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)
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, Saint 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 would 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.
Simon 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; Luke 21:6, 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.
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.
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 Western tradition, he preached in Egypt before traveling 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The interesting thing about researching the characteristics of Saint Simon is that he is never mentioned throughout The Bible, except to list his name as one of the twelve disciples. The word Canaanite as used to describe Simon is actually a term that relates to his position as a member of the Zealots, a political party.
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 an ongoing debate among Bible scholars. In some versions of the Bible (such as the Amplified Bible), he is called Simon the Cananaean. Simon the Zealot was rebellious and fearless, but when h met Jesus, he became a lover of God and purpose.
Simon was a rabid revolutionist, a fearless firebrand of agitation. He was twenty-eight years old when he became attached to the apostles. He was a fiery agitator and was also a man who spoke much without thinking. He had been a merchant in Capernaum before he turned his entire attention to the patriotic organization of the Zealots.
He was a rebel by nature and an iconoclast by training, but Jesus won him for the higher concepts of the kingdom of heaven. He had always identified himself with the party of protest, but he now joined the party of progress, unlimited and eternal progression of spirit and truth. Simon was a man of intense loyalties and warm personal devotions, and he did profoundly love Jesus.
Another odd aspect of Simon’s appointment was that the Zealots generally agreed with the Pharisees and the 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 the Roman government.
As a Zealot, Simon once lived his life on the opposite end of the spectrum from Matthew. Matthew, a Roman sympathizer hated by the Jews because he was a tax-gatherer, was despised by the Zealots of his day. Whereas Simon (the tax hater) once might have considered a dagger for Matthew (the tax collector), later he became a compatriot of Matthews, spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ to the remote corners of the world.
Here we can appreciate the beauty of the Christian church. Coming together as a people of every possible race, political background, nationality, and personality, Christians rise to form a church that is alive with love for one another.
Each member becomes a servant of the master, Jesus Christ. The miracle of joining twelve men together with such opposite natures and personalities is mirrored in the miracle of an entire Church that spans the world.
The Zealots were angry people. It kind of came along with the territory. And Simon was probably an angry person too. But Jesus had replaced that anger with love. We do not know the circumstances surrounding his initial meeting with Christ, but we do know that it changed him.
It is also a possibility that he saw a possible earthly kingdom in Christ. But if he did, he wasn’t much different from many other followers. He just didn’t see the big picture.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I would have chosen a man with such strong political convictions against Rome and then chosen the apostle Matthew, who worked for Rome!
From a purely logical point of view, that would never work out. But Jesus had changed them. They were not the men that they used to be. How many of us would have disliked each other before we met Christ, and yet we are now bound together in our love for Jesus? We are family now!
Nevertheless, I still wonder if they ever talked about politics. That would have been an interesting discussion to hear!
The Lover of Purpose
I mentioned that the Zealots later evolved into a group of assassins who preferred to silently kill with the dagger. The first-century writer Josephus recorded this in his historical records, The Wars of the Jews. He also wrote that the Zealots would just as soon kill a Roman as look at him.
We would refer to the Zealots as fanatical religious terrorists today. Their passion for their nation drove their hatred for Rome. But when Simon, the religious terrorist, met the Lord Jesus Christ, all that hatred melted away, and all that was left was his fervent passion.
Then, Jesus took that passion, enhanced it, and focused it on a higher purpose – no longer a patriot of Israel but a servant of God.
This disciple with a killer instinct, this man who was involved in organized criminal activity and sedition, became a new person, zealous for Christ – chosen to be an apostle. If there is one thing that can be said about Simon, he was certainly not apathetic!
A Lover of His Nation
There were actually quite a number of political groups in the time of Christ. The Bible mentions four specifically. One of the most mentioned in the Bible is the Pharisees. They were super-committed to keeping the whole law. They would not associate with anyone they thought was not completely in sync with their way of thinking. They disliked the Roman Empire because of their many gods and their wicked lifestyle. But their form of resistance was passive-aggressive.
Another group was the Sadducees. They were typically from rich and affluent families. They didn’t believe in the supernatural aspects of the Scriptures. This group wasn’t as serious about the law and probably because so much of it was laced with supernatural events that they just couldn’t accept. They didn’t really mind the Romans as long as they got to keep their own place and position. So they offered no resistance to the Roman occupation at all.
Then, the New Testament mentions a third group that was very political in nature – the Herodians. These people looked favorably toward the Herods’ rule, they liked Greek culture, and consequently, they didn’t mind the Romans at all. They got along with the Sadducees but didn’t care for the Pharisees. They especially didn’t agree with the Zealots.
In some versions of the Bible (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 Canaanite. 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 from all walks of life.
Facts St. Simon
Facts made us understand that Simon was a political activist in his younger years. Why would Jesus choose someone with this background? “It is amazing that Jesus would select a man like Simon to be an apostle. But he was a man of fierce loyalties, amazing passion, courage, and zeal. Simon believed the truth and embraced Christ as his Lord. The fiery enthusiasm he once had for Israel was now expressed in his devotion to Christ.” Simon’s strength was his inspirational loyalty. When the apostles found a man or woman who floundered in indecision about entering the kingdom, they would send for Simon.
The apostle Simon the Zealot facts show us that Simon does not have a prominent role in the New Testament, just like most of the apostles. We know very little about him from the Bible, except that he was a member of the Zealots.
The Zealots fought against Roman rule in Israel, and they wanted to preserve their Jewish religion in the face of Roman hostility. The historian, Josephus, gives us most of our information about the Zealots, though he can be an untrustworthy source.
He writes that the Zealots started the rebellion against Rome that lead to the destruction of Jerusalem. The Zealots also committed the abomination that causes desolation that Jesus predicted in the gospels.
Simon’s great weakness was his material-mindedness. He could not quickly change himself from a Jewish nationalist to a spiritually-minded internationalist.
Four years was too short a time in which to make such an intellectual and emotional transformation, but Jesus was always patient with him. The one thing about Jesus that Simon so much admired was the Master’s calmness, assurance, poise, and inexplicable composure.
Although Simon was a rabid revolutionist, a fearless firebrand of agitation, he gradually subdued his fiery nature until he became a powerful and effective preacher of “Peace on earth and goodwill among men.”
Apostle Simon the Zealot Facts give a great impression that Simon was a great debater; he did like to argue. And when it came to dealing with the legalistic minds of the educated Jews or the intellectual quibbling of the Greeks, the task was always assigned to Simon.
The fact that Zealot was always biblically attached to Simon’s name most likely indicates that he belonged to the eponymous Jewish sect and a political faction of the time.
Simon, however, would have left the Zealots behind when he followed Jesus. Tradition has it that he traveled with St. Jude, also called Thaddeus, or Labeus, to Persia where both were martyred. His persecutors killed him by cutting him in half with a saw. Others claim he was killed by crucifixion.
Basil the Great, however, recalls a different tradition. He claimed that Simon died peacefully in Edessa, Greece. Simon’s symbol is a fish over a Bible showing his faithful mission. He is also frequently represented by a saw.
A Zeal for Jesus
One thing Apostle Simon the Zealot facts tell us is we can conclude is Simon’s zeal turned from overthrowing governments to following Jesus’ teachings. Despite the lack of mention in the Gospels, the Bible cites his name in Acts 1:13, where the disciples met together the day after Jesus ascended to heaven.
“And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alphaeus; and Simon the Zealot; and Judas, the son of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication with the women and Mary, the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.” Acts 1:13; Acts 1:14
Apostle Simon the Zealot Facts write that Simon followed Jesus throughout Jesus’ ministry and continued after the Lord’s death and ascension; however, the only Biblical evidence of this was his involvement in choosing a new disciple as a replacement for Judas Iscariot in Acts 1:23; Acts 1:24; Acts 1:25; Acts 1:26. Yet, despite the lack of clear verification, additional historical observations tell us he went on to proclaim the Good News for the remainder of his life.
Regardless, it’s clear Simon’s zeal is why Jesus asked him to join His group of disciples. A zeal he held onto throughout his life, even to the point of death.
Apostle Simon the Zealot facts tell us that like the other Holy Apostles, Simon 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.
Simon the Apostle facts have shown that Simon the Zealot is one of the greatest causes of the changing power of Christ. He was a Zealot for much of his life, which meant he was extremely legalistic and held a deep-set hatred towards the Romans and any who had dealings with them. Simon was called by Jesus and was completely changed.
Jesus’ power removed the seeded hatred from his heart and instilled compassion, love, and zeal for Christ within him. Simon retained the moniker the Zealot because of his unwavering faith in Jesus, rather than for his formerly hateful ways.
There is not much else told about Simon within the Bible. It is most commonly assumed that he was crucified as a martyr for God. His symbol in the Catholic church is a fish resting on a Bible. This is to represent his initial beginnings as a fisherman who grew to become a fisher of men through the saving grace of Jesus.
Summary Saint Simon the Zealot
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.