golb gets 6 months in jail, 5 years probation

Raphael Golb is handcuffed and led from the courtroom to prison after being sentenced to 6 months in jail for 30 counts of identity theft, forgery, criminal impersonation, aggravated harassment, and the unauthorized use of a computer.

Raphael Golb is handcuffed and led from a Manhattan State Supreme courtroom in New York to prison after being sentenced to 6 months in jail and 5 years probation. Golb, son of University of Chicago Oriental Institute historian Dr. Norman Golb, was convicted on 30 felony and misdemeanor counts of identity theft, forgery, criminal impersonation, aggravated harassment, and the unauthorized use of a computer. Photo: Steven Hirsch

Raphael Golb, son of University of Chicago Oriental Institute historian Dr. Norman Golb, has been sentenced to 6 months in jail and 5 years probation after being found guilty on September 30, 2010 of 2 felony and 28 misdemeanor counts of identity theft, criminal impersonation, forgery, aggravated harassment, and the unauthorized use of a computer.

Raphael Golb, son of University of Chicago Oriental Institute historian Dr. Norman Golb.

Raphael Golb. Photo: Steven Hirsch

The charges stem from a bizarre case where Dr. Golb used an army of internet aliases to falsely charge his father’s perceived rival, NYU Judaic Studies professor Dr. Lawrence Schiffman, with plagiarism, and then criminally impersonated Dr. Schiffman by opening an email account in Schiffman’s name, emailing Schiffman’s students and colleagues, and “admitting” to the “plagiarism” on Schiffman’s behalf.

Before the trial, Golb turned down a plea deal where he would have pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors, paid a fine, and received two years probation. With guilty verdicts including two felony counts, Dr. Golb not only faces jail time and 5 years probation, but also faces the additional consequence of being disbarred from the New York Bar Association.

David K. Li / NY Post (Nov. 18)
David K. Li / NY Post (Nov. 19)
Jennifer Peltz / AP (Nov. 18)
Melissa Grace / NY Daily News (Nov. 18)
Paige Chapman / Chronicle of Higher Education (Nov. 18)
John Eligon / NY Times (Nov. 18)

 


For the record, I’ll make the following statement:

 

“I am satisfied with the verdict and the sentence in the case of the People of New York vs. Raphael Golb. The sentence fits the crime. During the trial, Dr. Golb showed no remorse, never apologized for his actions, believed what he did wasn’t wrong, and stated flatly that he’d do it again. The disingenuous apology he did finally offer epitomized his defiance:

“I’m sorry for all the wounding of feelings that my e-mail antics have caused…Before this case, I did not know that satirical hoaxes of the sort were treated as crimes in the United States of America.”

He abused the protected speech afforded him by the criminal trial process to attack his victims further, escalating his absurd and false accusations against his victims with the knowledge he could not be sued in civil court. He knew he was guilty, but decided to take as many people as he could down with him. He misused the criminal proceedings against him in attempt to put a leading scholar in the field and a good man, Dr. Lawrence Schiffman, on trial for something he did not do. Because Dr. Golb wasted the people of New York’s time and money in a trial he used as little more than a soapbox for his father’s dismissed scholarly views and a weapon to attack his victims further, I believe the sentence is appropriate.

I am thankful to Assistant District Attorney Bandler and his staff for their hard work in this case. I am thankful to Judge Berkman, who presided over a fair and impartial courtroom. I am pleased that the criminal justice system worked, and that justice was ultimately done. Most of all, I am thankful to my UCLA colleagues and especially NELC Department Chairs, Dr. William Schniedewind and Dr. Elizabeth Carter, and Humanities Division Dean, Dr. Tim Stowell, for their support throughout this entire ordeal. I am also grateful for my wife, Roslyn, and daughter, Talitha, for the love and support they’ve shown me throughout this case.

Please do not mistake my reaction to the verdict and sentence in this case as a happy one. I am not happy about this entire ordeal. No one wins in a situation like this. This is nothing but a tragedy, where academic pride and malice were unleashed in a well-coordinated effort on the internet with the deliberate intent of harming the reputations of other scholars.

If there is one lesson to be learned from this case, it is that there is no such thing as anonymity on the internet. Scholars must be willing to stand behind any statements they make in their own name or else not make them at all. While anonymity has been used in the past to make unpopular and dissenting speech, and while this right of free speech should be protected under the law, what Dr. Golb did – using anonymity as a weapon to attack good scholars via criminal impersonation, forgery, identity theft, and for aggravated harassment against others – is shameful. It is a violation of the law and dishonors the memories of those who have fought and died for the freedom we call “free speech.”

It is a sad reality that Raphael Golb set out in an attempt to rewrite the legacy of his father, University of Chicago historian Dr. Norman Golb. But, because he employed deceitful, unprofessional, and illegal methods to do so, he has ultimately tarnished his father’s legacy perhaps beyond repair. And, because evidence from the trial proceedings demonstrated that Dr. Norman Golb not only knew about, but appears to have participated in some of his son’s scorched earth campaign of defamation against other scholars, perhaps this disgraced legacy is not wholly unwarranted. This is perhaps the worst sentence of all.

I am satisfied with the outcome. I have moved on. However, because Dr. Golb has vowed to appeal, and thereby prolong this case, I unfortunately believe this is not the end, but rather only the latest, never-ending chapter in the continued legacy of the Dead Sea Scrolls.”

Robert R. Cargill, Ph.D.

 


 

Raphael Golb "apologizing" from a prepared statement, which included the recitation of several definitions of 'sarcasm,' 'satire,' and 'irony.' Photo by Hermann for News.

Raphael Golb "apologizing" from a prepared statement, which included the recitation of several definitions of "sarcasm," "satire," and "irony," for the judge. Photo: Hermann for News.

On Using Digital Course Material to Publish Textbooks

Chronicle of Higher EducationThere’s an article in the October 8, 2010 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Ed by Jeffrey R. Young entitled, “As Textbooks Go Digital, Will Professors Build Their Own Books?,” that discusses using digital courses to build textbooks.

Young states:

McGraw-Hill Higher Education plans to announce its revamped custom-publishing system, called Create, with an emphasis on electronic versions of mix-and-match books. Macmillan Publishers this year announced a similar custom-textbook platform, called DynamicBooks. And upstart Flat World Knowledge touts the customization features of its textbooks, which it gives away online, charging only for printed copies and study guides. Other publishers have long offered custom-textbook services in print as well, though they have always represented just a sliver of sales.

It is only a matter of time before someone develops a system that takes course content rich with media that many instructors have developed via PowerPoint, Google Earth, videos, sounds, and turns it into a book. The problem is, of course, that in doing so, we are actually going backward with regard to technological development. It’s the equivalent of the instructor who asks a tech in the media lab to make a 35-mm slide from a digital image, or a vinyl record from a CD. Publishing digital content in a printed, “analog” book is backward. The only problem is that many tenure-granting universities still only acknowledge print-published volumes as “legitimate,” and thumb their noses at “digital” or “online” publications.

I discussed the problem in my book:

Thus, a problem of scribal technology persists. While technology for gathering and processing information has advanced almost exponentially, the accepted means of communicating this new information is stuck in a scribal format that is literally thousands of years old: the written word. Scholars have yet to adopt alternative means by which to receive and redistribute information developed and communicated in three-dimensional format. Far too many scholars are insisting that technologically minded scholars communicate digital information by analog means. Digital journals and online publications are a step in the right direction, but even these new digital publications are made to look like the traditional written pages of journals in many instances, rather than harness and utilize the interactive connectivity and visual capabilities available on the Internet.

While the three-dimensional modeling of archaeological reconstructions is an improvement upon its hand-drawn predecessor, the full power of three-dimensional modeling cannot be realized because three-dimensional models are rendered into static illustrations of what was an otherwise dynamic environment. While three-dimensional modeling is a vast improvement over two-dimensional representations, the lack of a means by which to fully experience the three-dimensional model leaves the interactive power of the three-dimensional model untapped. In order to fully harness the power of the three-dimensional model, a virtual reality environment must be adopted. Only when an effective means of communicating three-dimensional data is accepted by the academy will the potential of this new technology be fully realized.

Cargill, Robert, Qumran through (Real) Time, (Gorgias, 2009), 69-70

This research also realizes the overt incompatibility of publishing a book involving digital reconstructions in three-dimensional space in the traditional paper and ink format. It is, of course, highly ironic that this three-dimensional research is looked down upon by many, who prefer the time-honored, traditional medium of the printed book, which cannot fully convey the technological approach described within its pages. It is as incomplete as literally trying to describe a picture with a thousand words! Thus, the present research calls on scholars, publishers, dissertation committees, and departments of archaeology, architecture, and other related programs to make themselves more accommodating to newer digital forms of publication. As the word processor has replaced the typewriter, so too will digital and three-dimensional formats soon replace analog and two-dimensional formats for publishing archaeological materials. These new digital formats should not be seen as “alternative” or lesser means of publication, but as “progressive” media that are on the cutting edge of modern archaeological research.

Cargill, Robert, Qumran through (Real) Time, (Gorgias, 2009), 217-18.

(Yes, I recognize the irony of complaining about having to publish digital media in a print-published volume from the pages of a print-published volume. ;-)

The reason faculty still publish their classroom content as print-published books (and the reason publishers still offer published books) is because the money and academic prestige still lies in the print-published textbook, not in digital, online course.

Until a solution is discovered that makes money for “publishing” the digital material online, and offers the same tenure-improving prospects of a textbook, printed books will be favored in university settings. Until then, instructors will continue to take rich instructional and research media and print it on paper for placement on bookshelves.

Print on demand is a step in the right direction, but it will only be when university administrators, deans, and department chairs (that is, tenure-granting authorities) accept digital research as equally prestigious as the traditional print-published volume, and when nominal profit is available to the instructor providing the content that we will truly see an explosion in digital course materials available online. Until then, enjoy publishing your work with that prestigious publisher charging $150 per volume for your work, that only those who visit libraries will read.

DR. GOLB FOUND GUILTY! – New York Criminal Court Finds Golb Guilty of Multiple Counts of Identity Theft, Forgery, Criminal Impersonation, Aggravated Harassment


“This refers to the Spouter of Lies (מטיף הכזב), who deceived many…

1QpHab 10:9
(Pesher Habakkuk is a Dead Sea Scroll from Qumran Cave 1)


 

Dr. Raphael Golb, son of University of Chicago Oriental Institute historian Dr. Norman Golb, was found guilty on 51 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.

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.

The Criminal Division of the New York Supreme Court has found Dr. Raphael Golb, son of University of Chicago Oriental Institute historian Dr. Norman Golb, GUILTY of multiple felony and misdemeanor counts of identity theft, criminal impersonation, forgery, aggravated harassment, and the unauthorized use of a computer. The charges stem from a bizarre case where Dr. Golb used an army of internet aliases to falsely charge his father’s perceived rival, NYU Judaic Studies professor Dr. Lawrence Schiffman, with plagiarism, and then criminally impersonated Dr. Schiffman by opening an email account in Schiffman’s name, emailing Schiffman’s students and colleagues, and admitting to the “plagiarism” on Schiffman’s behalf. Dr. Golb was also charged with criminally impersonating and/or assuming the identity of Dr. Frank Moore Cross, Dr. Jonathan Seidel, Dr. Jeffrey Gibson, Dr. Stephen Goranson; the aggravated harassment of Dr. Lawrence Schiffman, Dr. Stephen Goranson, and Dr. Robert Cargill; and of the unauthorized use of a NYU computer.

The 12-person jury of Dr. Golb’s peers wasted little time in finding him guilty on multiple counts.

So much for the “it may not be very nice, but it’s not illegal” defense. It’s illegal too!

Dr. Golb admitted under cross-examination that he lied to police during his initial arrest interview, and that he had indeed created all of the emails he sent to NYU and UCLA faculty and administrators.

Dr. Golb’s defense attorneys, Ron Kuby (who is notable enough to have a Wikipedia page ;-) and David Breitbart, attempted to argue that Dr. Golb’s criminal impersonation, identity theft, and forgery were protected under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment right to free speech. The jury apparently was not impressed with the defense’s attempt to use protected speech afforded it by the criminal justice process (witnesses cannot sue the defense for libelous, defamatory, and/or false claims made during the trial) to attack Dr. Golb’s victims further. Despite attempting to turn the trial into a referendum on Dr. Golb’s views about the Dead Sea Scrolls, attempting to put Dr. Schiffman on trial for plagiarism he did not commit, or using a parody/satire/I was just kidding/it was all a joke defense, the jury saw through defense tactics and found Dr. Golb guilty.

The convicted felon Golb will be sentenced November 18. Prior to the trial, the defendant turned down a plea agreement where he would have pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges, paid a fine, and would be placed on probation for two years. Golb rejected the deal because probation would have prevented him from using aliases to battleblog against others online. Perhaps this explains defense attorney David Breitbart’s comment:

“He had to go to trial in this case in order to accomplish his goal.”

This sentiment betrays Dr. Golb’s entire motive both for his smear campaign and for not settling the case: he knew he was guilty, he knew what he was doing was wrong, he knew he was going down, so he tried to take Dr. Schiffman with him. He tried to put Dr. Schiffman on trial for something he didn’t do.

It is worth noting that the father of the convicted felon, Dr. Norman Golb, has been shown in publicly available court documents (here and here) to not only have known about his son’s smear campaign, but to have actively participated in some of the activities that led to his son’s arrest and conviction. Yet, Dr. Norman Golb did not testify in his son’s defense; he did not even attend the trial.

Perhaps the Dead Sea Scrolls really are cursed…

A few questions remain:

  • Will Dr. Golb appeal the decision?
  • Will Dr. Golb be automatically disbarred from the New York State Bar, or will there be disbarment proceedings?
  • Will the University of Chicago formally apologize to the victims of crimes committed by relatives and employees of the Oriental Institute now that the court has shown that a University employee (Dr. Norman Golb) had full knowledge of and participated in some of these criminal activities?

As for my role in this case, I shall continue to monitor the situation and shine a light on all those who attempt to use devious means to harm good scholars. I shall continue to update this case at who-is-charles-gadda.com.


“For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel,
and before the sun.”

2 Samuel 12:12

on the virtues of doubt

question markI was invited by my friend Jason Boyett to write a piece on doubt for his blog, O Me of Little Faith. I wrote an essay entitled, “On the Virtue of Doubt: A Brief Autobiography of the Skeptic in the Sanctuary,” in which I discuss the influence that doubt, skepticism, and science have had in my life and career. I recount portions of my personal story moving from my Christian upbringing in central California to life as a scholar embracing science, evolution, and the critical method, and rejecting literalistic interpretations of the Bible. I describe my struggles with issues of faith and what I’ve learned from it all.

Please give it a read.

Lawrence Schiffman, Robert Cargill Interviewed Live on Israel National Radio’s LandMinds Program

Arutz Sheva's Israel National RadioI was interviewed live this morning on Arutz Sheva’s Israel National Radio on the LandMinds program with Barnea (Selavan) and David (Willner). Jim Long sat in for Barnea, who was away. NYU’s Dr. Lawrence Schiffman was interviewed in the first hour (mp3: part 1, part 2), and I was interviewed in the second hour (mp3: part 1, part 2).

Professor Schiffman answered questions about Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls for the first hour and provided some wonderful insights and background to the study of the scrolls. In the first part of the second hour, I answered questions about Qumran and offered my opinions about the establishment of the site, its residents, who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the role of virtual reality modeling in archaeology. In the second half hour, I answered questions about the history of archaeology, the role of scholars in public education, technology’s role in archaeological education, the importance of debunking pseudoscience and sensationalist claims, how to teach critical biblical studies without abandoning the faith and/or alienating people of faith, issues of biblical historicity and mythology, and finally answered the story about how I came to be Nicole Kidman’s private tutor.

Many thanx to David Willner and Jim Long for a wonderful interview. Don’t forget to add the LandMinds Facebook page.

LandMinds broadcasts live at www.israelnationalradio.com every Wednesday from 5-7pm Israel time, 3-5pm in the UK, and 10-12am EST. Shows are rebroadcast, and archived on the A7 and Foundation Stone websites for your convenience. Podcasts are also available on iTunes.

to trial we go: golb formally refuses plea bargain

Raphael Golb rejects no-jail plea offer in Manhattan Criminal Court on Friday.

Raphael Golb rejects no-jail plea offer in Manhattan Criminal Court on Friday. Photo by Siegel for News.

laura italiano of the ny post is reporting that plea bargain negotiations between the ny district attorney’s office and a lawyer for raphael golb have broken off without agreement. melissa grace has the story at the new york daily news:

That means the case against Raphael Golb, a real-estate lawyer turned amateur religious scholar, is headed to trial in September.

the case is scheduled for trial beginning september 13, 2010.

Raphael Golb, son of University of Chicago Oriental Institute historian Dr. Norman Golb, is accused of identity theft, forgery, criminal impersonation, unauthorized use of a computer, and aggravated harassment by the state of New York. Plea  bargain negotiations broke down today. The trial is scheduled for September 13, 2010.

Raphael Golb, son of University of Chicago Oriental Institute historian Dr. Norman Golb, is accused of identity theft, forgery, criminal impersonation, unauthorized use of a computer, and aggravated harassment by the state of New York. Plea bargain negotiations broke down today. The trial is scheduled for September 13, 2010. Photo by Steven Hirsch.

according to sources:

They offered the son 80 hours of community service if he pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors – and the judge said three years probation would have to be a condition.

Golb turned it down because probation would bar him from contacting his victims – including posting on blogs where the scrolls’ origins are debated.

golb is the son of university of chicago oriental institute historian dr. norman golb. golb is accused of multiple felony and misdemeanor counts of identity theft, forgery, criminal impersonation, unauthorized use of a computer, and aggravated harassment by the state of new york as a result of golb’s involvement with an extensive campaign to smear the perceived rivals of his father. a detailed history and evolution of golb’s campaign against dead sea scrolls scholars, grad students, museums, and universities is chronicled at the who is charles gadda website.

here we go…


for background:

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.

thoughts on the recent announcement by italian scientists regarding the bromine and chlorine levels of the temple scroll

The Temple Scroll, columns 19-21, from Qumran Cave 11. The scroll dates between the late 1st century BCE to the early 1st century CE. It is written in Hebrew with ink on parchment.

The Temple Scroll, columns 19-21, from Qumran Cave 11. The scroll dates between the late 1st century BCE to the early 1st century CE. It is written in Hebrew with ink on parchment.

Owen Jarus at Heritage Key has a nice summary of new evidence regarding the origin of the longest of the Dead Sea Scrolls: the Temple Scroll (11QT). Led by Professor Giuseppe Pappalardo, a team of Italian scientists made up of researchers of the National Laboratories of the South (LNS) in Catania of the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (INFN, or Italy’s National Institute for Nuclear Physics):

claim to have identified the origin of the longest of the Dead Sea Scrolls (known as The Temple Scroll) by identifying the source of the water used to make the parchment…The team analyzed the ratio of chlorine to bromine in fragments of the Temple Scroll. They then compared this ratio to that of the water sources near Qumran.

In a press release from July 2, 2010, the INFN concluded:

The ratio of chlorine to bromine in the fragments of the Temple Scroll was then analysed using proton beams of 1.3 MeV, produced by the Tandem particle accelerator at the INFN National Laboratories of the South. According to this analysis, the ratio of chlorine to bromine in the scroll is consistent with the ratio in local water sources. In other words, this finding supports the hypothesis that the scroll was created in the area in which it was found.

At roughly 32% salinity, the water in the Dead Sea is nearly 9 times as saline as the oceanic average. Likewise, the Dead Sea has the highest concentration of bromide ions (Br) of all bodies of waters on Earth. Because of these distinctive properties, the chlorine and bromine levels of the Temple Scroll’s parchment can be used as a way of determining the origin of the parchment. Because the bromine levels matched those distinctively elevated levels of the Dead Sea, the researchers could confidently conclude that the parchment of the Temple Scroll was manufactured at or near the Dead Sea.

The Italian team says it will next use the same XPIXE and particle accelerator technique to test the Temple Scroll’s ink. This is an important test because it is possible that the parchment was cured at or near the Dead Sea, and then sold or transported elsewhere for use by scribes residing in some other region. Qumran has offered evidence of animal husbandry, and appears to have had distillation vats (Locus 121) that may have been used to cure animal hides for the production of parchment. While the existence of inkwells in Locus 30, evidence of animal husbandry (needed for animal skins), and the presence of distillation vats all support the suggestion that scrolls (or at least parchment) were produced at Qumran, it does not necessarily follow that the resulting parchment was inscribed at Qumran. Granted this is somewhat of a minimalist position, but one cannot argue for certain that the Temple Scroll’s parchment was cured at Qumran, only that it was cured using water from the Dead Sea. Likewise, the presence of parchment production facilities (if that’s what they were indeed used for) at Qumran does not necessarily mean that the parchment was inscribed at Qumran, just as the presence of paper at a paper mill does not mean that the paper was used only at the mill. Just as most universities do not produce their own paper, but import it from elsewhere, so too could the parchment used for what became the Temple Scroll have come from the Dead Sea region, but inscribed elsewhere.

The analysis of the ink is important because it could demonstrate that the ink used to write on the Temple Scroll may also have been produced with water from the Dead Sea. And while this still leaves open the possibility that both the inks and parchment were produced at Dead Sea industrial installations and exported to other areas (for instance, Jerusalem), the preponderance of evidence (animals at Qumran, inkwells at Qumran, scrolls in caves near Qumran) would seem to support the continued suggestion that at least some of the Dead Sea Scrolls were produced at Qumran.

While this research does not prove that the Temple Scroll was penned at Qumran, we can conclude that there were viable industrial installations and activities taking place near the Dead Sea. And while we do not yet know the full extent of the industrial activity in the Dead Sea region, the fact that many of these industrial activities such as date palm cultivation, animal husbandry, parchment curing, and ink production can all be shown to have been practiced on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea in the late Second Temple period supports the suggestion that small groups of people could have lived and even prospered, leading self-sustaining lives in that region.

Did the Essenes (or some other Jewish sect or sects like them) write the Dead Sea Scrolls (or at least some of them) at Qumran? From a purely archaeological perspective, we still don’t know. But, all of the elements necessary for scroll production appear to be present there.

on the misuse of archaeology for evangelistic purposes

i have written an article at bible and interpretation entitled “on the misuse of archeology for evangelistic purposes.” the article provides an update on the ridiculous claims earlier this year from a hong kong group called noah’s ark ministries international (nami) claiming they had found noah’s ark. in the article, i demonstrate how their intentionally misleading claims were designed purely to attract people to jesus. the article is essentially a sandwich of introducing the problem of pseudoscience and recommendations for proper ‘biblical’ archaeology, with some debunking of the noah’s ark folks in between.

i conclude the article with a list of more appropriate tips for doing archaeology in areas mentioned in the bible.

please check it out and feel free to leave comments there or here.

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.

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