is taught in every major university save the aforementioned conservative Christian schools.

The video rebuttals offer little more than setting up and knocking down straw men, red herring explanations, the reframing and redefinition of certain critical questions in a strained effort to avoid answering them, and the recitation of facts leading to non sequitur conclusions that only non-critical scholars would accept as satisfactory answers.

The video rebuttals posted on the EhrmanProject.com website include interviews from other, “equally qualified scholars who deal with the same issues and come to very different conclusions than Dr. Ehrman.” This diverse range of notable scholars includes:

  • Dr. Darrell Bock, Dallas Theological Seminary
  • Dr. D. A. Carson, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
  • Dr. Ed Gravely, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
  • Dr. Michael J. Kruger, Reformed Theological Seminary
  • Dr. Alvin Plantinga, University of Notre Dame
  • Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, Dallas Theological Seminary
  • Dr. Ben Witherington, Asbury Theological Seminary

Notice anything in common?

Let me be clear: please don’t mistake my questioning of the EhrmanProject website as a questioning of all Christian scholarship or Christian universities and seminaries. There are plenty of excellent schools and seminaries that hire credible scholars who adhere to solid, critical methods of biblical scholarship, and who would never appear on a website calling into question the scholarly methods employed by most biblical scholars in the country. I simply wish to point out that the criticism of Dr. Ehrman (and the larger academy by proxy) is largely being done by a small number of vocal scholars at very conservative seminaries at the behest of a campus minister and a religion major who didn’t like their faith challenged by critical scholarship.

I encourage you to view the videos and judge for yourself whether or not those interviewed answered the questions and dealt critically with the evidence, or skirted the issues. Then, if you have any stomach left, you can visit other diverse and “equally qualified” scholarly apologetic sites like Josh McDowell’s site and Lee Strobel’s site and Kirk Cameron’s The Way of the Master site.

Fundamentalists certainly have their problems with Erhman. But to be fair, scholars have some issues of their own with Ehrman. The criticisms of Bart Ehrman from the scholarly community are essentially twofold: 1) must a scholar renounce his/her faith just because the Bible is not inerrant or infallible? and 2) Ehrman is only repeating the critical scholarship of other scholars in a popular format.

While I agree with the first criticism of Ehrman (one need not necessarily renounce one’s faith in order to be a critical scholar of the Bible, especially if one does not accept fundamentalist notions of inerrancy, soteriology, and/or systematic theology) – I actually applaud what Ehrman has done with regard to bringing critical biblical scholarship to a public audience. This is the truest form of education, and one must ask why earlier scholars haven’t made more deliberate attempts to bring what all good critical scholars know (that the Bible is not inerrant and not completely reliable as history) to the public. (It may have something to do with critical scholars not wanting to lose their jobs at Christian universities, or scholars at public universities not wanting to incur the wrath of (and lose book sales to) Christian audiences, but I digress…)

We should applaud Ehrman as a representative figure of what good critical scholarship does – use verifiable facts and sound logic to seek truth, and disseminate that truth to the public even if the public (often acquiescing to the threats pressure authority of organized religious groups) does not want to hear it.

Therefore, I stand with Bart Ehrman as a biblical scholar who feels we should pursue the truth no matter where it may lead. It can only make scholarship (and the faith for that matter) stronger. For if one’s Christian faith can’t stand up to a few simple questions, then it is not a faith worth following. And if apologists must duck questions, offer red herrings, and flat out lie to others in order to convince them of the brand of Christianity they are selling, then the product is not worth buying.

Christian scholars may not like that Erhman renounced his faith, and may not like his often confrontational delivery, but we must stand behind scholarship’s critical method, facts, and conclusions, and we must not pander to the fundamentalist Christian organizations who seek to defend faith by less than scholarly means. The EhrmanProject website claims it is “not meant to be an attack on Dr. Ehrman,” and I would agree; it is not only an attack on Ehrman, it’s an attack on critical scholarship in general by conservative apologists behind the veil of a campus minister’s website.

HT: Toto

on recent erroneous claims made by the minnesota dead sea scrolls exhibition

Science Museum of Minnesotaa point of order, mr. speaker.

i recently came across the march 13, 2010 associated press article on the kstp.com website entitled, ‘dead sea scrolls exhibit goes on display in minn.‘ the article is publicizing the latest dead sea scrolls exhibition at the science museum of minnesota in st. paul, minnesota. before i could even get a couple of paragraphs into the article, i noticed some glaring mistakes.

i must take issue with the ap’s article on two matters. first, the article claims the following incorrect statement:

By incorporating new archaeological finds and recent scholarship, the exhibit is the first to fully present two competing theories: Were the scrolls written and collected by an ultra-religious Jewish group living in the desert? Or were the manuscripts smuggled out of Jerusalem on the eve of the Roman invasion in A.D. 70 and hidden for safekeeping in the wilderness?

this statement is not only misleading, it is downright false. and not only is the statement untrue, it is guilty of the very overly-simplistic, either-or dichotomy that has plagued dead sea scrolls scholarship for the past six decades.

let’s deal with the first problem first.

as a matter of fact, previous exhibitions have indeed discussed the multiple theories concerning the origins of the dead sea scrolls and the nature of the settlement at qumran. in my ‘ancient qumran: a virtual reality tour‘ movie that was on exhibit at the san diego natural history museum in 2007, i specifically noted that some scholars argue that the dead sea scrolls came from elsewhere and that qumran was established as a hasmonean fort. in addition, i also mentioned the multiple other theories concerning the nature of qumran, including a pottery factory, a trading depot, a tannery, a pilgrimage site, all in addition to the identification as a sectarian center. likewise, i asked who the residents of the cave were and what that meant for the origin of the dead sea scrolls.

don’t believe me? here’s a clip from the movie’s trailer:

thus, the minnesota exhibit is certainly not ‘the first to fully present two competing theories.’ it was done at san diego in 2007.

likewise, there aren’t just two theories! this ‘two salient theories’ argument has been the mantra of norman golb and his indicted son, raphael, since the dead sea scrolls began touring the united states years ago. in one of raphael golb’s anonymous blogs written under the now notorious alias ‘charles gadda,’ golb points out that the language of a simple dichotomy of ‘two salient theories’ comes, in fact, from a cambridge history of judaism article (1999, vol. 3, chap. 25) on the dead sea scrolls written by none other than norman golb himself!! here we have an example of a scholar (golb in this case) writing an article about his particular theory, using an anonymous alias to promote the article and the theory while discrediting other museum exhibitions that do not talk enough about said scholar, and a museum being influenced by a student of said scholar (in this case michael wise) to frame their exhibit in the form of the very dichotomy which was set forth by the very scholar who originally wrote the article. if that sounds confusing (and self-serving), that’s because it’s supposed to be! one of the purposes of using aliases is to disguise the origins of something to make it look objective, when in reality it is nothing more than self-citation. apparently, the minnesota dead sea scrolls exhibition was circularly talked into framing its exhibit in a manner that promotes the very scholar (golb) who originally came up with the framework adopted by the museum. thus, while multiple other museums presenting other dead sea scrolls exhibits managed to see through the charade of aliases and anonymous reports that according to the new york district attorney’s office were the product of the golbs (see here and here), the administrators of the science museum of minnesota fell prey to it. and, in an attempt to justify their decision, they have claimed to be ‘the first to fully present two competing theories,’ when, as has been shown above, that is simply not the case.

this, of course, is precisely why we’ve seen no massive, negative online campaign criticizing this minnesota exhibition like we did with seattle, san diego, north carolina, and toronto. for one, norman golb, the ludwig rosenberger professor of jewish history and civilization at the university of chicago’s oriental institute, has finally been invited to speak as a part of a dead sea scrolls exhibition. that norman golb was repeatedly not invited to speak at the various exhibitions was a major point of contention for the golbs (see here and here). second, golb’s son, raphael, was arrested on 50+ felony and misdemeanor counts of identity theft, forgery, criminal impersonation, aggravated harassment, and unauthorized use of a computer in connection with his participation in an online smear campaign that attacked various museums and administrators, their dead sea scrolls exhibitions, and the scholars that participated in them (like lawrence schiffman, jodi magness, william schniedewind, david noel freedman, risa levitt kohn, bart erhman, myself, and others) because, in part, he felt the exhibitions did not adequately represent his father, norman’s, point of view regarding the dead sea scrolls. when golb was arrested on march 5, 2009, all online hostilities immediately ceased (with the exception of a few anonymous comments on a few articles a few months later). court documents recently made available to the public have shown that raphael, his father, norman golb, and his brother, joel golb, exchanged emails regarding critiques of the exhibitions and comments made about other scholars, and demonstrate that the golbs employed numerous aliases to propagate a campaign of criticism and harassment against scholars that disagreed with norman golb’s theories. thus, the combination of norman golb being invited to speak, the science museum of minnesota following a simplistic paradigm that golb created, and the indictment of golb’s son mean that criticism of the science museum of minnesota is not surprisingly lacking.

Michael Wise

Dr. Michael Wise, student of Norman Golb, is advisor to the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition at the Science Museum of Minnesota.

Norman Golb

Dr. Norman Golb was Michael Wise's teacher at the University of Chicago.

this leads us to ask: why has the minnesota exhibition taken this ‘new’ approach, which they claim to be original? the answer may lie in the fact that one of norman golb’s former university of chicago doctoral students, michael wise, is listed as a ‘museum consultant’ and advisor to the exhibit. now, michael wise is a fine scholar and an excellent choice as an advisor for the minnesota dead sea scrolls exhibit. he has spent his career studying the scrolls and i am certain he will be an asset to the success of the minnesota exhibition. but let us not forget that michael wise was a student of norman golb at the university of chicago. it should therefore be of no surprise that norman golb has finally been invited to speak as a distinguished lecturer at the minnesota exhibition – a demand his son, raphael, has been making anonymously on his behalf for years now. at the same time, it is unfortunate that the science museum of minnesota’s administrators have apparently (at least, accorting to the associated press’ article) bought into golb’s straw man argument that there are only two theories concerning qumran: golb’s theory and the ‘traditional’ theory.

specifically, there is a third ‘salient’ theory that essentially blends the two polar opposite approaches. it is a theory that has been researched and advanced by scholars like stephen pfann (see his articles here, where i first encountered the theory). the theory works well with the research of lawrence schiffman (nyu) and john collins (yale). i adopted this approach in my recent book, qumran through (real) time. this theory is alternatively called the ‘multi-cave’ theory, the ‘cave cluster’ theory, or the ‘multi-party’ theory (or make up your own name). but in the long run, i am convinced it will be known as the dominant theory concerning the origin of the dead sea scrolls: that different groups (including essenes, priests, zadokites, sadducees, zealots, pharisees, and/or other unknown jewish groups) hid different scrolls (including the damascus rule, the serekhs (1qs, 1qsa, and 1qsb), biblical literature, and extra-biblical/pseudepigraphical literature) in different caves or cave clusters (caves 4-5 and 7-9 immediately surrounding the qumran settlement vs. cave 1 and 2 farther away vs. cave 11 vs. cave 3, etc.) near qumran. the cave cluster theory (as pfann has dubbed it) allows for a small sectarian group (perhaps the essenes or a sub-group identifying with the essenes) at qumran to have hidden scrolls in caves 4, 5, and 7-9, while a different group (like zealots) to have hidden their scrolls in cave 11, priests (of some origin) to have hidden scrolls in caves 1 and 6, while still other unknown jewish groups to have hidden completely different scrolls in cave 3 (for example, no copies or fragments from the serekhs or the damascus rule were discovered in cave 3 with the copper scroll).

it is worth noting that this multiple cave/multiple peoples theory will be the focus of a forthcoming documentary on national geographic channel in april. of course, the great irony is that one of dr. golb’s contributions to dead sea scrolls research is the suggestion that some (not all) of the dead sea scrolls may have come from outside qumran, an idea that is now widely accepted (despite the fact that golb’s son often intentionally mischaracterized the original theory for rhetorical purposes, claiming that those who believe there was a sectarian group living at the site believed that all scrolls came from qumran, which golb held up as a straw man argument to knock down). likewise, dr. golb was correct (imho) in his understanding of qumran as having initially been constructed as a fortress, a position that yuval peleg, i, and others have accepted and that many scholars and explorers prior to dr. golb also published, such as bar-adon, masterman, dalman, among others. however, some of dr. golb’s conclusions also appear to have been in err, like his suggestion that qumran was always a fort, or the suggestion that absolutely none of the dead sea scrolls came from qumran. thus, there is evidence that some of the scrolls may have come from qumran, and evidence that some (like the copper scroll) may have not.

of course, this entire argument is lost on the science museum of minnesota’s curator of archaeology, dr. ed fleming, who later states in the article:

“Really there is no serious evidence, in my mind,” he said.

Handwriting analysis suggests the manuscripts were written by several hundred people, too many to have lived in one location. And the texts represent more than one community’s point of view.

this is the analysis from the museum curator who, according to press and with all due respect:

received his Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Minnesota. Most of his research is focused on material culture of the Late Prehistoric period in the Upper Mississippi River.

according to fleming’s analysis, there were too many different scribal hands used in writing the scrolls (which, by the way, has been one of norman golb’s central arguments for decades) for all of the authors to have lived at qumran. but this assumes all the scrolls were written by sectarians at the same time! and yet, we know that the scrolls were not all authored all at the same time, but from the late third century bce down until 68 ce – a period of nearly 300 years! and, lest we forget, there is a cemetery adjacent to qumran consisting of nearly 1000 tombs. given magen and peleg’s (and everyone else’s except magness) calculation that the site was occupied form the mid-hasmonean period until 68 ce, if there were enough time to fill a cemetery with 1000 people, then probably more than a few of them could write over these many generations, thus explaining the diversity of scribal hands. if we add to the mix the fact that inkwells were found in a site surrounded by a tannery used for making parchment, animal bones and stables located on site that provided the leather, pottery of the same chemical composition as those ceramic vessels discovered in the caves with the scrolls, and, lest we forget, a bunch of scrolls discovered in caves 7-9 in the qumran settlement’s backyard and caves 4-5 right next to the site, then i’d say, with all due respect to dr. fleming, that there is perhaps some evidence to support a claim that some of the scrolls were created at qumran. further more, if after reading the scrolls, we read about a community of initiates (that is, not born into the sect, but joining from the outside) that sought to remove itself from what it considered a corrupt temple and into the desert, pooled their assets (explaining the wealth of coins found at the site and further explaining the diversity of scrolls brought from outside the site), and obsessed with ritual purity (explaining the presence of at least two miqva’ot or rital baths), then maybe we can explain why so many scrolls from so many different time periods from so many scribal hands could be found in the caves next to qumran. some were written there, some were brought to the site over the 150-200 years of its occupation, and some had nothing to do with the site.

but to dr. fleming, ‘really there is no serious evidence.’

alex jassen, on the other hand, the fine dead sea scrolls scholar from the university of minnesota whom i had the pleasure of sitting on a panel with this past december at the association for jewish studies annual meeting in los angeles, understands that were the scrolls all from disparate libraries throughout jerusalem and none from qumran, one would have an even harder time explaining the congruency of the scrolls (especially the sectarian manscripts), and the loathing of the contemporary jerusalem temple leadership and the sanhedrin in scrolls originating from jerusalem. simply put, arguing that all the dead sea scrolls come from jerusalem creates more problems than it solves.

the article states:

Jassen subscribes to a variation on this theory – that a religious group lived and wrote at Qumran but also brought manuscripts from other groups and places. When the Romans threatened their community, they hid their library in the caves.

“I think the evidence seems to be pretty strong that this is a unified collection that represents the distinct library of a community of ancient Jews who were quite devout in their observance of Jewish law and ritual,” he said.

the conclusion is, of course, that some of the scrolls originated from or were brought to qumran by sectarians, while other scrolls, like the scrolls from cave 3 like the copper scroll were placed there by other jews. there is no reason to force a choice between two equally bad extreme choices.

in sum, the curator of the minnesota dead sea scrolls exhibition has apparently caved in to the demands of norman golb, who along with his student, michael wise (a consultant to the exhibition), has apparently convinced museum administrators that the exhibition should follow golb’s approach to the dead sea scrolls. these museum curators are either ignorant of the contents of previous dead sea scrolls exhibitions (as demonstrated above), or have knowingly turned a blind eye to the other exhibitions and have made false claims about the nature of their exhibition. the curator of the minnesota dead sea scrolls exhibit has erroneously characterized previous scrolls exhibitions as negligent of the different theories surrounding qumran (specifically of golb’s theory), a claim that has principally been made over the years by none other than norman golb himself.

enjoy the exhibit.

(for tickets visit the science museum of minnesota website.)

oh… so you were just kidding this whole time

Raphael Golb

Raphael Golb, accused of multiple counts of forgery, identity theft, aggravated harassment, and impersonation

direct from the ‘you have got to be kidding me’ wing of the lawyering hall of shame comes this, as reported by the chronicle of higher education on november 7, 2009:

A novel legal argument is being used to defend a New York man accused of stealing identities and using them to send e-mail messages and make online comments designed to discredit his father’s academic rivals over their interpretations of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Associated Press reports. The defense lawyer for the accused man, Raphael Golb, says that most of the charges against his client should be dismissed because to uphold them would imperil pranks, parodies, blog comments made under assumed names, and other freewheeling elements of the Internet. Mr. Golb has pleaded not guilty to charges of identity theft and criminal impersonation, in a case originally detailed in The Chronicle. His lawyer, Ronald Kuby, said in court filings this week that whoever sent the messages under other people’s names — and it wasn’t his client — was putting on an “intellectual prank” protected by the First Amendment.

where does one begin? we knew golb and his defense would attempt to turn this into a soapbox for a referendum on his father’s views. we knew that he would attempt to prove his ridiculous accusations were ‘true’ by trying to drag up a bunch of conspiracy nonsense in a trial. we even knew that he would attempt to argue that identity theft and impersonation were protected under the first amendment right to free speech. we expected all this.

what we didn’t expect was for golb’s defense to use a ‘it was a joke’ defense. how would that even sound? how does one claim that a two-year campaign of harassment and defamation ultimately resulting in impersonation, forgery, and identity theft was just a ‘prank’? well, perhaps the defense would sound something like this:

[and yes, the following is a parody of what a 'just kidding' or 'intellectual prank' defense might sound like. the actual defense may differ, and the following parody in no way purports to be the actual words of raphael golb or his attorney]

you thought i was serious?? ha ha ha ha! oh man, aaahhhh, sorry. i was just kidding. it was just a prank. i was just foolin’.

sorry about impersonating you, dr. schiffman. i was just kidding. man, you should have seen the expression on your face. lol. boy, did you get punk’d. when i wrote to your grad students and wrote in the first person and pretended to be you from an email address i created that bore your name, dude, i was totally joking. when i confessed to a crime you didn’t commit on your behalf, i wasn’t bein’ serious. everyone knew i was totally kidding. dude, all those nyu administrators and your colleagues that i spammed accusing you of plagiarizing my daddy, i was so totally just kidding. i wasn’t serious. you had to know it was just an intellectual joke. i just know we’re all gonna just look back at this whole thing and just laugh.

and sorry about that cargill. when i wrote to your faculty and questioned whether you should receive your phd, i was just joshin’. my bad. you had to know that my criticisms weren’t serious. i was just playin’. all those times i accused you of plagiarism and all those times i made fun of you for being a christian, and all those times i wrote to museums like toronto and tried to keep your research from ending up in museum exhibitions, dude, i was just kidding. i wasn’t trying to cause you actual fiscal damage. not at all! it was more like an episode of punk’d. me and ashton kutcher, we’re like this. and when my dad asked for a copy of your unpublished movie script, and you actually agreed to send it to him out of a sense of professionalism, even though he was a known critic?? boy, i could have warned you on that one, dude! you were so naïve! and when you put those warnings on the top of the script and in the email accompanying the script stating that absolutely no portion of your unpublished script could be reproduced, and dad still reproduced several passages online in a critique, dude, you should have totally seen that comin’. you can’t take dad’s criticisms seriously – for crying out loud, he can only ‘publish’ (and i use the term loosely) by self-publishing some rant he wrote and then slappin’ it up on the oriental institute website. no one ever publishes his nonsense anymore. besides, dad was only kidding! and when the oi lawyers removed his critique of your movie from the oi website, he knew you and your legal advisors were just kidding too. see, we were both just kidding around. but seriously cargill, it was all just a joke. i was just playin’ a prank. why are you harshin’ my mellow??

and sorry san diego natural history museum and north carolina museum of natural sciences and royal ontario museum. you thought i was really trying to drive down your ticket sales by criticizing your exhibitions? you thought i was trying to harm your bottom line when i wrote to journalists and encouraged them to investigate the ‘controversy’ that dad and i stirred up? you thought my critiques of your exhibitions were serious?? no, i was just playing a little prank. i wasn’t trying to drive away visitors and cost you actual dollars. i was jus’ keeeding.

and sorry bart ehrman about publishing private correspondence online. that was totally a joke. in fact, daddy and i got a real kick out of that one here in chicago over the holiday. you actually thought i was a real person?? ha ha ha.

and risa, wow, i don’t know what to say. you thought i was serious? you thought i was trying to harm your reputation and career? those letters i wrote to newspapers and journalists about you were simply parody. everyone knows i like to joke and kid. c’mon, you thought i was serious? i’m just like stephen colbert – there was totally an expectation of parody in my tone. everyone knows i’m a jokester. i wasn’t really trying to hurt you, i just wanted to make you laugh. it was all one big prank.

and david noel freedman, i know you’re dead and all, but when i criticized you and called you a fraud only days after your death, man, i’ll bet you were rolling over in your grave. i was sooo just kidding.

and bill schniedewind, when i was going onto your wikipedia page and accusing you of all sorts of stuff, dude, i was totally just playin’. i knew you’d see it was a joke, and that those ten different aliases were all me just trying to see how much crap i could get up on your page. and dude, you didn’t even fight back. you just took it. it was kind of a bummer, but it’s cool now bro, you know i was just pullin’ your chain.

[thus ends the parody.]

this is perhaps the most novel defense in recent history: he will literally stand up before a real judge in a real court and argue  ‘i was just kidding.’ i wonder if that same defense will work with some of the terrorists that golb’s attorney, ron kuby, defends:

[begin parody]

yes, i know i blew up that building, but me and the boys were just blowin’ off steam. we were just joking. it wasn’t meant to be serious…

[end parody]

if one’s defense is ‘it was just a prank,’ and said prank goes too far and breaks the law, then said prankster is responsible. the same is true for accidents that take place in vehicles when the driver is just ‘foolin’ around.’

again, i shake my head…

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