Saturday, March 07, 2009

"I ASSUME WE'LL GET LESS MAIL NOW." Dead Sea Scrolls scholar and curator Risa Levitt Kohn is interviewed by the National Post about the Golb arrest. Excerpt (but worth reading in full):
NP: What do you think of this dispute — what one might expect to remain an academic dispute or a ‘battle of ideas’ — now heading into a criminal court of law?

RLK: This is not an academic dispute. The allegation is of an attempt by one individual to promote Dr. Golb’s views in a manner implying that they are gaining widespread acceptance. Dr. Golb is not the only individual with a theory that disputes Qumran-Essenes or that a sectarian group lived at Qumran. There are different theories, which have varying degrees of acceptance. It’s the nature of academic life that you have scholars in disagreement. They tend to debate in academic publications such as books and peer-reviewed journal articles, and sometimes at academic conferences.
The National Post also has an article on "The Curse of the Scrolls" in which Larry Schiffman is interviewed:
"I don't know what caused the transition from the proper intellectual discourse," Prof. Schiffman said in an interview with the National Post.

"What seems to have happened is his son decided to take up the cudgels of his father and the way he took up the cudgels is this whole series of actions.

"Usually these things happen because someone hates their ex-wife. But this? Who would do this?

"But there is something called the curse of the Dead Sea Scrolls because it would happen quite often that people just go overboard regarding the scrolls."

Over the decades, some scroll scholars have become alcoholics, gone from sound research to fringe theories and suffered other crisis, Prof. Schiffman said.
That's the first I've heard of a curse, although I agree that the Dead Sea Scrolls have a remarkably disturbing effect on some people.

Also, Norman Golb is quoted in the Chicago Tribune, apparently acknowledging that the e-mails came from his son:
Norman Golb, a professor of Jewish history and civilization at the U. of C., on Friday described his son's arrest as another twist in the ongoing, often heated debate about the ancient scrolls.

"The fact of the matter is that if I understand it, Raphael was responding to the attacks on me," Golb said from his university office. "I suppose my son felt it was important to get things straight."

He added, "This has everything to do with the politics of the scrolls."
And finally, another blogger has contacted me to say that he received similar e-mails, evidently from the culprit in this case. April DeConick reports that she got some too. (And April is right that we should have notified Larry Schiffman at the time. I'm used to just ignoring crank e-mails, but this was a little different. Sorry Larry. Live and learn.) And Claude Mariottini gives me yet another reason not to enable comments.

Background here.

UPDATE: I see that Mark Goodacre was a recipient too.

UPDATE (8 March): Rebecca Lesses too.

UPDATE: Robert Cargill thoroughly documents the actions of the "puppet master" at Who Is Charles Gadda? (Via דברים בבלוגו.)
THE LATEST on the Silwan land controversy:
Palestinians dig in their heels in face of demolition

By Richard Boudreaux (LA Times)
March 7, 2009


The dispute is an early test for the Obama administration as it tries to foster peace in the region. Visiting Israel and the West Bank this week, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the demolition plan was "unhelpful" and a violation of Israel's international obligation to refrain from encroachment on disputed land.

If carried out, the plan would cause the largest swath of demolitions in East Jerusalem since its postwar annexation by Israel, which has not been internationally recognized.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat called Clinton's criticism "a lot of hot air" and said the U.S. was trying to interfere with his authority to control zoning and his plans to promote tourism.

"If you build illegal houses, you pay the consequences," he told a group of American correspondents, saying he had expressed that view personally to Clinton. "I expect people to obey the law."

The experience of three generations of Jalajels, however, sheds light on the complex and volatile realities that make any Israeli-Palestinian turf battle here much more than a legal issue. Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of an independent state for them; the mayor and the right-wing Likud party, which is expected to lead the next government, insist on keeping all of Jerusalem under Israeli control.

Background here.
THE LAND DISPUTE around the Mor Gabriel Monastery in Turkey is covered by AINA in a long article:
Battle Over a Christian Monastery Tests Turkey's Tolerance of Minorities
Posted GMT 3-7-2009 6:53:12

KARTMIN, TURKEY -- Christians have lived in these parts since the dawn of their faith. But they have had a rough couple of millennia, preyed on by Persian, Arab, Mongol, Kurdish and Turkish armies. Each group tramped through the rocky highlands that now comprise Turkey's southeastern border with Iraq and Syria.

The current menace is less bellicose but is deemed a threat nonetheless. A group of state land surveyors and Muslim villagers are intent on shrinking the boundaries of an ancient monastery by more than half. The monastery, called Mor Gabriel, is revered by the Syriac Orthodox Church.

Battling to hang on to the monastic lands, Bishop Timotheus Samuel Aktas is fortifying his defenses. He's hired two Turkish lawyers -- one Muslim, one Christian -- and mobilized support from foreign diplomats, clergy and politicians.

Also giving a helping hand, says the bishop, is Saint Gabriel, a predecessor as abbot who died in the seventh century: "We still have four of his fingers." Locked away for safekeeping, the sacred digits are treasured as relics from the past -- and a hex on enemies in the present.

The outcome of the land dispute is now in the hands of a Turkish court. Seated below a bust of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, modern Turkey's secular founding father, a robed judge on Wednesday told the feuding parties that he would issue a ruling after he visits the disputed territory himself next month.

The trial comes at a critical stage in Turkey's 22-year drive to join the European Union. When it first came to power in 2002, the ruling AK party, led by observant Muslims, pushed to accelerate legal and other changes demanded by Europe for admittance into its largely Christian club. But much of the momentum has since slowed. France has made clear it doesn't want Turkey in the EU no matter what, while Turkey has seemed to have second thoughts.

A big obstacle is Turkey's continuing tensions with its ethnic minorities, notably the Kurds, who account for more than 15% of the population and are battling for greater autonomy. Also fraught, but more under the radar, is the situation confronting members of the Syriac Orthodox Church, one of the world's oldest and most beleaguered Christian communities. The group's fate is now seen as a test of Turkey's ability to accommodate groups at odds with "Turkishness," a legal concept of national identity that has at times been used to suppress minority groups.

No pressure.

Background here.
MORE ON THAT TORAH SCROLL from the Lower East Side. The NYT has taken notice:
Even Among Venerable Texts, a Torah Like No Other

Unlocking the secrets of a document that predates Columbus.

Published: March 6, 2009

THE weathered brown parchment with its frayed edges and inked Hebrew letters seemed beautiful but unremarkable.

Itzhak Winer, a 34-year-old Torah scribe turned Judaica seller, considered the item a nice find, but just one of the 30 or more Torahs he buys and sells in a year. From his Jerusalem dealer, he learned that the Torah had been owned by a family in Morocco and was in excellent condition.

“He knew that it’s old, but he didn’t really know — and neither did I — how special it was,” said Mr. Winer, who works out of his home in Willowbrook, Staten Island.

Curious about the item’s origins, Mr. Winer took it to a Lower East Side rabbi named Yitzchok Reisman, an expert in identifying antique Torahs, the scrolls containing the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures.


Rabbi Reisman quickly realized that Mr. Winer’s Torah was unique. The materials and calligraphic style identified it as Spanish, which meant that it was written before 1492, when the Jews were expelled from Spain. In addition, the strong swirls on the top of certain letters matched the style favored in kabbalah, the Jewish mystical movement.

“There are very, very few manuscripts and pieces of manuscripts that are older than the 1400s,” Rabbi Reisman said on a recent day in his ramshackle office as Mr. Winer looked on. And the kabbalistic flourishes, the rabbi added, make it “the only Spanish Torah known done in that way.”

There's a nice photo too.

Friday, March 06, 2009

HEBREW BIBLE JOB at UCSD: I've been meaning to note this since Jack Sasson mentioned it a couple of weeks ago.
Full Professor, Endowed Chair in Hebrew Biblical Studies
University of California, San Diego

The Judaic Studies Program of the University of California, San Diego, invites applications for the Endowed Chair in Hebrew Biblical Studies. Besides the Hebrew Bible, candidates should have expertise in one or more of the following fields: ancient Near Eastern history, historical biblical archaeology, Assyriology, Egyptology, Northwest Semitic epigraphy, and Jewish biblical interpretation. Applicants should be at the rank of Full Professor; Associates on the verge of promotion will also be considered. Income from the Chair's endowment will be available for the support of research.

Proof of U.S. citizenship or eligibility for U.S. employment will be required prior to employment (Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986). Applicants who are not U.S. citizens should state their immigration status at the time of application.

Please reference position number 5-177-H on all correspondence.

Salary will be commensurate with experience and publications and in accordance with the published salary schedules of the University of California.

Review of applications will begin 03/13/09 and will continue until the position is filled.

Nominations and applications, including curriculum vitae and the names and addresses of three referees, should be sent to:

Prof. William H. C. Propp
Chair, Hebrew Biblical Studies Search Committee
Dept. of History, MC 0104-HW
University of California, San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA 92093-0104
Job Listings | MyJobs |
THE GOLB ARREST has been taken up widely in the media overnight. From the NYT article:
The professor, Norman Golb, has stood behind his theory despite significant criticism. His son, Raphael Haim Golb, has been one of his greatest allies.

But prosecutors said on Thursday that Raphael Golb took defending his father’s theory too far. Mr. Golb is accused of using stolen identities of various people, including a New York University professor who disagreed with his father, to elevate his father’s theory and besmirch its critics, Robert M. Morgenthau, the Manhattan district attorney, said at a news conference.

Mr. Golb, 49, was arrested Thursday morning and charged in Manhattan Criminal Court with identity theft, criminal impersonation and aggravated harassment. He faces up to four years in prison if convicted.

Prosecutors said Mr. Golb opened an e-mail account in the name of Lawrence H. Schiffman, the New York University professor who disagreed with Mr. Golb’s father. He sent messages in Professor Schiffman’s name to various people at N.Y.U. and to others involved in the Dead Sea Scrolls debate, fabricating an admission by Professor Schiffman that he had plagiarized some of Professor Golb’s work, Mr. Morgenthau said. Raphael Golb also set up blogs under various names that accused Dr. Schiffman of plagiarism, Mr. Morgenthau said.
Golb defends his son and says these charges are "another attack on his work." The BBC quotes a statement from Schiffman:
Mr Schiffman issued a statement after Mr Golb's arrest thanking the authorities for taking action.

"Reasoned intellectual discourse relies on integrity," the statement said.

"When an individual, in seeking to advance a particular view, engages in impersonation and falsehood, he or she undermines the precepts of higher inquiry."
Incidentally, I recalled overnight that I got one of those fraudulent e-mails back in August. The address of the e-mail had "not been verified" and the site it linked to also looked dodgy, with more "not verified" commenters who looked suspiciously like sock puppets. And, of course, the charges had no merit. So I ignored it.

Background here (immediately preceding post).

UPDATE: Joe Lauer points to this Washington Square News article, which has copies of some of the forged e-mails.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

THIS IS STRANGE. AND SAD. Norman Golb's son has reportedly been arrested and charged with faking internet identities to discredit his father's scholarly rivals.

March 5, 2009

Contact: Alicia Maxey Greene

Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau today announced the arrest of a 49-year-old man for creating multiple aliases to engage in a campaign of impersonation and harassment relating to the Dead Sea Scrolls and scholars of opposing viewpoints.

The defendant, RAPHAEL HAIM GOLB, was arrested on charges of identity theft, criminal impersonation and aggravated harassment. The crimes in the Criminal Court Complaint occurred during the period of July to December of 2008.

The investigation leading to today’s arrest revealed that GOLB engaged in a systematic scheme on the Internet, using dozens of Internet aliases, in order to influence and affect debate on the Dead Sea Scrolls, and in order to harass Dead Sea Scrolls scholars who disagree with his viewpoint. GOLB used computers at New York University (NYU) in an attempt to mask his true identity when conducting this Internet scheme. He gained access to NYU computers by virtue of being a graduate of the university, and having made donations to its library fund.

The investigation, which included a court-authorized search warrant that was executed this morning at GOLB’s apartment, began in response to a complaint by Lawrence Schiffman, Ph.D., that he was impersonated over the Internet. Dr. Schiffman is a NYU professor, chairman of the Hebrew & Judaic Studies Department and a leading scholar in the field of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

I wish this were a hoax, but it seems to be real. Whoever turns out to be responsible, I'm sorry to hear that Larry Schiffman and others were subjected to this kind of harassment.

I remember back in the late 1980s I met a son of Golb, perhaps this one, at a lecture on the Dead Sea Scrolls by Magen Broshi at Harvard University. This son was certainly very keen on his father's work (he was passing out copies of one of his articles), but I wouldn't have thought that keen. The investigation is ongoing, so we'll see what comes of it.

The AP at Newsday has a brief notice [update: now considerably expanded] of the arrest and the Village Voice blog has comments.

For background on Norman Golb's somewhat controversial work on the Dead Sea Scrolls, go here and follow the links.
A SYMPOSIUM ON SIGNS AND OMENS at the University of Chicago:
Scholars to interpret signs and omens of the ancient world
By William Harms
News Office

Leading scholars from around the world will gather at the Oriental Institute to discuss the role of signs and omens in the ancient world. “Science and Superstition: Interpretation of Signs in the Ancient World” is a public symposium scheduled for Friday, March 6 and Saturday, March 7. Amar Annus, a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Oriental Institute, organized the event.

All kinds of worldly phenomena were taken as signs that communicate divine messages about future events in ancient Mesopotamian civilization. The first references to diviners in written sources came from the third millennium B.C.

“The study of signs from gods was vitally important for ancient Mesopotamians throughout their history,” Annus said. That study and the literature associated with signs spread throughout the ancient world, as far as Rome and India.

“The concept of sign is found in all ancient cultures, but was first described in ancient Mesopotamian texts. This branch of Babylonian scientific knowledge had great influence, as witnessed by similar texts written in the Aramaic, Sanskrit and Sogdian, among other languages,” Annus said. Ancient Mesopotamians viewed potentially everything in the universe as signs from the gods.

One of Jesus' parables is invoked as well. Read on.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

ONE-YEAR HEBREW BIBLE JOB, from the Hugoye list:
Please help circulate this. Knoxille is a nice and affordable place to live near the Smoky Mtns.
-Tina Shepardson

The Department of Religious Studies of the University of Tennessee is seeking a full-time lecturer in Biblical Studies with a specialization in Hebrew Bible to teach courses on ancient Hebraic traditions and Hebrew Bible literature. Also desirable is the ability to teach World Religions and/or the emergence of Christianity/the Second Temple Period and/or critical theory of the study of religion. The applicant will have a Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible (ABD acceptable) and will teach four courses a semester, two in Hebraic traditions and two at the lower level. Annual salary is $32,000 plus health insurance. Interested persons should send a cv and three references to Professor Gilya G. Schmidt, Ph.D., Head, Department of Religious Studies, The University of Tennessee, 501 McClung Tower, Knoxville, TN 37996-0450, or email We will accept applications unti! l the position is filled.
MARVIN MEYER is lecturing on apocryphal gospels at the College of the Holy Cross:
Leading Scholar on Early Christianity to Shed Light on Recently Discovered Gospels

WORCESTER, Mass. – Marvin Meyer, one of the foremost scholars on early Christianity, will give a lecture titled "The Gospels of Judas, Mary, and Thomas: The Good News About Marginalized Disciples in Early Christian Literature," on Thursday, March 12 at 7:30 p.m. in Rehm Library at the College of the Holy Cross. The lecture, sponsored by the Center for Religion, Ethics and Culture, is free and open to the public.

ANOTHER CALL for President Obama to prevent the sale of the Persepolis cuneiform tablets as compensation for terrorism, this from Trita Parsi at the Huffington Post. Excerpt:
Under the law, President Obama has the power to issue an executive waiver to stop the seizure of foreign assets if that would further US national security. Considering the importance of the President's efforts to reduce tensions with Iran and solicit its collaboration in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the dire consequences of failure, President Obama should do exactly that. It's not the easiest decision politically, but no one ever said overcoming 30 years of enmity would be easy.
If the President does have the power to stop the seizure and sale of the tablets, I hope he uses it. For my reasons, see here and here. That said, I don't think we should kid ourselves that stopping the sale will make the current Iranian Government like the USA any better, nor do I think that should be a concern in this debate. The tablets should be protected because cultural relics are the heritage of all humanity, they are not financial assets to be exploited for a cause, even a worthy one.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Arab homes on Jewish historical site stoke strife (AP)

By BEN HUBBARD – 41 minutes ago


Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said in a written statement last week that the government had issued no new orders for the area, but added that "Illegal construction is illegal construction no matter where it is." Israel's Interior Ministry had rejected residents' permit requests on their private land because the area is intended for "public recreational use," not for residential construction, Barkat said.

Palestinian residents of Silwan worry that the current City of David Museum is just the beginning of a massive redesign of the area to complete the archaeological park. The park land is allocated by the government but developed by the Elad Foundation, an organization associated with Jewish settlers committed to preventing Israel from ceding the area in a peace deal.

Besides financing digs, Elad buys land from Arabs in the neighborhood so Jews can move in. About 70 Israeli families now live in the area, said Doron Spielman, the group's international director of development. Israeli flags mark their homes, and the Israeli government provides armed security.

Spielman called the area "a microcosm of the Arab-Israeli conflict," but said his group will continue to bring in Jewish families and expand the museum, which had 500,000 visitors in 2008.

"The goal is to excavate as much of the City of David as possible and to bring as many visitors to the site as possible," he said.

And Joseph I. Lauer notes an Haaretz editorial by Nadav Shragai. Excerpts:
Last summer the director general of the Antiquities Authority, Shuka Dorfman, noted in a kind of "post mortem" that the construction in the King's Garden caused significant and irreversible damage to antiquities.

Representatives of the municipality and Dorfman admitted that they had no good explanation for what has happened in this lovely garden, which is described in the Books of Nechemiah and Ecclesiastes, in midrashim (rabbinic Biblical homiletics) and in many historical sources. Dorfman stressed that together with Tel David, the garden constitutes the only complete archaeological garden of first-rate importance.


When the state comptroller began to look into the matter last fall, a plan for laundering the construction initiated by the inhabitants, leftist elements and human rights organizations had already found its way to the planning commissions. About two weeks ago the plan was rejected and since then the area has been simmering and especially subject to incitement.

The Palestinian Authority and Northern Branch Islamic Movement leader Sheikh Ra'ad Salah have called foreign diplomats to the site, begun demonstrations and initiated an outcry. Last Saturday, the protest over "the intention to carry out the demolition orders in the King's Garden" expanded into a general commercial strike in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and East Jerusalem.

The attempt to kasher the illegal construction in the King's Garden was a grave mistake, and it is good that it failed. Nevertheless, carrying out the demolition orders as written, nearly 20 years after the violation was committed, may be just, but it is not wise.

The solution suggested by Yakir Segev, who holds the East Jerusalem portfolio in the municipality, to evacuate the lawbreakers and to give them compensation and land elsewhere, is more fair.

Background here.
SETH SANDERS is blogging again at Serving the Word. Note his recent post, The first source-critical Bible goes online, and his newly updated one from 2005, Do we know the Hebrew alphabet? A lesson on the difference between writing and language.

Monday, March 02, 2009

BIBLICAL STUDIES CARNIVAL XXXIX has been published by Darrell Pursiful at the Dr. Platypus blog. Good stuff.
Airs and graces

Mandy Sayer | March 02, 2009
Article from: The Australian

At Katoomba, in the heart of the Blue Mountains, the local characters rival the majestic scenery.
I’d heard about the small Blue Mountains town long before I first stayed there. In the ’30s and ’40s my father led a jazz band in “Homesdale”, one of the popular holiday resorts on the main street where the musicians also boarded. As a child I’d listened to many a story about their boyish pranks (stealing road signs and blocking off all traffic access to the resort; carrying the bed of the heavy-sleeping bass player, with him still slumbering naked in it, on to the tennis court at sunrise). Seventy years on, Katoomba, with its history of attracting ­vacationers and honeymooners, is still a fertile place for playful and irreverent behaviour.


For me, however, the charm of a given town is not only realised through breathtaking landscapes and beautiful buildings, but also through the people who live there year-round. In one second-hand bookstore, my husband discovered the 75-year-old owner sitting by a heater behind the counter, swathed in a blanket, teaching Latin to a teenage boy. The next day, when Louis was mooching between the shelves, he noticed the same man teaching Sanskrit to a buxom woman who turned out to be Katoomba’s resident belly dancer. A fairly accomplished linguist himself, Louis struck up a conversation with the owner (in English) and discovered he also provided informal tuition, as he presided over the store, in Ancient Greek, Coptic, Hebrew and Aramaic. His well-read wife, apparently, spoke even more languages than he did.

From: "Elhanan Adler"
Subject: Digitized Bible Manuscripts
Sent: Sunday, March 01, 2009 5:44 AM

The National Library of Israel, David and Fela Shapell Family Digitization Project, is pleased to announce the digitization of three of the Library's most important Bible manuscripts:

1. Pentateuch written in Eretz Israel, 10th century. 270 folios, vocalized, with accents and Masora. Known as 'Keter Damesek' (the crown of Damascus)

2. Entire Bible written in Burgos, Spain, 1260. 428 folios, vocalized, with accents and Masora. Also known as 'Keter Damesek'.

3. Entire Bible written in Saragossa, Spain, 1341. 204+206+53 folios, vocalized, with accents and David Kimchi's Sefer ha-Shorashim in the margins.

The manuscripts are presented in the DjVu format which provides high quality, magnifiable images compressed into relatively small files for easy downloading. In order to view DjVu images it is necessary to download and install (once) a special free viewer program.

The manuscripts and their descriptions can be accessed at: (Description in Hebrew)
or (Description in English)

Elhanan Adler
National Library of Israel
From Adam Mendelsohn on the H-Judaic List.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

LILITH is profiled in
Before Adam there was a woman called Lilith!

by ramintork

Remember when you were very small your Mum and Dad would say if you were naughty Lulu would take you away? Well here is her story. Our Lulu is known as Lilith. There are so many versions to her story, she is a female demon, deity, and Adam’s first wife, in some stories born before Adam and in some she is born after him. According to Kabbalah writing she was created before Adam on the fifth day of creation as a water creature. But other writings mention that she was created from the same substance as Adam.

The ancient Near Eastern stuff sounds garbled to me, but Lilith did originate as an ancient Near Eastern demon.
Ancient Torah Discovered

(Grand Street News)

Our favorite local scribe, Rabbi Itzhak Reisman, called us up last month with great news: �I acquired a Torah scroll, written on brownish parchment,� he reported. �The moment I saw it, I recognized it as a Spanish scroll, which means it had to be written before 1492. My estimate was about 1480.�

Reisman says he had a partner in purchasing this scroll, and the partner didn�t trust his expertise so much. So they sent a small sample for carbon dating. The estimate they received was that the scroll was about 1000 years old.

�But my partner was still suspicious, so he took it to another company, for a little more money,� says Reisman, �and they presumably gave a more accurate dating: Between 1290 and 1315.�

That makes it medieval rather than ancient (the cutoff date for ancient is variously the fall of Rome [c. 400], the rise of Islam [c. 600], or the reign of Charlemagne [c. 800] - take your pick). But it still comes under the technical category "way old," which sometimes attracts the attention of PaleoJudaica. I hope we hear more about this Torah Scroll.

Under the same category, according to tomorrow (6 Adar, 5769) is an interesting anniversary:
First Print of Torah with Onkelos & Rashi (1482)

The first edition of the Five Books of Moses (Torah) with the Targum Onkelos (Aramaic translation of the Torah) and the commentary of the famed commentator Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, known as Rashi, was published on this date in 1482. It was published in Bologna, Italy by Joseph b. Abraham Caravita, who set up a printing-press in his own home.