Dead Sea Scrolls scholar defends son arrested for impersonating rival
Raphael Golb's arrest is the latest in a long saga of conflicts among Dead Sea Scrolls scholars.
The Dead Sea Scrolls scholar whose son was arrested last week on suspicion of impersonating an rival scholar says his son understood his opponents were trying to silence him.
Professor Norman Golb, of the University of Chicago, believes that the Dead Sea Scrolls were not written by the Essenes, as mainstream scholarship holds.
"Raphael, my son, is very devoted to my research. He realized years ago that there was an effort to close the door on my opinions. And so he started debating bloggers who were against me, using aliases. That's the custom these days with blogs, as I understand it," Norman Golb said.
Raphael Golb's arrest is the latest in a long saga of conflicts among Dead Sea Scrolls scholars. Although researchers have condemned Raphael Golb's alleged acts, some scholars in Israel accept Norman Golb's contention that some of the most prominent Dead Sea Scrolls academics do silence their opponents.
Most scholars in the field believe that the scrolls were written by the Essenes or the Qumran Sect - a small Jewish group that lived an ascetic life in the desert.
Golb, however, contends the scrolls found in caves at the Dead Sea near Qumran were written in Jerusalem and smuggled to the Dead Sea area during the Great Revolt of the Jews against the Romans. In an article written under the name Charles Gadda, Raphael Golb calls his father's opponents anti-Semites who are trying to sever the connection between the scrolls and Judaism by presenting them as the product of a marginal sect.
Magen Broshi, the former curator of the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum, where some of the scrolls are displayed, called Norman Golb's theory, "foolishness and mean-spirited."
Broshi said Norman Golb is a "mediocre scholar who went into an area not his own. He adheres in a sick way to his positions which are not accepted by anyone in the world."
According to Broshi, "the world is split into two - Golb and everyone else."
However, Norman Golb is not the only one to have doubted the relationship between the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Essenes.
Dr. Yitzhak Magen, the chief archaeology officer of the Civil Administration, who excavated at Qumran for 10 years, says he believes, "not even a quarter of an Essene was at Qumran. The scrolls were the outcome of flight from Jerusalem and other areas that were densely settled with Jews."
Magen also called the proponents of the Qumran Sect theory "a guild with money and conferences."
"But it's beginning to change. I hope some of the scrolls scholars will change their positions. I think this theory will finally win out," he added.
Dr. Yaakov Tepler, head of the history department of Beit Berl Academic College and a student of Christianity scholar Prof. Joshua Efron, hews neither to Golb's opinion nor to the mainstream. Rather, he believes some of the Dead Sea Scrolls were written by Christians and says they allude to Jesus.
"I wrote an huge M.A. thesis that was to have become a doctorate about the Teacher of Righteousness - a central figure in the scrolls. I built 300 pages of reasons why I think the allusion was to Jesus. But today no place in Israel will allow me to publish it. It's just impossible to get an article published, not to mention a book, that expresses an idea that deviates from orthodoxy."
Tepler says he thinks the scholarly establishment is silencing a connection between the scrolls and Christianity.
"At some point it was decided that the scrolls are part of Jewish history, as a basis for Zionism and anyone who undermines this is seen as undermining Israel," he said.