dr. ed wright responds to my peer-review article on bible and interpretation: a word on professional conduct in the academy

Dr. Ed Wright, Professor of Judaic Studies at the University of Arizona and President of the W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem has responded to my article entitled, “How and Why Academic Peer-Review is About to Change,” on the Bible and Interpretation website. Dr. Wright’s article is entitled, “The Case for the Peer-Review Process: A Rejoinder to ‘How and Why Academic Peer-Review is About to Change’.”

Dr. Wright is a friend and colleague, and I respect his opinion and the solid points he makes in his response. I’d also like to point out that this is how scholarly debate is supposed to take place. When a scholar produces research or a publication for consumption by the academy and/or the public, the scholar should expect and even invite professional criticism. It is the only way to expose holes in a theory or an academic argument, and this process makes the theory stronger. By pointing out problems with a theory, members of the academy contribute to a global discussion and together collaborate to find an interpretation or theory that best explains all of the data. Political candidates do the same thing during debates: they stand up and critique their opponent’s points of view, and, if done properly and professionally, they shake hands when it’s over and go have a beer together. That’s how it works.

Scholars should never personally smear or attempt to harm the professional development of anyone with whom they disagree. Rather, scholars (and students, and the public at large for that matter) should always argue each case on the merits of the argument. This is precisely what Dr. Wright has done here, and it is precisely what Dr. Jodi Magness and I did last year in the pages of NEA and the SBL session that reviewed my book. We stood up, exchanged points of view, pointed out flaws in each other’s theories, and then walked to the next session, where we advocated side-by-side on the same side of a different issue. Scholars should never respond to a professional, public critique of their work with personal attacks. Rather, scholars should respond on the merits of the argument in public (including peer-review journals, blogs, professional conferences, etc.), let others contribute responses, or not respond. Attacking someone personally will only bring much-deserved shame upon the attacking scholar.

This is how it’s supposed to work. Scholars should make their arguments in their own name and stand behind their claims. They should submit to the peer-review process to be critiqued by an assembly of their peers. This ensures the quality of the academic work and improves the collaborative understanding of a particular subject. Rather than attacking a scholar personally with an anonymous campaign of letters designed to impugn the credibility of a scholar who may hold a differing point of view, scholars should offer alternatives and allow the public (i.e., the academy if a scholarly issue, or the greater public if a popular issue) to determine which arguments seem best.

This is what Dr. Wright and Dr. Magness have done. It is what Larry Schiffman and John Collins and Eibert Tigchelaar and David Stacey and the late Hanan Eshel and Eric Cline and Yuval Peleg and many others have done. We all disagree with each other on any number of topics. And we may very well agree on any number of other issues as well. The point is that we humbly submit our contributions to the academy and the greater public for consideration, we make our critiques professionally, and we stand behind and are accountable for the manner in which we conduct ourselves. The academy has, with very few exceptions, always set the example for professional conduct in the exchange of ideas. The academy is the model to which the public and politicians ought to look as the ultimate example of civil disagreement. And this is what Dr. Wright and so many others have done. I hope to follow their example and always offer commentary and scholarly opinions in a professional, transparent (and occasionally humorous) manner.

Thanx again to Dr. Wright for responding. I’m sure the topic will come up when I see him at the ASOR annual meeting this year in Atlanta, hopefully over a beer (that he buys ;-)

bc

Writing the Dead Sea Scrolls Airs on National Geographic Channel: Some Reflections

Dr. Robert Cargill appears in "Writing the Dead Sea Scrolls" on National Geographic ChannelNational Geographic Channel aired the documentary Writing the Dead Sea Scrolls this evening, Tuesday, July 27, 2010. It was accompanied by a UCLA Today story by Meg Sullivan and an article entitled, “Dead Sea Scrolls Mystery Solved?” by Ker Than on National Geographic News.

I wrote about the making of this documentary in a blog shortly after returning from filming it in January 2010. I’ll let others critique the show (you’re also welcome to praise it, but such is usually not the nature of Qumran studies ;-). I shall offer here just a quick summary of what the producers were trying to do with the show.

What This Documentary Explores

The point of the documentary was to highlight the most recent scholarship on Qumran and to get the different, often warring sides talking to one another. As a relatively young scholar in this field, I was asked to investigate the new claims to see what they have to offer.

No one theory answers all of the questions about the Dead Sea Scrolls, and no one Qumran scholar owns the whole truth. The traditional Qumran-Essene Hypothesis – where Essenes built Qumran and wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls there – has slowly been losing support over the past decades. Other theories have been offered in its place, but many of these theories take extreme positions claiming, often rancorously, that the scrolls have nothing to do with Qumran and that the scrolls are the products of anyone but the Essenes. These alternative theories have just as many problems, if not more so. This documentary hopes to show that the answer lies somewhere in between, and that only when all sides work together as professionals and actually talk to one another in a professional dialogue can we begin to reach a viable solution to the question of who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls.

There is a tremendous congruency of ideology within the sectarian manuscripts, which make up a significant portion of the Dead Sea Scrolls. There is a congruent, yet unique messianic expectation (or expectations), interpretation of scripture, halakhic interpretation, and a unique, but consistent calendar present within the sectarian manuscripts recovered from the Qumran caves. It is difficult to explain this congruence – the use of a solar calendar, references to the Teacher of Righteousness, Community Rules for life together in the desert, and especially the very low view of the Jerusalem Temple priesthood – within these sectarian documents if one argues they came from disparate libraries in Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Origin Theory (defined as: the Dead Sea Scrolls were in no way a product of anyone living at Qumran and came, rather, from various Jewish libraries throughout Jerusalem) creates more problems than it solves and has been dismissed time and time again. It fails to explain the congruency of ideology in the sectarian manuscripts. Likewise, the Jerusalem Temple Library theory (which argues that the scrolls are the product of the official library of the Jerusalem Temple) has also been discounted as it fails to explain why the Jerusalem Temple priests would preserve and copy literature that so negatively portrays their activities and emphasizes their illegitimacy.

At the same time, it is difficult to explain some of the ideological diversity present within some of the scrolls if one argues that all of the scrolls were composed by a single sectarian group at Qumran. For example, why are the scrolls written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek if they are the product of a single sectarian community? Likewise, the Copper Scroll from Cave 3 is from a later date than the rest of the scrolls, is written on a different medium, and in a different dialect (some say language) of Mishnaic Hebrew. We simply cannot consider the Copper Scroll the product of a community of Jewish sectarians living at Qumran.

Therefore, it is possible that more than one group or groups hid documents in caves surrounding Qumran. Based upon the evidence, it is possible that a group of sectarian Jews took up residence in the former fortress that was Qumran, brought scrolls with them to the site, copied and penned other scrolls, and hid them all in the nearby caves during the suppression of the Jewish Revolt by the Romans. They may or may not have been Essenes (although the Essenes are still the best candidate for the sect at Qumran). The theory examined in this documentary (a Multiple-Cave, Multiple Author theory, or whatever you choose to call it) explains both the congruence and the diversity within the scrolls, and it explains the development of ideological and theological thought contained with the scrolls from one of strict halakhic interpretation to one that incorporates and develops apocalyptic and dual-messianic expectations, as well as rules for life together as a community. This is not to say that the Multiple Cave Theory is not without problems. The statistical analysis is still in need of serious review and critique, and a theory that argues that different caves “belong to” or “represent” different sectarian groups may be overly simplistic. However, it is a new attempt to explain the congruency and the diversity of the Dead Sea Scrolls and is worthy of examination.

Simply put, some of the scrolls could be the product of a sect within a movement (if I may so summarize John Collins) that resided at Qumran, and other scrolls may be the product of other groups that hid scrolls in many of the caves nearby Qumran. This explains the congruency of sectarian ideology and the diversity of the scrolls, as well as their presence in caves both in Qumran’s backyard (Caves 7-9, 4-5) and those some distance from Qumran, as well as explaining the nature of the archaeological expansions made to the site of Qurman, which appear to be in a communal, non-military fashion.

On this last topic (the archaeology of Qumran), I shall dispense with the equally difficult discussion about the origin and nature of the Qumran settlement. While some have argued that the Essenes built the settlement from the ground up at a date ranging anywhere between 150-50 BCE, I have argued that Qumran was initially built as a fort, was abandoned, and was reoccupied by a small community of Jewish sectarians who were ultimately responsible for collecting, copying, and even composing some of the Dead Sea Scrolls. (In fact, I can recommend an excellent book on the subject. ;-) You will notice, however, that I nowhere in the documentary touted my own theory. Rather, my job was to investigate other scholars’ claims and to assess all of the evidence fairly and without prejudice. The producers chose the interviewees and setup the interviews, and I had the opportunity to talk to this diverse assemblage of archaeologists and scientists and ask them about their research.

The Point of This Exercise

The point of the documentary and of the producers’ approach was to do less of this, and have more of the professional exchange of ideas and more of the kind of scholarly and public dialogue that a documentary like this can generate. It is possible to discuss Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls without resorting to aliases and anonymity, without abusing one’s position to suppress new ideas, and without doing drive-by hit jobs on the personal lives of graduate students and scholars with whom you disagree. This documentary is an example of how one can facilitate a discussion amongst a number of scholars – many of whom disagree strongly – and present the new information, responses to these new ideas, and allow the viewer (both scholar and non-specialist alike) to make an informed decision. It is hoped that this documentary can shed light on the new research surrounding the Dead Sea Scrolls, and can serve as an example of how scholarship can be done professionally and collaboratively in this new age of modern media and the Digital Humanities.

The Importance of the Dead Sea Scrolls

The Dead Sea Scrolls are important because they are the oldest known copies biblical manuscripts we have. They are important because they demonstrate the length Jews were willing to go to protect what they considered Scripture. The scrolls are important because while they have nothing whatsoever to do with Christianity (i.e., nothing to do with John the Baptist, James the brother of Jesus, Jesus, or the early Christian community), they demonstrate that the Christians were not the only Jewish sect reinterpreting Hebrew scripture and applying it toward their leader (the “Teacher of Righteousness” as opposed to Jesus), awaiting a Messiah (actually, two Messiahs were expected at Qumran as opposed to only one (Jesus) in Christianity), engaging in ritual purification (cf. baptism in Christianity), holding property in common (cf. Acts 2:44-45), and awaiting a final, apocalyptic battle (cf. the War Scroll at Qumran and the New Testament book of Revelation). The Dead Sea Scrolls show us the importance of scripture and its interpretation to Second Temple Judaism.

Thank You

My thanks to Executive Producer Ray Bruce and CTVC for producing the show, choosing the scholars, and allowing much of their new research regarding Qumran to come alive. Thanks also to Producer, Director, Writer, and fearless leader John Fothergill for his excellent direction, script, vision, support, encouragement, and enthusiasm in making this project. Thanks also to associate producer Paula Nightingale, who made everything happen when it was supposed to, and to Director of Photography Lawrence Gardner, who shot a beautiful show, and to Sound Engineer David Keene for making the show sound so wonderful (as well as for the many great late evening laughs). Thanks also to Israeli producer Nava Mizrahi and to Antonia Packard for making everything in Israel pleasant and expedient. May we share many more adventures together.

more on ‘writing the dead sea scrolls’

With Shrine of the Book curator Adolfo Roitman (left), Professor Cargill looks at the longest segment of the actual Isaiah Scroll, the oldest copy of any book of the Bible known today. Only a few select scholars are allowed access to the document.

With Shrine of the Book curator Adolfo Roitman (left), Professor Cargill looks at the longest segment of the actual Isaiah Scroll, the oldest copy of any book of the Bible known today. Only a few select scholars are allowed access to the document.

the ucla press room has a short writeup by meg sullivan on my coming nat geo documentary probing the question of who wrote the dead sea scrolls. the documentary will appear on national geographic channel, tuesday, july 27, 2010 at 9:00 PM. you can read more about the show here or preview clips form the show here.

BASOR 358 (May 2010) now available online

ASOR (American Schools of Oriental Research) LogoWord from ASOR Executive Director, Andy Vaughn, is that BASOR 358 is now available online.

The issue contains articles by Bradley J. Parker and Jason R. Kennedy, Jonathan S. Greer, Marcus Rautman, and Jodi Magness.

Visit the ASOR Blog for details.

sbl media guide now available

SBL Media Guidethe society of biblical literature has recently published a media guide for scholars. the media guide is contains comments and suggestions about scholars and their interaction with the media. chronicle of higher education senior reporter jennifer howard discusses ‘how to talk to the media: tips for scholars.’ concerning television documentaries, university of north carolina, chapel hill archaeologist dr. jodi magness warns: ‘tv documentaries: proceed with caution.’ author and publishers’ weekly journalist marcia z. nelson offers, ‘ten commandments in
ten minutes: how to talk to the public via journalists.’ finally, ucla’s dr. robert r. cargill discusses ‘the camera friendly scholar: essentials for giving great tv interviews.’

check it out.

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.)

i wonder if this talk will be any good? magness on cargill

Dr. Jodi Magness, the Kenan Distinguished Professor of Teaching Excellence in Early Judaism at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, will give a lecture at Brite Divinity School on Thursday, February 25, 2010 entitled, "Robert Cargill's Qumran Digital Project."

Dr. Jodi Magness, the Kenan Distinguished Professor of Teaching Excellence in Early Judaism at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, will give a lecture at Brite Divinity School on Thursday, February 25, 2010 entitled, "Robert Cargill's Qumran Digital Project."

brite divinity school has announced that dr. jodi magness, the kenan distinguished professor of teaching excellence in early judaism at the university of north carolina, chapel hill, will give a lecture in the moore building, room 201, on thursday, february 25, 2010 at 11:00 am entitled, ‘robert cargill’s qumran digital project.’

i’m wondering if she will view my research in a favorable light, or in a critical manner like she did at the recent new orleans sbl book review session, where she was among a panel of scholars that reviewed my book? will she take issue with my results (that qumran was established as a hasmonean fort and later reoccupied and expanded by a jewish sectarian community responsible for some of the dead sea scrolls in the caves nearest qumran), or my digital reconstruction modeling methodology (which is a completely transparent (via wireframes) reconstruction of all interpretations of all published scholars of every archaeological locus, distinguished by time periods), or both?

will dr. magness continue to argue that qumran was built as a sectarian settlement from the ground up?  will she argue that the dead sea scrolls were all written by essenes at qumran? some?

attend the lecture and find out!

for some background, read vol. 72, no. 1 in near eastern archaeology here. order the book online at gorgias or amazon.

i can’t wait to hear the podcast!

perhaps i’ll use my forthcoming march lecture in philadelphia entitled, ‘why the dead sea scrolls still matter’ to respond a bit. we’ll see :) -bc


update: also, don’t miss dr. magness’ main lecture on ‘the archaeology of qumran and the dead sea scrolls,’ thursday evening, february 25, 2010 from 7:00 -8:30 pm at the kelly alumni center at brite divinity school (texas christian university).

and i am told by brite that there will be no podcast. perhaps someone in the audience could tweet or blog the lectures?

journey to discover who really wrote the dead sea scrolls

Dr. Robert Cargill viewing the copy of the Great Isaiah Scroll at the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem's Israel Museum.

Dr. Robert Cargill viewing the copy of the Great Isaiah Scroll at the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem's Israel Museum.

who really wrote the dead sea scrolls? that is the subject of a forthcoming documentary produced by ctvc in london for the national geographic channel. i was asked to be among the interviewees which include (in alphapetical order):

  • robert cargill
  • rachel elior
  • shimon gibson
  • jan gunneweg
  • gideon hadas
  • jean-baptiste humbert
  • jodi magness
  • yuval peleg
  • stephen pfann
  • ronny reich
  • adolfo roitman
  • lawrence schiffman
  • orit shamir
  • pnina shor

the documentary is designed to take all evidence into account, including the site of qumran, the known sects of the second temple period, the caves in which the dss were found, and the contents, shape, size, date, paleography, orthography, language, and ideology of the scrolls themselves.

we discussed several aspects of the scrolls including what it meant to be understood as ‘jewish’ in the second temple period. would orthodox zadokites have understood pharisees to be ‘real’ jews? how about essenes? can one be perceived as jewish if one celebrates yom kippur and passover on a date different from other ‘orthodox’ jews? what does it mean that some jews followed different calendars? what if they believed in various versions of an afterlife if they even believed in an afterlife at all? what happens if different groups claim different biblical canons or have a different understanding of what is ‘scriptural?’ what happens if they expected different messiahs or even multiple messiahs? that is to ask, how far can one stray from orthodox temple judaism before one is no longer considered ‘jewish’ and is considered something else?

on my trip, i visited the kidron and og wadis. i walked through ronny reich’s excavation in the drainage tunnels leading from the temple mount to the kidron valley. i dug the destruction layers at en gedi with gideon hadas and climbed atop masada to ask what copies of genesis, deuteronomy, leviticus, psalms, ezekiel, and most importantly, songs of sabbath sacrifice (fragments of which were also found in qumran caves 4 and 11) would be doing on top of the mountain fortress. i walked around qumran with yuval peleg and had him interpret the site for me based upon his ten seasons of excavations there. we later had a drink at the american colony and discussed the various interpretations of qumran and a couple of recent scandals surrounding the study of the scrolls. i read from the actual isaiah scroll in the basement vault of the shrine of the book with curator adolfo roitman. i held actual scroll jars and viewed roland de vaux’s actual field notes at the école biblique with jean-baptiste humbert. i walked around the walls of jerusalem to what shimon gibson believes to be the gate of the essenes. i visited cave 11 with stephen pfann and listened while he explained his multiple cave theory. i visited the israel antiquities authority’s organic materials lab and had orit shamir show me the scroll linens, the tefillin (phylacteries), wooden bowls, and other domestic items from the caves like combs and sandals. i visited the iaa’s restoration lab with pnina shor and watched as her crew restored fragments of the dss and prepared others for travel abroad for exhibition in the united states.

the production crew was wonderful. led by ctvc executive producer ray bruce, the field team consisted of director/producer john fothergill, associate producer paula nightingale, director of photography lawrence gardner, sound engineer david keene, israeli producer nava mizrahi, and antonia packard.

when it was all said and done, i felt fortunate to have had the opportunity to follow the path of the dead sea scrolls from their creation to their hiding, their discovery, restoration, and exhibition. i have a much better picture of who really wrote the dead sea scrolls. did the essenes really write them? some of them? were the scrolls written at qumran or elsewhere? should we even consider the dead sea scrolls a single corpus? or, should see it as a bunch of different collections of writings from various different jewish groups throughout the land? want to know what i think? it might surprise you. keep your eyes peeled in april for the national geographic channel’s presentation of the answer to the now 60 year old question: who really wrote the dead sea scrolls?

Robert Cargill and Jean-Baptiste Humbert

Robert Cargill and Jean-Baptiste Humbert with the Dead Sea Scrolls collection at the École Biblique in Jerusalem.

Robert Cargill and Jean-Baptiste Humbert

Robert Cargill and Jean-Baptiste Humbert reviewing photographs and Roland de Vaux's actual field notes at the École Biblique in Jerusalem.

Robert Cargill and Ronny Reich in the drainage tunnels leading from the Jerusalem Temple Mount to the Kidron Valley.

Robert Cargill and Ronny Reich in the drainage tunnels leading from the Jerusalem Temple Mount to the Kidron Valley.

Robert Cargill and Pnina Shor

Robert Cargill and Pnina Shor in the Dead Sea Scrolls Conservation Lab of the Israel Antiquities Authority in Jerusalem.

Adolfo Roitman, Curator of the Shrine of the Book, reads from a portion of the Isaiah-a Scroll discovered in Cave 1 at Qumran. The Isaiah-a scroll is presently housed in the vault of the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem.

Robert Cargill and Adolfo Roitman

Robert Cargill and Adolfo Roitman viewing a portion of the Great Isaiah Scroll in the vault of the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem's Israel Museum.

Robert Cargill and Orit Shamir

Robert Cargill and Orit Shamir at the organic materials lab of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Robert Cargill and Shimon Gibson at the Wall of the Old City of Jerusalem.

Robert Cargill and Shimon Gibson at the Wall of the Old City of Jerusalem.

Robert Cargill and Yuval Peleg in the locus 138 miqveh (ritual bath) at Qumran.

Robert Cargill and Yuval Peleg in the locus 138 miqveh (ritual bath) at Qumran.

Robert Cargill and Yuval Peleg

Yuval Peleg shows Robert Cargill parts of his excavation at Qumran.

Robert Cargill and Stephen Pfann in Cave 11 near Qumran

Robert Cargill and Stephen Pfann in Cave 11 near Qumran.

on recent news about the ‘cloak and browser’ case against raphael golb

Raphael (left) and Norman Golb

Raphael (left) and Norman Golb. Raphael Golb is accused of multiple felony and misdemeanor counts of identity theft, forgery, criminal impersonation, and aggravated harassment while using aliases to promote the views of his father, Dr. Norman Golb, and smear the names of his father's perceived opponents.

raphael haim golb was back in court on wed. nov. 3, 2009, providing the latest episode in the ever-enthralling ‘cloak and browser’ internet anonymity scandal involving the son of university of chicago historian norman golb, who impersonated another scholar and confessed to plagiarism in his name.

in his about new york column, new york times columnist jim dwyer wrote a nov. 6, 2009 piece about the raphael golb internet scandal entitled, ‘2,000-year-old scrolls, internet-era crime.’ likewise, the associated press wrote a summary of golb’s recent nov 4, 2009 court proceedings entitled, ‘lawyer claims parodies, pranks at risk in dead sea scrolls case.’ likewise, jennifer peltz of the associated press also wrote an article entitled, ‘ny case spotlights dead sea scrolls, fake e-mails‘ which appears on yahoo news. clearly, this case is important both for its implications regarding anonymity, impersonation, and identity theft on the internet, and its repercussions for scholarship within the academy.

and each day that this case drags on, university of chicago historian norman golb’s legacy and reputation becomes more associated with scandal, dishonesty, internet crime and academic fraud, and less associated with his life of scholarship. yet, raphael golb’s defense is insisting that golb’s actions are protected by the first amendment to the constitution.

recent proceedings in the case of the people of new york vs. raphael golb

while the recent press coverage of the golb scandal has been fair, it is relaying some claims by the defense that are misleading or simply not true.

for instance, in his new york times article, dwyer states:

For a while, no one knew that 50 different names in the Dead Sea Scrolls debate were the prolific Mr. Golb…

this is incorrect. i knew, as did a host of others. we all knew. i knew who it was. i tracked everything he did. the potential libel and defamation were civil matters, and i wanted an accurate log of everything golb did or wrote. but when he crossed the line and acted criminally by impersonating nyu professor dr. lawrence schiffman, i contacted schiffman (as i had done with several other scholars before him), told him who was behind it, and handed what i had collected over to the ny district attorney’s office.

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another instance is the claim by raphael golb’s attorney, ronald kuby, that what golb did is commonplace. according to dwyer, golb’s lawyer:

argued that prosecutors were trying to criminalize the commonplace. Both sides in the Dead Sea Scrolls debate, they said, use “sock puppets” — fake identities — on the Internet to make it seem as if scores of people are arguing a point.

“These bloggers marshaled their legion of sock puppets to engage in intellectual combat with the sock puppets allegedly created by Raphael Golb and others,” the lawyers wrote.

XKV8R License Plate

XKV8R (excavator) is currently the California license plate for Dr. Robert Cargill's hybrid Toyota Prius

this statement contains multiple problems. first, where is the ‘legion of sock puppets’ about which golb’s attorney speaks? golb had over 80 aliases (‘alias’ defined as a pseudonym intended to mask the true identity of an author). we know the alias’ names. but to argue that golb was simply battling against other aliases is misleading. many on the internet have internet ‘user names‘, nicknames, or ‘handles’ (like old cb radio handles), but these are not intended to disguise identity. for instance one of my handles is bobcargill (all lower case, one word) – not really much of a disguise. all of the posts i make on this blog are done in the username of ‘bobcargill.’ my user name/handle on wikipedia is ‘xkv8r‘ (previously ‘israelxkv8r‘). again, this handle points to my wikipedia user page, which is complete with pictures and a full biography, making my identity easily known. additionally, the fact that xkv8r.com redirects to my bobcargill.com website, and serves as my california license plate number makes it quite clear exactly who i am.

however, this is not the case with raphael golb. on several occasions, golb vehemently protested discussion about his true identity on wikipedia, perhaps fearful that were his true identity to be made known, he would be the target of any number of civil lawsuits. likewise, raphael golb was always careful to not betray any privy knowledge of or communication with his father, norman golb, for were it ever shown that raphael golb was in direct communication with his father, it may pose the same potential problem for norman golb and his employer, the university of chicago. therefore, raphael golb went to a great lengths to conceal his identity. criminals usually don’t like it when victims know who is behind the mask. but, the rest of us on the internet are not concerned whether the public knows who we are. this is because we are not cowards, but are willing to stand behind the free speech we make.

there is another problem with this line of defense. sock puppets are unfortunately a reality on the internet. but, this does not make them appropriate or legal in certain contexts. for instance, wikipedia prohibits the use of sock puppets on their site. ironically, it was golb’s use of multiple sock puppets on wikipedia (‘critical_reader‘, ‘philip kirby,’ and ultimately ‘rachel.greenberg‘) that provided the final piece of evidence we needed to prove that all of the sock puppets were, in fact, tied to alias ‘charles gadda,’ and therefore to raphael golb. thus, sockpuppetry is not permitted on several of the forums in which raphael golb participated, and it was the reason golb was banished from wikipedia.

the use of aliases by raphael golb was not to promote free speech, but to disguise criminal activity!

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another problem stems from the defense’s categorization of the crime. according to the associated press, golb’s lawyer, ronald kuby said:

“It’s usually very difficult to fit this into a (criminal) legal pigeonhole,”

the problem is: it’s not. again, golb is not being tried for the libel and defamation he spewed online against me and other scholars like risa levitt kohn, jodi magness, william schniedewind, stephen goranson, bart ehrman, david noel freedman, etc. those matters will be taken up in civil court after the conclusion of the criminal trial. golb is being tried for impersonation, identity theft, and aggravated harassment. the new york district attorney’s office rightly limited their charges to only those counts that specifically address criminal attempts to impersonate, harass, and steal the identity of lawrence schiffman, jonathan seidel, and stephen goranson. this means that the defense’s argument that

‘injury to a reputation is a civil matter, not a criminal violation’

is moot, because golb is not being charged for the civil crimes of defamation against me and others, rather, he’s being charged in the specific incidents of impersonation, aggravated harassment, and identity theft in the instance of schiffman, seidel, and goranson. while the defense attempts to blur the line between the civil matters and the criminal ones, the fact remains: it is not very difficult to ‘pigeonhole’ this criminal activity. raphael golb pretended to be lawrence schiffman in order to bring specific harm to him. in doing so, he impersonated him. impersonation is a crime. golb harassed schiffman in a most aggravated manner by writing a post using the alias ‘peter kaufman’ accusing dr. schiffman of plagiarizing his father, norman golb. (note: the nowpublic post by ‘peter kaufman’ has been removed by nowpublic, but that which raphael golb said about lawrence schiffman still exists in a cached web archive, and several blog posts, including this one, still remain online. coincidentally, golb used the alias ‘larryschiffman’ to post this blog.) aggravated harassment is a crime. raphael golb sent emails as lawrence schiffman, after signing up for email accounts and blog addresses in the name of lawrence schiffman. forgery is a crime. taking out an email address (lawrence.schiffman@gmail.com) and writing in the first person to confess to something and blogging in the name of lawrence schiffman is a crime. there is nothing ‘difficult’ about it.

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golb’s lawyer argued:

the e-mail messages were transparent parodies, and that in any event, injury to a reputation is a civil matter, not a criminal violation.

this is simply not true. there is no expectation of parody or satire with raphael golb. in the case of known satirists like stephen colbert, or known parodists like saturday night live, there is an expectation of parody or satire. that is, it can be argued that this speech is protected under the first amendment right to freedom of speech. however, with the case of raphael golb, this is not the case. in fact, the opposite is true. raphael golb was not claiming parody, but was actively attempting to disguise his identity while making false, often harmful accusations against his father’s perceived opponents by hiding behind multiple aliases. at no point was there ever an expectation or acknowledgement of parody or satire. raphael golb attempted nothing less than to defame and professionally harm the careers of his father’s perceived rivals, and ultimately acted criminally by impersonating one of them, lawrence schiffman, in order to do so.

it is important to remember that the schiffman incident was not an isolated incident. rather, it was the criminal culmination of a pattern of behavior involving a well-organized, premeditated, campaign of deceit and influence that escalated from comments on message boards and discussion forums, comments on internet news items, nowpublic articles, blogs, infiltration of wikipedia pages, emails to a graduate student’s faculty questioning whether he should he should receive his degree, written letters to board members of museums, emails to journalists encouraging them to write about golb and the ‘qumran controversy,’ and ultimately the criminal impersonation of lawrence schiffman, which included forged letters to his graduate students and colleagues.

this was not parody. it was a one-sided assault on scholars that disagreed with norman golb and the museums that hosted dead sea scrolls exhibitions. his intent was to harm attendance at museum exhibitions and besmirch the reputations of people who had done nothing wrong other than disagree with norman golb’s minority opinions about qumran and the dead sea scrolls.

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the defense has taken another odd tactic, which demonstrates a lack of faith in their ‘free speech’ defense. according to peltz’ associated press article:

Golb contests sending the e-mails. But whoever did send them was just pulling an “intellectual prank” and expressing ideas protected by free speech rights, said Golb’s lawyer, Ronald Kuby.

golb is attempting to invoke the right of ‘free speech’ while not admitting to making the said ‘speech.’ despite knowing exactly who was immediately responsible for the claims of the ‘charles gadda,’ ‘peter kaufman,’ and other aliases, raphael golb has still not admitted that he was actually the one who sent the emails in schiffman’s name. perhaps this is why golb’s lawyer is attempting to have the statements made by golb at the time of his arrest thrown out. perhaps this is why golb’s lawyer is contesting the search warrant and the search executed on raphael golb’s home: despite all evidence to the contrary (and his father, norman golb’s multiple purported statements essentially confessing that his son is ‘charles gadda’), raphael golb still does not want to admit to sending the emails.

golb’s lawyer, ron kuby, is attempting to invoke a ‘free speech’ defense without admitting to the speech. which begs the question: how confident is raphael golb’s laywer, ron kuby, in his own defense? one would think that if this really were an attempt to argue on behalf of free speech, mr. kuby would say, ‘yes, my client, raphael golb, made these claims, but he is protected by his right to free speech.’ instead, mr. kuby is attempting to argue, ‘this is a case of free speech, but my client does not admit to making the statements (sending the emails) in question.’ kuby undermines the confidence of his own defense by not admitting to his client’s participation in the so-called protected ‘free speech.’

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ultimately, the central claim made by the defense is nothing more than a red herring (or to be technical in a rhetorical sense, an ignoratio elenchi). according to peltz’ associated press article, golb’s lawyer, ron kuby, stated:

“An attempt to influence a public, academic debate by e-mails and blog postings authored under assumed names cannot be an object of criminal” laws designed to protect people from fraud, threats or physical harm, Kuby wrote in papers filed this week.

this is a red herring. of course, attempting ‘to influence a public, academic debate by e-mails and blog postings’ is not criminal. this is what scholars do. and yes, attempting to influence a scholarly debate using arguments ‘authored under assumed names’ may or may not be ‘an object of criminal laws.’ however, this is not what raphael golb is accused of doing!! raphael golb is accused of intentionally posing as lawrence schiffman and admitting to something he did not do! raphael golb is accused of taking out email addresses in the name of lawrence schiffman and writing to schiffman’s students and colleagues in the first person. engaging in or attempting to influence a public, academic debate is not a crime, but, doing so using the names of known scholars, criminal impersonation, identity theft, aggravated harassment, and forgery certainly is.

raphael golb does not stand accused of attempting ‘to influence a public, academic debate by e-mails and blog postings’. this, and harassment, libel, and defamation caused by his actions are indeed the subject of a civil court, and will be deal with accordingly once the criminal trial is complete.

conclusion

raphael golb’s actions in this criminal case were not an isolated incident, nor were they a prank, satire, parody, or other kind of joke. this was a premeditated, well-coordinated, well-planned, methodical, two-year campaign of defamation, intimidation, and harassment, ultimately ending in impersonation and forgery, perpetuated by raphael golb against those he felt were his father’s opponents. his intent was to harm museum attendance and denigrate the reputations of scholars that disagreed with norman golb.

likewise, arguments that raphael golb had to use pseudonyms in order to protect against academic backlash are unfounded. when rachel elior’s minority theory about qumran and the essenes became public, it was widely refuted, but she suffered no harm to her career or reputation by personally addressing criticism on the internet and in the press. she simply participated in the academic process. this differs greatly from what appears to be golb’s approach, which apparently involved raphael doing the dirty work of attacking his father’s rivals, and norman golb siting back in his endowed chair at the prestigious university of chicago oriental institute, seemingly above the fray, and answering inquiries from media outlets most likely drummed up by his son, raphael.

it appears the entire campaign was designed to denigrate norman golb’s rivals, and keep golb’s name – and his theory – in the news. raphael golb went too far, and broke the law.

this is not about free speech, it’s about getting caught breaking the law.

the archaeology of qumran on discovery canada

Dr. Robert R. Cargill (UCLA) appears on Discovery Canada's 'Daily Planet' program to discuss Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls

Dr. Robert R. Cargill (UCLA) appears on Discovery Canada's 'Daily Planet' program to discuss Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

the daily planet program on discovery canada has not one, but two segments on qumran and the origin of the dead sea scrolls. the first segment pits archaeologists jodi magness and yuval peleg against one another in an on-site tour and explanation of the site. the two scholars are interviewed separately and both give their scholarly interpretation of the site. magness argues that the site was the home of a sectarian jewish community responsible for the dead sea scrolls. peleg argues that the site was a pottery production plant and that the scrolls have nothing to do with the site. (for those keeping score at home, dr. magness wins this round ;-)

then, after a segment on the recently named 2009 nobel prize winners for physics (british-american charles k. kao, canadian-american willard s. boyle and american george e. smith for breakthroughs in fiber optics and the invention of an imaging semiconductor circuit), the show highlights my graduate research at ucla, the qumran visualization project, presenting it as a new, collaborative, third option that could possibly bring the two warring sides together and resolve at least some of the interpretative issues regarding qumran. using video clips generated by the qumran digital model, the show pieced together an interview i did a few months ago to present my position on qumran, which understands the remains to be those of a hasmonean fort that was abandoned, and then recoccupied and expanded by jewish sectarians. these conclusions are detailed in my book, qumran through (real) time (gorgias press).

at the end, the show’s hosts, jay ingram and ziya tong discuss my approach. they conclude that while i attempt to bring all of the data together in an objective manner, archaeologists like magness and peleg will probably remain unconvinced, and will consider my approach to be simply one more subjective offering into the mix. of course, i disagree, but they’re the hosts; they get to say what they want. besides, i’ll do my responding in new orleans at this year’s 2009 sbl annual meeting ;-)

(n.b. qumran commentator and defender of the so-called ‘jerusalem theory,’ ‘charles gadda,’ was not interviewed for this segment.)

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