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Simon the Zealot

St. Simon redirects here. For others, see Saint-Simon.
Saint Simon the Apostle
St. Simon, by Peter Paul Rubens (c. 1611), from his Twelve Apostles series at the Museo del Prado, Madrid
Apostle, Martyr, Preacher
Born Cana or Canaan
Died ~65 or ~107[1]
place of death disputed. Possibly Pella, Armenia; Suanir, Persia; Edessa, Caistor
Venerated in Coptic Orthodox Church
Eastern Orthodox Churches
Lutheran Church
Oriental Orthodoxy
Roman Catholic Church
Major shrine relics claimed by many places, including Toulouse; Saint Peter's Basilica[2]
Feast May 10 (Eastern Christianity)
July 1 (medieval Hispanic liturgy as attested by sources of the time, such as the Antiphonary of León)
October 28 (Western Christianity)
November 5 (Coptic Orthodoxy)
Attributes boat; cross and saw; fish (or two fishes); lance; man being sawn in two longitudinally; oar[2]
Patronage curriers; sawyers; tanners[2]

The apostle called Simon Zelotes, Simon the Zealot, in Luke 6:15 and Acts 1:13; and Simon Kananaios or Simon Cananeus ("Simon" signifying שמעון "hearkening; listening", Standard Hebrew Šimʿon, Tiberian Hebrew Šimʿôn, "Shim'on"), was one of the most obscure among the apostles of Jesus. A few pseudepigraphical writings were connected to him, and the theologian and Doctor of the Church, Saint Jerome, does not include him in De viris illustribus written between 392–393 AD.[3]


  • Identity 1
  • Later tradition 2
  • Sainthood 3
  • Islam 4
  • In popular culture 5
  • Notes 6
  • External links 7


James Tissot - Saint Simon - Brooklyn Museum
Saint Simon the Zealot with his attribute of a saw
Statue of St. Simon in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran by Francesco Moratti.

The name of Simon occurs in all of the synoptic gospels and the Book of Acts each time there is a list of apostles, without further details:

14 Simon, (whom he also named Peter,) and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, 15 Matthew and Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called Zelotes, 16 And Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor..
— Luke 6:14–16, KJV

To distinguish him from Simon Peter, he is called Kananaios, or Kananites (Matthew 10:4, Mark 3:18), and in the list of apostles in Luke 6:15, repeated in Acts 1:13, Zelotes, the "Zealot". Both titles derive from the Hebrew word qana, meaning The Zealous, though Jerome and others mistook the word to signify the apostle was from the town of Cana, in which case his epithet would have been "Kanaios" or even from the region of Canaan. As such, the translation of the word as "the Cananite" or "the Canaanite" is traditional and without contemporary extra-canonic parallel.

Robert Eisenman has pointed out[4] contemporary talmudic references to Zealots as kanna'im "but not really as a group — rather as avenging priests in the Temple". Eisenman's broader conclusions, that the zealot element in the original apostle group was disguised and overwritten to make it support the assimilative Pauline Christianity of the Gentiles, are more controversial. John P. Meier points out that the term "Zealot" is a mistranslation and in the context of the Gospels means "zealous" or "jealous" (in this case, for keeping the Law of Moses), as the Zealot movement did not exist until 30 to 40 years after the events of the Gospels.[5] However, neither Brandon,[6] nor Hengel [7] support this view, both independently concluding that the revolt by Judas the Galilean, arising from the census of Quirinius in 6 AD, was the ultimate origin of the "Jewish Freedom Movement", which developed via the "Fourth Philosophy" Group into the Zealots, even by the time of Jesus. Both of these researchers suggest that "Simon Zelotes" was indeed a Zealot belonging to this Movement, and perhaps that other disciples were also. The very concept of the Messiah (the Jewish concept: not the Pauline Christian one) is in keeping with this Movement. However, Hengel (in particular) concluded that Jesus himself was not a zealot, as much of his teaching was actually contrary to Fourth Philosophy views. It ultimately proved very unfortunate indeed for Jesus that the Zealots should have infiltrated his own Following : Messianic zeal and Life-Wisdom proved a dangerous mix.

In the Gospels, Simon the Zealot is never identified with Simon the brother of Jesus mentioned in Gospel of Mark 6:3 :

3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.(NRSV)

The Catholic Encyclopedia suggests that Simon the Zealot may be the same person as Simeon of Jerusalem or Simon the brother of Jesus. He could perhaps be the cousin of Jesus or a son of Joseph from a previous marriage.[8]

The Eastern Orthodox Church tradition holds that it was Simon's wedding that Christ and his disciples attended in Cana of Galilee in which Christ turned water in six stone jars to wine. He is called zealot because in seeing this miracle, Simon left his home, his parents and his bride and followed Christ. It is also said that after Pentecost, his mission was in a place called Mauretania in Africa.

Another tradition holds that this is the Simeon of Jerusalem who became the second bishop of Jerusalem, although he was born in Galilee.[9][10]

Later tradition

St. Isidore of Seville drew together the accumulated anecdotes of St. Simon in De Vita et Morte; the fully developed legend is presented in the Legenda Aurea (ca 1260).[11]

In later tradition, Simon is often associated with St. Jude as an evangelizing team; in Western Christianity, they share their feast day on 28 October. The most widespread tradition is that after evangelizing in Egypt, Simon joined Jude in Persia and Armenia or Beirut, Lebanon, where both were martyred in 65 AD. This version is the one found in the Golden Legend. He may have suffered crucifixion as the Bishop of Jerusalem.

One tradition states that he traveled in the Middle East and Africa. Christian Ethiopians claim that he was crucified in Samaria, while Justus Lipsius writes that he was sawn in half at Suanir, Persia.[2] However, Moses of Chorene writes that he was martyred at Weriosphora in Caucasian Iberia.[2] Tradition also claims he died peacefully at Edessa.[12] Another tradition says he visited Britain—possibly Glastonbury—and was martyred in Caistor, modern-day Lincolnshire. Another, doubtless inspired by his title "the Zealot", states that he was a member of the group involved in the Jewish revolt against the Romans, which was brutally suppressed. [See the paragraph above citing the work of Brandon [6] and Hengel.[7]]

The 2nd century Epistle of the Apostles (Epistula Apostolorum),[13] a polemic against gnostics, lists him among the apostles purported to be writing the letter (who include Thomas) as Judas Zelotes and certain Old Latin translations of the Gospel of Matthew substitute "Judas the Zealot" for Thaddeus/Lebbaeus in Matthew 10:3. To some readers, this suggests that he may be identical with the "Judas not Iscariot" mentioned in John 14:22: "Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Our Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?" As it has been suggested that Jude is identical with the apostle Thomas (see Jude Thomas), an identification of "Simon Zelotes" with Thomas is also possible. Barbara Thiering identified Simon Zelotes with Simon Magus, however this view has received no serious acceptance. The New Testament records nothing more of Simon, aside from this multitude of possible but unlikely pseudonyms. He is buried in the same tomb as St. Jude Thaddeus, in the left transept of the St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, under the altar of St. Joseph.

In art, Simon has the identifying attribute of a saw because he was traditionally martyred by being sawn in half.


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.


Muslims accept Jesus as a prophet of Islam. The Qur'an also speaks of Jesus' disciples but does not mention their names, instead referring to them as "helpers to the work of God".[14] Muslim exegesis and Qur'an commentary, however, names them and includes Simon amongst the disciples.[15] Muslim tradition says that Simon was sent to preach the faith of God to the Berbers, outside North Africa.[16]

In popular culture

  • In the miniseries Jesus of Nazareth, before joining the Apostles he is portrayed first as a member of the Zealots, hence his name.


  1. ^ "St. Simon the Apostle" (in Italian). Blessed Saints and Witnesses. 2005-03-15. Retrieved 29 March 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Jones, Terry H. "Saint Simon the Apostle". Retrieved 29 March 2010. 
  3. ^ "This work [De viris illustribus], as he reveals at its start and finish, was completed in the fourteenth year of Theodosius, that is, between 19 January 392 and 18 January 393." A.D. Booth, "The Chronology of Jerome's Early Years," Phoenix 35 (1981), p.241.
  4. ^ Robert Eisenman, James the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls. (Viking Penguin). 1997. :33–34.
  5. ^  
  6. ^ a b Brandon, S. G. F. (1967). Jesus and the Zealots. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press. 
  7. ^ a b Hengel, Martin; Smith, David [translator] (1989). The Zealots. Edinburgh, Scotland: T&T Clark.  
  8. ^ "The Brethren of the Lord".  
  9. ^ St. Simon the Apostle, from the Catholic Encyclopedia
  10. ^ Appendix to the Works of Hippolytus 49.11
  11. ^ "The Golden Legend - The Lives of Saints Simon and Jude". The Catholic Community Forum and Liturgical Publications of St. Louis, Inc. Retrieved 29 March 2010. 
  12. ^ "St. Simon of Zealot". Catholic Online. Retrieved 29 March 2010. 
  13. ^ "Epistula Apostolorum". Early Christian Writings. Retrieved 29 March 2010. 
  14. ^ Qur'an 3:49–53
  15. ^ Historical Dictionary of Prophets In Islam And Judaism, Brandon M. Wheeler, Disciples of Christ: "Muslim exegesis identifies the disciples as Peter, Andrew, Matthew, Thomas, Philip, John, James, Bartholomew, and Simon"
  16. ^ Historical Dictionary of Prophets In Islam And Judaism, Brandon M. Wheeler, Disciples of Christ

External links

  • All appearances of "Simon" in the New Testament
  • :Legenda Aurea Lives of Saints Simon and Jude
  • St. Simon the ApostleCatholic Encyclopedia:
  • (Greek) Ὁ Ἅγιος Σίμων ὁ Ἀπόστολος ὁ Ζηλωτής. 10 Μαΐου. ΜΕΓΑΣ ΣΥΝΑΞΑΡΙΣΤΗΣ.
  • Simon the Zealot (novel) by Alfred Brenner
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