Who was Simon the Zealot?

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Simon the Zealot

Simon the Zealot was one of the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ. “Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the b]Cananite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him” (Matthew 10:4 also Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13).

His is also called Simon the Cananite or Simon the Cananaean (Matthew 10:4, Mark 3:18). The term “Canaanite” has no reference to the land of Canaan. Jerome and others mistook the word to signify that the apostle was from the town of Cana. The word, “Zealot” is a title driven from the Hebrew word qanai, meaning zealous. And this nickname “Zealot” was given to him to distinguish him from Simon Peter.

Simon the Zealot was one of the most obscure among the apostles of Jesus. In the Gospels, Simon the Zealot is never identified with Simon the brother of Jesus that is mentioned in Mark. “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him” (ch. 6:3).

The Zealots

Because Simon had the title Zealot, some assumed that he was part of the political group the “Zealots.” This group was a 1st-century movement that exited in Judaism. The movement tried to arouse the people of the Judea Province to rebel against the Roman Empire. And they aimed to expel it from the Holy Land by military power, most notably during the First Jewish–Roman War (66–70). Thus, their goal was to establish a Mosaic theocracy.

The historian Josephus used the term Zealotry for a “fourth sect” or “fourth Jewish philosophy” during this period. Josephus and the Talmud both believed that the Zealots were fanatic. But since Jesus didn’t believe in the goals of the zealots, it is assumed that Simon was no longer a member of that movement.

Tradition on His Ministry and Death

According to the Golden Legend, a collection of hagiographies, gathered by Jacobus de Varagine in the thirteenth century, “Simon the Cananaean and Judas Thaddeus were brethren of James the Less and sons of Mary Cleophas, which was married to Alpheus.”  de Voragine, Jacobus (1275). The Golden Legend or Lives Of The Saints. Retrieved 28 October 2018.

Simon is associated with St. Jude as they preached together in Western Christianity. And the most widespread tradition is that after evangelizing in Egypt, Simon joined Jude in Persia and Armenia or Beirut, Lebanon. And there, they were martyred for their faith in 65 AD.

In His service,
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