ZEALOT (zĕl'ŭt, Gr. zēlōtēs, zealous one). A member of a Jewish patriotic party started in the time of Quirinius to resist Roman aggression. According to Josephus (War 4.3.9; 5.1; 7.8.1), the Zealots resorted to violence and assassination in their hatred of the Romans, their fanatical violence eventually provoking the Roman war.
ZEALOT (קַנָאַן; Gr. Ζηλώτης, meaning: zeal, rival, desire greatly, zealous one). A Jewish political party (somewhat comparable to the Chinese Boxers of the 20th cent.) with religious underpinnings which did not hesitate to use intrigue, violence, force and deception in achieving its liberating ends. The term Canaanean seems to have been used synonymously. One of the twelve disciples of Jesus, Simon by name, was a member of this party before his call to discipleship (
There were several prototypes of this fanatical movement in Jewish tradition. They include Simeon and Levi, the sons of Jacob, who led a murderous expedition against the Shechemites after their sister Dinah had been violated (
The Zealot movement in its technical aspect originated, according to Josephus, during the reign of Herod the Great (Jos. Wars II. 4. 1; IV. 4. 1). After the deposition of Archelaus in a.d. 6-7, Coponius was dispatched by the Romans to Judea to serve as its first procurator. He was accompanied by Quirinius (referred to in
The Pharisees were doubtless as intensively patriotic as were the Zealots, but they had a different philosophy of history and they took a different attitude toward their captors. They interpreted the domination of Herod and that of the Romans as a punishment of God for their sins and a summons to repentance. They had an optimistic outlook and they confidently expected that the end of foreign domination would come when their guilt would be expiated and the nation would be totally restored to walking in the way of the law. Then, according to their view, God would personally intervene. Their hope of ultimate redemption rested in the sovereignly intervening hand of God.
The new religiously based liberation movement, however, felt that its members must unequivocally reject any ruler over Israel except God Jehovah. They held the unshakable conviction that only if unconditional action were taken and if total obedience would be evident, God would intervene and establish the Messianic age. They refused to pay taxes, harried and murdered government officials, militated against the use of the Gr. language in Pal. (a symbol of pagan influence and domination), and by virtue of their patriotic fervor they felt entitled to prophesy the coming of the time of salvation. After Jerusalem fell (and the Zealots played a heroic role in its defense), they fled to Egypt and, continuing to exhibit their convictions there, refused even at the cost of maryrdom to call Caesar, Lord.
W. R. Farmer, Maccabees, Zealots, and Josephus (1956); L. Hartmann, “The Zealots,” EDB (1963), 2627; W. Foerster, From the Exile to Christ (1964), 88-91, 164; Y. Yadin, Masada, Herod’s Fortress and the Zealots’ Last Stand (1966).
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
zel’-ut, zel’-uts: Simon, one of the apostles, was called "the Zealot" Zelotes from zeloo "to rival," "emulate," "be jealous," "admire," "desire greatly,"
See, further, SIMON THE ZEALOT.