The apostle named Simon the Zealot was mentioned only four times in the Bible, and the Synoptic Gospels (the books of Matthew, Mark, and Luke) named him as one of the Twelve (Matt. 10:4; Mark 3:18; and Luke 6:15). Readers find him again in the book of Acts (1:13) after the death of Jesus and his ascension to heaven where Simon and his fellow apostles gathered together to elect a replacement for Judas Iscariot.
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Simon received no more than four mentions in the Bible, but the mystery of the identity of this apostle deepened with his epithet or nickname: the Zealot. In some versions of the Bible, Matthew 10:4 and Mark 3:18 (NRSV) both mentioned him as “the Cananaean,” while Luke tagged him as “the Zealot” (the Book of John totally left him out). The word “zealot” came from the Greek word zelotes and according to the historian Josephus, it also translates to the word qanna’ in Hebrew and qan’ana in Aramaic. Why he was nicknamed as “the Zealot” is still being debated. Biblical scholars never really reached an agreement about this.
Perhaps he was involved at some point in his life with the Zealots, a group of nationalistic Jews (sometimes bordered on fanatical) who actively sought independence from Roman rule. They—along with the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Idumeans—actively participated in the Roman-Jewish War of the 1st century. It was unclear whether Simon participated as a fighter for them or that he was simply a religious enthusiast.
According to tradition, Simon the Zealot traveled to Egypt and evangelized to the inhabitants of an unknown region of the Roman province. He later accompanied the Apostle Jude to Persia where he died and became a martyr. While some sources mentioned that he died at Edessa in Upper Mesopotamia (present-day Sanliurfa, Turkey). The Catholics celebrate his feast day every 28th of October.
Picture By Peter Paul Rubens – Museo del Prado, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14822135
Douglas, J. D. The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Pub., 1974.
Morris, Steven Donald. Unraveling the Family History of Jesus A History Of The Extended Family Of Jesus From 100 Bc Through Ad 100 And The Influence They Had On Him, On The Formation Of Christianity, And On The H. West Bow Pr, 2016.
“St. Simon the Zealot – Saints & Angels – Catholic Online.” Catholic Online. Accessed August 30, 2016. http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=241.
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