Saint Simon the Zealot, one of the little-known followers called the Canaanite or Zealot, lived in Galilee. Tradition says he was crucified. Saint Simon the Zealot is referred to as a Canaanite twice in the King James Version (Matthew 10:4; Mark 3:18)
The Apostle Saint Simon
However, in the other two places, Saint Simon is referred to as Simon Zealot (Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13).
Except for the fact that he was a Zealot, the New Testament tells us almost nothing about him.
The Zealots were fanatical Jewish nationalists who had a heroic disregard for the suffering and struggle for the purity of their faith.
The Zealots were possessed by a fervent hatred for the Romans. This hatred for Rome was responsible for the destruction of Jerusalem.
According to Josephus, the Zealots were reckless people who were zealous in good practices but extravagant and reckless in the worst kind of actions.
From this, we can deduce that Simon was a fanatical nationalist, a man devoted to the law, and a man filled with venom for anyone who dared to compromise with Rome.
Nonetheless, Simon emerged as a man of faith. He let go of all his hatred for his Master’s faith and the love he was willing to share with the rest of the disciples, especially Saint Matthew, the Roman tax collector.
Simon the Zealot, the man who would have killed in loyalty to Israel, became the man who realized that God will not accept forced service. According to legend, he died as a martyr. His apostolic symbol is a fish lying on a Bible, which indicates he was a former fisherman who became a fisher of men through preaching.
Saint Simon the Zealot Birth
Saint Simon the Zealot was born in the 1st Century in Cana, Galilee. Saint Luke referred to him as the Cananean Zealot.
Saint Simon the Zealot with Jesus
Regardless of his previous political affiliations or personality, Saint Simon the Zealot became a disciple the day he followed Jesus. As one of Jesus’ closest followers, he discovered that Jesus came not to fight flesh and blood for a nation, but to fight spiritual forces for souls.
Though Jesus was zealous, it is possible that turning over the vendors’ tables in the temple was His only truly aggressive act. Jesus confronted those who opposed Him with truthfully spoken words. When they took Him to be crucified, He did not fight back.
Jesus did not concern Himself with state matters, but rather told His disciples,
“Therefore render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (Matthew 22:21).
He made it clear that salvation was available to anyone who would listen, healing and preaching to anyone who would listen. In Luke 21:5–6, Jesus predicted that the temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed and that the Jewish capital would be taken over by Gentiles. Jesus did not come to start a revolution; He came to die on the cross for mankind’s salvation.
Saint Simon the Zealot matured into an apostle during his three years of ministry with Jesus, able to spread the gospel in truth and love to all nations. Although there are various versions of his death, it is likely that he served as a missionary in Persia with zeal and eventually died as a martyr.
Achievements of Saint Simon the Zealot
Almost nothing is known about Simon in the Bible. He is mentioned three times in the Gospels, but only once to list his name alongside the other twelve disciples. According to Acts 1:13, he was present in the upper room of Jerusalem with the 11 apostles after Christ ascended to heaven. According to church tradition, he served as a missionary in Egypt and was martyred in Persia.
Simon the Zealot Facts
Simon the Zealot facts tell us that Simon was known as the Zealot because of his strict adherence to Jewish and Canaanite law. He was one of Christ’s first followers. According to the Western tradition, he preached in Egypt before travelling to Persia with St. Jude, where both were martyred.
According to Eastern tradition, Simon died peacefully in Edessa. The 28th of October is his feast day.
Saint Simon the Zealot Identity
Given Simon’s association with the Jewish sect known as the Zealots, it’s worth delving into who they were. It is unknown when the group was formally known as the Zealots.
Flavius Josephus, a Jewish-Roman historian who lived in the first century, provided the most detailed descriptions of who they were, how their movement began, and what they stood for.
During the First Jewish-Roman War, Josephus fought against the Romans.
When he surrendered to Vespasian, he claimed Jewish messianic prophecies about Vespasian becoming Emperor of Rome, and Vespasian decided to let him live, taking him as a slave.
Vespasian became emperor and granted Josephus Roman citizenship.
Some scholars believe Josephus exaggerated the Zealots to keep the peace, blaming the conflict on a small Jewish sect and some bad Roman leaders. As previously stated, Rhoades contends that Josephus’ work establishes that there was no formal group known as the Zealots until around 68 AD.
However, Josephus attempted to trace the group’s origins back to a small uprising in 6 AD by a man named Judas of Galilee, who incited a rebellion in response to a Roman census—the very same Roman census that Luke claims led Mary and Joseph to Nazareth, where Jesus was born.
The sainthood of Simon the Zealot
Simon, like the other Apostles, is regarded as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the Oriental Orthodox Churches, the Eastern Catholic Churches, the Anglican Church, and the Lutheran Church.
Saint Simon the Zealot Travels/missionary
Simon the Zealot, as an apostle of Jesus Christ, would have been dispatched somewhere to spread the gospel, just like the other apostles. The word for apostle (apóstolos) means “one who is sent.”
According to the Golden Legend, Simon preached in Egypt before joining forces with Judas, Jesus’ brother: “Judas preached first in Mesopotamia and Pontus, and Simon preached in Egypt, and from thence they came into Persia and found there two enchanters, Zaroes and Arphaxat, whom S. Matthew had driven out of Ethiopia.”
Because there are no early church records of Simon the Zealot’s ministry, it’s difficult to say where he spread the gospel—but it’s safe to assume he did.
He was a little-known follower who lived in Galilee and was the subject of several stories about his death.
According to the Golden Legend, he died as a Martyr in Persia around the year 65 AD, whereas Ethiopian Christians believed he was crucified in Samaria.
It was said in the 16th century that he was sawed in half, but others claim that he died of old age in Edessa. As I previously stated, there are non-biblical traditions concerning the apostles.
Despite the account of James’ martyrdom in Acts 12, a Spanish bishop began to promote the idea that James had come to Spain in the 12th century.
The same is true with Simon the Zealot with different groups and agendas claiming Simon’s legacy.
The majority view seems to be that Simon was sawn in half in Persia.
Saint Simon the Zealot Key Takeaways
Simon Peter chose Simon Zealot as the eleventh apostle. He was a capable man of good ancestry who lived in Capernaum with his family.
When he became attached to the apostles, he was twenty-eight years old. He was a fiery agitator as well as someone who spoke a lot without thinking.
He was a merchant in Capernaum before dedicating his life to the patriotic organization of the Zealots. Simon Zealot was given charge of the apostolic group’s diversions and relaxation, and he was a very efficient organizer of the twelve’s play life and recreational activities. Each apostle was selected for a specific reason.
Jesus was the ultimate character judge, and he saw in Simon the Zealot an intensity that would be useful in spreading the gospel. The violence of Jesus’ crucifixion had to have shaken Simon the Zealot. Simon was powerless to stop it. Jesus’ kingdom was about salvation, not politics. He converted men who were fixated on the things of this world and changed their lives to focus on things that last forever.
Saint Simon the Zealot Summary
Simon the Zealot, one of Jesus Christ’s 12 apostles, is a biblical enigma.
We only have one tidbit of information about him, which has sparked an ongoing debate among Bible scholars. In some Bible versions (such as the Amplified Bible), he is referred to as Simon the Canaanite.
He is referred to as Simon the Canaanite or Canaanite in the King James Version and New King James Version.
He is referred to as Simon the Zealot in the English Standard Version, New American Standard Bible, New International Version, and New Living Translation.
To further complicate matters, Bible scholars disagree on whether Simon was a member of the radical Zealot party or if the term simply referred to his religious zeal.
Those who hold the former viewpoint believe Jesus chose Simon, a member of the tax-hating, Roman-hating Zealots, to counterbalance Matthew, a former tax collector, and Roman empire employee.
According to these scholars, such a move by Jesus would have demonstrated that his kingdom reaches out to people from all walks of life.