Meet Simon the Zealot: A Mystery Apostle

Debated Disciple of Jesus Christ

Simon the Zealot

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

Simon the Zealot

Also Known as: Simon the Cananaean; Simon the Canaanite; Simon Zelotes.

Known for: Little-known apostle of Jesus Christ.

Bible References: Simon the Zealot is mentioned in Matthew 10:4, Mark 3:18, Luke 6:15, and
Acts 1:13.

Accomplishments: Church tradition holds that after Christ's death and resurrection, Simon the Zealot spread the gospel in Egypt as a missionary and was martyred in Persia.

Occupation: The Bible does not tell us Simon's occupation, other than a disciple and missionary for Jesus Christ.

Hometown: Unknown.

What the Bible Says About 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 twelve disciples. In Acts 1:13 we learn that he was present with the eleven apostles in the upper room of Jerusalem after Christ had ascended to heaven.

In some versions of the Bible (such as the Amplified Bible), Simon is called Simon the Cananaean, which is from the Aramaic word for zealot. 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

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.

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 the second sword was owned by Simon the Zealot, but ironically he kept it hidden, and instead Peter was the one who turned to violence.

Simon's Strengths

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


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.

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)

Acts 1:13
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. (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.


  • "Who Were the Zealots in the Bible?"
  • Wu Mingren. "The Sicarii: The Jewish Daggermen with a Thirst for Roman Blood."
  • Kaufmann Kohler. "Zealots." The Jewish Encyclopedia.
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Your Citation
Zavada, Jack. "Meet Simon the Zealot: A Mystery Apostle." Learn Religions, Apr. 8, 2022, Zavada, Jack. (2022, April 8). Meet Simon the Zealot: A Mystery Apostle. Retrieved from Zavada, Jack. "Meet Simon the Zealot: A Mystery Apostle." Learn Religions. (accessed June 1, 2023).