Sunday, January 23, 2005

The Indictment: The Jehoash Tablet

This is a translation of the second rubric of the forgery indictment document, detailing the indictment of Oded Golan for forging the "Jehoash tablet":
1. In the course of the year 2001 or shortly before, the Accused No. 1 [Oded Golan] planned to forge an inscription on a stone tablet, in order that it should appear to be an inscription from the age of King Jehoash, in which was described the renovation of the First Temple. The accused did this for the purpose of monetary gain and other advantages gained by fraud, as detailed below.

2. For the achievement of his plan, the accused used an ancient tablet of stone (hereinafter: the stone tablet). On the stone tablet the accused engraved, with the help of another, the inscription called today the "temple repair inscription" or the "Jehoash inscription" (hereinafter: the temple repair inscription) containing scores of letters in ancient Hebrew script. In the inscription is described the repair work in the First Temple in the age of King Jehoash, an event described in the Tanak [Hebrew Bible] in II Kings and in the book of Chronicles.

3. After the addition of the inscription to the stone tablet, the accused disguised, with the help of another, the fact that the inscription had been engraved recently, by means of spreading different materials on the tablet, so that on examination the inscription would appear to be one that had been written in the period of the First Temple, because of its being covered by a patina that appeared to be from the era of the First Temple.

4. After he forged the inscription on the tablet, the accused asked experts to examine the inscription, so he could find out if his forgery was good enough to deceive, and in order to receive opinions that would help him in his efforts to sell the inscription. In fact the accused succeeded in deceiving some experts, and obtained opinions that the inscription was ancient. The accused used intermediaries to show the inscription to experts, so that his identity would not be revealed.

5. The accused did the actions described in order to be the possessor of an inscription that was to all appearances the only surviving remnant from the First Temple, one that corresponds to the written description in the Tanak relating to the Temple. The accused did this with the knowledge that he would be able to sell the artifact for millions of dollars.

6. During the years 2001-2002 the accused offered the inscription for sale to the Israel Museum, with the purpose of receiving for it millions of dollars. During the negotiations, the accused maintained the false pretense that the inscription was indeed ancient, and that he had come into possession of it 25 years previously, although he knew that this was not the truth, that in fact the inscription had been incised only recently. The accused approached the Israel Museum through an office of lawyers, so that his identity should not become known. He also attached false documents that stated that the inscription had been in the possession of another well-known and respected collector for a long time.

7. The accused did all the aforesaid with the full knowledge of the enormous religious, scientific, emotional, and economic significance of his actions and of his possession of the tablet, with the purpose of gaining worldwide publicity and the large sum of money that would be paid to the owner of the stone tablet.

8. The negotiations with the Museum were not completed, among other things because of the investigation of the authorities in Israel and the seizure of the stone tablet from the accused.

9. By his actions, the accused forged the Temple Repair Inscription on the stone tablet in order to receive something by means of it under special circumstances, he attempted to receive something by fraud under special circumstances when he maintained the false pretense that the inscription was written in the period of the First Temple, with the knowledge that the inscription was written by his own plan in recent years.

10. The special circumstances are these: that the accused acted in a methodical and premeditated manner for the purpose of creating a forged artifact, and the accused did by these false pretenses cause harmful effects to the division between religions and was liable to deceive millions of believing Jews throughout the world, as well as researchers in history and archaeology throughout the world. In addition to this, the accused by these false pretenses was likely to make a profit by fraud of sums of money estimated at least in the millions of dollars, as well as the realization of other advantages.

There follows an indictment on two counts.

Compared to the previous translation, I've made one change, using the expression "special circumstances" instead of "aggravated circumstances" to translate נסבות מחמירות, nesibbot machmirot, lit. "circumstances that cause severity." Obviously the Hebrew expression is used as the opposite of what would in English be called "extenuating circumstances"; but apparently in American jurisprudence the proper expression for the opposite of "extenuating circumstances" is "special circumstances," so that's what I used.

That fact that the Israeli court mentions the effect on religions in its indictment has raised some eyebrows in the United States, where such effects would lie outside the court's purview. I don't know Israeli law, so I don't know whether this is unusual there as well, but maybe it isn't. (Perhaps some of my readers could enlighten me on this.) But clearly the Israel Ministry of Justice has to invoke special circumstances of some kind; Oded Golan, if he is guilty, is more than just an ordinary con man, and his forgeries are more grave in their potential effect than selling a fake lamp to a tourist for $50. This has to be expressed somehow.

Note again that the indictment names only Golan as being involved in the forgery of the Jehoash tablet.


Yuval Goren said...

Undoubtedly, other names will be connected to the forgery of the Jehoash tablet in the course of the trial. I can't believe that this was a project of a single person. Note that the indictment states that "On the stone tablet the accused engraved, with the help of another, the inscription called today the temple repair inscription", while on the James ossuary, it says that "To this ossuary the accused, either by himself or with the aid of others, added the words brother of Jesus". So in the case of the Jehoash tablet, there was evidently some "another". Who is this anonymous? We need to wait

EMC said...

That's true, Yu; but I was just pointing out that the indictment names only Golan in connection with the tablet, not the other men (e.g. Deutsch) mentioned in connection with other offenses.

Yuval Goren said...

My previous comment was cut somehow. Anyway, I assume that the "other person" was not one of the other accused individuals (e.g., R. Deutsch); otherwise his name would have been specified (as in other parts of the indictment). So we need to wait patiently for the trial or the release of the evidence material and see who was this other person and what was his/her role in the forgery of the Jehoash tablet.