Meet Simon the Zealot: A Mystery Apostle

Debated Disciple of Jesus Christ

Simon the Zealot

Heritage Images / Contributor / Getty Images

 

Simon the Zealot, one of Jesus Christ's 12 apostles, is a mystery character in the Bible. We have one tantalizing bit of information about him, which has led to ongoing debate among Bible scholars.

In some versions of the Bible (such as the Amplified Bible), he is called Simon the Cananaean. In the King James Version and New King James Version, he is called Simon the Canaanite or Cananite. In the English Standard Version, New American Standard Bible, New International Version, and New Living Translation he is called Simon the Zealot.

To confuse things further, Bible scholars argue over whether Simon was a member of the radical Zealot party or whether the term simply referred to his religious zeal. Those who take the former view think Jesus may have chosen Simon, a member of the tax-hating, Roman-hating Zealots, to counterbalance Matthew, a former tax collector, and employee of the Roman empire. Those scholars say such a move by Jesus would have shown that his kingdom reaches out to people in all walks of life.

Another odd aspect of Simon's appointment was that the Zealots generally agreed with the Pharisees, as far as legalistic observance of the commandments. Jesus frequently clashed with the Pharisees over their strict interpretation of the law. We might wonder how Simon the Zealot reacted to that.

The Zealot party had a long history in Israel, formed by men who were passionate about obeying the commandments in the Torah, especially those that banned idolatry. As foreign conquerors imposed their pagan ways on the Jewish people, the Zealots sometimes turned to violence.

One such offshoot of the Zealots was the Sicarii, or daggermen, a group of assassins who tried to cast off Roman rule. Their tactic was to mingle in crowds during festivals, slip up behind a victim, then kill him with their Sicari, or short curved knife. The effect was a reign of terror that disrupted Roman government.

In Luke 22:38, the disciples tell Jesus, "See, Lord, here are two swords." When Jesus is arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter draws his sword and cuts off the ear of Malchus, the high priest's servant. It's not a stretch to assume that second sword was owned by Simon the Zealot, but ironically he kept it hidden, and Peter turned to violence.

Accomplishments of Simon the Zealot

Scripture tells us almost nothing about Simon. In the Gospels, he is mentioned in three places, but only to list his name with the 12 disciples. In Acts 1:13 we learn that he was present with the 11 apostles in the upper room of Jerusalem after Christ had ascended to heaven.

Church tradition holds that he spread the gospel in Egypt as a missionary and was martyred in Persia.

Strengths

Simon left everything in his previous life to follow Jesus. He lived true to the Great Commission after Jesus' ascension.

Weaknesses

Like most of the other apostles, Simon the Zealot deserted Jesus during his trial and crucifixion.

Life Lessons From Simon the Zealot

Jesus Christ transcends political causes, governments, and all earthly turmoil. His kingdom is eternal. Following Jesus leads to salvation and heaven.

Hometown

Unknown.

References to Simon the Zealot in the Bible

Matthew 10:4, Mark 3:18, Luke 6:15, Acts 1:13.

Occupation

Unknown, then disciple and missionary for Jesus Christ.

Key Verse

Matthew 10:2-4
These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. (NIV)

Key Takeaways

  • Each of the apostles was chosen for a specific reason. Jesus was the ultimate judge of character and saw an intensity in Simon the Zealot that would work well in spreading the gospel.
  • Simon the Zealot must have been shaken by the violence of Jesus' crucifixion. Simon was powerless to prevent it.
  • Jesus' kingdom was not about politics but salvation. He made disciples of men who had been fixed on the things of this world and changed their lives to focus on things that last forever.

Sources

  • "Who Were the Zealots in the Bible?" Gotquestions.org. https://www.gotquestions.org/Zealots-Bible.html.
  • Wu Mingren. "The Sicarii: The Jewish Daggermen with a Thirst for Roman Blood." ancient-origins.net. https://www.ancient-origins.net/history-important-events/sicarii-jewish-daggermen-thirst-roman-blood-008179.
  • Kaufmann Kohler. "Zealots." The Jewish Encyclopedia. http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/15185-zealots.