They are considered to be, by many scholars, some of the oldest pieces of tangible evidence remaining from the original manuscripts of the Hebrew bible. Beginning in the 1940s, pieces of parchment were discovered along the West Bank of Israel, which later became known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. These extremely dilapidated writings offered possible evidence of diverse schools of thought amongst various Jewish sects, dating as far back as 408 BCE. The title of the documents relates to their uncovered locations, inside caves only a short distance from the Dead Sea. Not surprisingly, the exact origin of the scrolls has come under some controversy over the years. Most recently, attorney Raphael Golb was convicted in a New York court on a slew of charges stemming from his alleged attempts to fraudulently discredit certain Dead Sea Scroll scholars. Now, Golb and his lawyer are pursuing an Albany court appeal of these convictions that have brought even more attention to the Dead Sea Scroll controversy.
Apparently, there are two decidedly main schools of thought relating to the history of the scrolls. One argument poses that the origin of the writings were the work of the Essenes, a relatively small Jewish sect believed to have existed not far from the site of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The other belief, posed by many – including Golb’s father, Norman – hypothesizes that the manuscripts were a compilation from many different Jewish communities and hidden in the caves in order to evade the Romans.
In an odd attempt to support his father’s theory and “mock” the oppostion, Golb took to the Internet with a pseudonym, Lawrence Schiffman, who is critic of his father, Norman. Raphael Golb then allegedly sent e-mails as Schiffman, claiming to have plagiarized Norman Golb’s earlier works. These e-mails were sent to museums, press, and scholars. Ultimately, Raphael Golb was convicted of almost 30 charges, including identity theft, unauthorized use of a computer, and aggravated harassment. Not relenting on the defense, lawyer Ronald Kuby and Golb have taken the case to Albany for an appeal of the convictions which, according to the two, actually stem from Golb’s attempt to simply satirize scholars on the “other side” of the Dead Sea Scrolls issue.
According to Kuby, the judge of the initial trial, “failed” to offer correct instructions to the jury, and that Golb’s First Amendment rights to freedom of speech were not protected. He further questioned whether or not it is acceptable to persecute someone for: “fraud when there’s no financial benefit or tangible property associated with it?” Golb has always maintained that his actions were an attempt at satire, not thinking anyone would actually believe the e-mails to be legitimate.
In opposition to this notion, District Attorney Vincent Rivellese has argued to the Court of Appeals that the trial judge had been clear in his instructions to the jury, who were guided not to convict the defense for “parody, satire, or academic debate.” Instead, the jury was instructed to consider the possibility of Golb committing the crime of identity fraud. For decades, the Dead Sea Scrolls have been under tremendous scrutiny and now, with the appeal of Golb’s convictions, it seems a whole new light is being shed on an age-old controversy. A decision in the case is expected in April 2014.
By Josh Taub