Josephus: Noble Sicarii Suicide or Mass Slaughter at Mount Masada?

  • Nicholas Peter Allen North-West University
Keywords: Josephus, Masada, sicarii, mass-suicide


An attempt is made to ratiocinate historical events at Mount Masada in circa 74 C.E. as related by Josephus Flavius. Cohen (1982, 393) clearly sees Josephus as a mostly dishonest historian, one who happily exaggerates and embellishes his accounts. As a consequence of this rhetorical straitjacket that he places Josephus in, Cohen (for one) cannot accept Josephus’s Masada account as being an “unalloyed version of the truth.” The author analyses Josephus’s track record apropos his recording of other historical events and submits that, rhetorical strategies aside, the historian can largely trust Josephus’s accounts.



Author Biography

Nicholas Peter Allen, North-West University

Nicholas Peter Legh Allen is currently a professor in the School of Ancient Languages and Text Studies; Faculty of Theology (North-West University).


Previously (2011-2018) he was the Director for Global Engagement at the North-West University. He was formerly, inter alia, Dean of Faculty (Art and Design) at the Port Elizabeth Technikon (1996 – 2007) and was Deputy Dean (Arts) at the NMMU (2005-2007) during the merger period between UPE, PE Technikon and Vista. He has been actively involved in higher education as a lecturer, researcher and administrator since 1981.


He obtained a Master of Fine Art degree in Art History and Sculpture from Rhodes University (1984); a Laureautus in Technology (Previous nomenclature for the Doctor Technologiae degree) in Aesthetics, from the Port Elizabeth Technikon (1990); a Doctor Philosophiae degree in Art History from the University of Durban Westville (1994) and an Magister Artium degree in Philosophy (2007) from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. In 1997 he was made Professor of History of Art (professor ordinarius ad hominem).


He was awarded a Philosophiae Doctor (Greek) from the Faculty of Theology (North-West University in 2015) for his work on Christian interpolation in the work of Josephus Flavius.


Nicholas is a confirmed multi-disciplinarian and accordingly has authored and co-authored, inter alia, five books, more than a score of  accredited articles and numerous digital interactive publications on topics including African Elephant Conservation, Sindonology, Film Studies, History of Optical Technology, Judaica and Early Christian Church History (Specialising in Josephus Flavius). He was also the Editor–in-Chief of the South African Journal of Art History (1997– 2006).


He is the originator of the photographic hypothesis for the manufacturing technique employed on the Shroud of Lirey-Chambery-Turin (1988). This has resulted in, inter alia, appearances on numerous TV documentaries including B.B.C. Tomorrow's World: Shroud of Turin, (1995), B.B.C. Everyman: Double Exposure: Shroud of Turin, (1995), National Geographic Channel: Leonardo: The Man Behind the Shroud? (2002), B.B.C. Channel Four: Shroud of Christ? (2004), Discovery Channel: Leonardo’s Shroud? (2009), Smithsonian Channel: Shroud of Turin (2013) and CNN’s Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery†series (2015).


He is also a sculptor and painter, specialising in portraiture. Important commissions include the design and manufacture of the Toyobo Dia Champion Trophy in bronze for the South African Mohair Board and the Toyobo Company, Osaka, Japan (1987); the design and manufacture of the Prix d'Exellence Trophy in bronze, for the SABC (1990); a bronze portrait of the late Minister P.K. Le Roux for the University of Port Elizabeth (1990); a bronze portrait of the late Mr Sid Fourie, J.P.  for the Jansenville community (1991); the design and manufacture of the Foucault pendulum in bronze, for the Albany Museum in Grahamstown (1992); a bronze portrait of Prof Hennie Snyman for the PE Technikon (2004); a portrait in oil of Dr Denzil David Levy  (2007) and a portrait in oil of Prof Annette Combrink, for the North-West University (Potchefstroom Campus) (2012). In 2013 he was one of 40 finalists for the Sanlam Property Investments Portrait Award in South Africa.