Thursday, August 7, 2008

Did NYU department chair plagiarize Chicago historian's work?

The following is a succinct summary of allegations of unethical conduct that have been raised against Dr. Lawrence Schiffman, Chair of the Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University.

(1) Schiffman appropriated University of Chicago historian Norman Golb's arguments (published in 1980 and 1985) concerning (a) the connection between texts found at Qumran and Masada; (b) the variegated nature of the Dead Sea Scrolls; and (c) their previously neglected relationship with rabbinical Judaism and the Jewish revolt, all of this on several consecutive pages of an article he published in 1990 and without crediting Golb;

(2) When questioned about his plagiarism by prominent Israeli journalist Avi Katzman in 1993, Schiffman responded: "There’s no innovation in Golb’s theory." Despite being questioned about his use of Golb's ideas by Katzman, Schiffman again used the ideas in his 1994 book without crediting Golb.

(3) Schiffman, in his 1990 article, falsely stated that Golb had argued that the scrolls were the "library of the Jerusalem Temple," a view defended by a German scholar (K. Rengstorf) in the early 60's and explicitly rejected by Golb on numerous occasions, including in the 1980 article;

(4) In his 1994 book, Schiffman repeated the same misrepresentation, citing three articles by Golb (from 1987, 1989 and 1990) each of which shows instead that Golb never argued the scrolls were the Temple library; and

(5) In his book, Schiffman carefully omitted any mention of Golb's 1980 and 1985 articles, thereby covering his tracks and making it seem that he and Golb both came up with the multiple-Jewish-groups view around the same time. By falsely attributing Rengstorf's theory to Golb, Schiffman again implied that there was no "innovation" in Golb's theory.

We are, in sum, if the allegations are true, dealing with a classic case of combined plagiarism and misrepresentation.

Yet the allegations have been discreetly ignored at NYU and elsewhere.

Some may conclude that in this field, anyone who, like Golb, does not belong to the "inner sanctum" of traditional Qumranologists may expect to be smeared, misrepresented, and plagiarized by one or another member of the Qumran-sectarian clique, without any accountability whatsoever vis-a-vis the larger academic community.

For full details, including links to Golb's 1980 and 1985 articles, see the Nowpublic article linked here and at the top of this page.