I have long had an interest in the Dead Sea Scrolls. This interest started on my mission, when I was introduced to the scrolls by taped lectures about them made by Einar Erickson and distributed by the Simi Valley Stake Seventies Project. These tapes were very popular in my mission and lots of elders listened to them. I then graduated to Nibley (both tapes and books), and from there I graduated away from LDS lectures (which were often pie-in-the-sky, verging on misleading) to reading the actual DSS themselves in translation and reading non-LDS scholarship about them.
I have retained this interest in the scrolls since my mission. I was a beta tester for the FARMS DSS cd-rom library. I was a docent for the FARMS traveling DSS exhibit when it went to Kansas and Nauvoo. I gave a lecture on the DSS at the Field Museum when an exhibit of some of the real things came to town here in Chicago. And I’ve followed the scholarly debates and intrigues over the years, which have calmed down considerably since all the scrolls were finally made publicly available.
One of the key controversies over the scrolls has to do with their provenance. The longtime, standard theory is that they were created by a sectarian group of Essenes, who lived in the complex that was excavated near where the caves where the scrolls were discovered (Khirbet Qumran). In contrast, Norman Golb, a professor of Jewish history and civilization at the University of Chicago, argues that the scrolls are not the work of a single sect and had nothing to do with that complex; rather, they derived from a number of Jewish sects in Jerusalem and were brought to the caves in an effort to protect them from the Romans. I’ve seen Golb lecture here in Chicago and read his book (Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls). I also remember when BYU cosponsored a sort of debate (standing room only, of course) on the subject held at Stanford University back in 1993 among Golb, Catholic scholar Joseph Fitzmyer and BYU professor Stephen Ricks. I personally am open-minded on the question and think Golb makes some excellent arguments. But his position has never caught on and remains a minority view.
Imagine my surprise just now while reading the Chicago Tribune to learn that Golb’s 49-year old son, Raphael, who lives in New York, was just arrested for waging a one-man campaign of harassment against his father’s critics and those who do not accept his theories. He created dozens of intricate internet aliases and bombarded museums and other scholars with very hostile messages. Apparently he has been doing this for a long time, but only recently has his true identity been discovered.
Apparently the younger Golb crossed the line when he sent e-mails as if he were Lawrence Schiffman, an equally well known professor at New York University and one of his father’s critics, to Schiffman’s grad students, making it appear that Schiffman admitted plagiarizing from the elder Golb (even though his theories are completely different). The real Schiffman contacted the Manhattan D.A.’s office and an investigation began, which led to Raphael, who has now been charged with identity theft, criminal impersonation and harassment. He was released on his own recognizance and the investigation is ongoing.
This reads like something from a Dan Brown novel (who would Tom Hanks play)? I realize people’s passions can become inflamed when debating scholarly issues, especially on a subject as controversial as the DSS, but this really takes the cake.