When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. (Acts 1:13 NIV)

What is the significance of calling Simon "the Zealot?" Is this some proper Jewish title, or what?


4 Answers 4


From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zealotry I'll quote an interesting part here.

The Zealots objected to Roman rule and violently sought to eradicate it by generally targeting Romans and Greeks. Zealots engaged in violence against other Jews were called the Sicarii.[9] They raided Jewish habitations and killed Jews they considered apostate and collaborators, while also urging Jews to fight Romans and other Jews for the cause. Josephus paints a very bleak picture of their activities as they instituted what he characterized as a murderous "reign of terror" prior to the Jewish Temple's destruction.

This says A LOT about what Jesus was able to accomplish in assembling his 12. Considering he had a tax collector, and a Zealot, who under other circumstances would target such a tax collector as a "collaborator". Consider the teachings of Jesus, and imagine how much of a life change that this Simon had undergone. Things like "Love your enemy", and "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's". It doesn't say that Simon was a Sicarii, but there were probably some shared core beliefs.

I am not a Bible scholar, but I think Zealot means more then just being zealous for Jesus. It is capitalized in the passage you shared.

  • 3
    Aah, but the "Zealot movement did not exist until 30 to 40 years after the events of the Gospels". So that couldn't have been it.
    – Richard
    Sep 15, 2011 at 20:46
  • 1
    @Richard: But "The Zealots were a "fourth sect", founded by Judas of Galilee (also called Judas of Gamala) and Zadok the Pharisee in the year 6 against Quirinius' tax reform." OH NO WIKIPEDIA CONTRADICTS ITSELF WHAT NOW? (Although my quote is actually citing Josephus, whose reliability has been called into question multiple times.)
    – mmyers
    Sep 15, 2011 at 21:01
  • @mmyers There's also "The opposite has also been argued: that the group was not so clearly marked out (before the first war of 66-70/3) as some have thought." Maybe we need another source to more contradict the contradictions?
    – a_hardin
    Sep 15, 2011 at 21:06
  • Thanks for checking me on this... I am not a biblical scholar, it just seems important that Zealot is capitalized.
    – Andy J
    Sep 15, 2011 at 21:26

According to Strong's Concordance, the definition of the greek used here is "one who is eagerly devoted to a person or a thing, a zealot."

The Helps Word-studies says a zealot is one "who (literally) 'boils over with passion'". (Here "boils over" is the literal translation of zeó, which figuratively means "to be earnest, to set one's heart on, to be completely intent upon".)

I would say in addition to distinguish him from Simon Peter (as Richard said), it signifies that he was extremely passionate about following Jesus.

(aside: I'd like to be called a zealot for Jesus)

  • Right, it's probably just a character trait, like you mention.
    – Richard
    Sep 15, 2011 at 20:49

He was another one of the apostles:

Luke 6:14-16 (NIV)
Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

There were two apostles named "Simon", one is "Simon Peter" and the other is "Simon the Zealot". The name was a way to distinguish him from the "other" Simon and possibly referred to a character trait.

There's not much else known about him other than his name.


  • If it was just a name to distinguish him from the other Simon, why 'Zealot'? Why not 'the other Simon' or 'Simon son of Garfunkel' or 'Simon Cowell'?
    – Flimzy
    Sep 15, 2011 at 19:19
  • 3
    @Flimzy why'd you have to bring idols into this? :P
    – a_hardin
    Sep 15, 2011 at 19:24
  • As I mentioned, it could possibly refer to a character trait. No one really knows why, although there has been some debate over the subject.
    – Richard
    Sep 15, 2011 at 19:24
  • I seem to recall that Simon the Zealot went with Judas Iscariot when the disciples when out by pairs and I think it is speculated that Judas was an anti-Roman Zealot (in part from his home?). Such might hint that Simon might have been an anti-Roman "enthusiast". (Yes, this is a very weak basis for inference.)
    – user3331
    Apr 30, 2013 at 22:58

in the original Greek language, Simon is called the 'Kananaios' in Mark 3:18 and Matthew 10:4 and, being similar to the Greek word Kananaia (Canaanite), this is generally assumed to mean the 'Canaanite', as we read in most English translations. However, in copying from Mark, the author of Luke and Acts noticed the similarity of this Greek word to the Aramaic word for Zealot, qan’ana. The Zealots were a fanatical political movement that took part in the First Roman-Jewish War of 66-70 CE. Since this seems to make more sense in the context of Jesus' mission, he substituted the Greek word 'Zēlōtēn' (Zealot) in the parallel passage at Luke 6:15 and again in Acts 1:13.

The significance of Luke calling Simon 'the Zealot' is simply that the author realised that Kananaios was not at that time a known Greek word, and that 'Zealot' seemed better suited to the context than 'Canaanite'.

  • That's an awful lot of mind reading, and from a person 2000 years dead at that. Do we have a journal written by the author where he/she explains this thought process, or is it purely theoretical? If the latter, perhaps this answer should start with "some theorize that.."
    – user20766
    Aug 16, 2016 at 0:10

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