A black and white photo capturing a humble Simon the Zealot, surrounded by scrolls and ancient texts, deep in thought and contemplation before his transformative encounter with Jesus.

What Did Simon The Zealot Do Before Meeting Jesus?

If you’re wondering what Simon the Zealot’s life was like before following Jesus, you’ve come to the right place. Simon the Zealot is one of the more mysterious of the 12 disciples, but here we’ll explore everything scholars have been able to uncover about his pre-Jesus days.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Simon the Zealot was likely part of an anti-Roman revolutionary movement called the Zealots before becoming a disciple of Jesus. His extreme political views may have driven him to violence against Roman occupation.

Simon’s Background and Name

Simon the Zealot was one of the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ. Before meeting Jesus and becoming one of His followers, Simon had a life and background that prepared him for discipleship.

Simon was from Galilee, the same area where Jesus began his ministry

The Bible tells us that Simon was from the region of Galilee (Luke 6:15). This is the northernmost region of ancient Israel where Jesus began His ministry. Simon came from the same area where Jesus preached, taught, and performed miracles, so he would have been familiar with Jesus’ reputation and teachings.

As a Galilean, Simon spoke with the distinctive Galilean dialect and would have been viewed by Judeans as provincial and uneducated compared to them (Matthew 26:73). But as a native Galilean, he shared the same language and culture as Jesus, which likely helped facilitate their relationship as teacher and disciple.

His epithet “the Zealot” indicates political radicalism

Simon is called “the Zealot” in Luke 6:15 and Acts 1:13. This epithet distinguishes him from the other Simon among the twelve (Simon Peter) and provides insight into his background. The term “Zealot” indicates that Simon likely belonged to a radical political movement before meeting Jesus.

The Zealots opposed Roman rule over Israel and were known for violent uprisings and rebellions. As a Zealot, Simon would have been passionately devoted to Jewish independence and eagerly awaited the Messiah who would liberate Israel from foreign oppression.

This radical political background would have shaped Simon’s expectations when he encountered Jesus.

Some scholars also connect the Zealots with the “sicarii,” Jewish rebels who carried concealed daggers and assassinated Romans and Jewish collaborators (Josephus, Antiquities 20.8.10). This would mean Simon may have been involved with violent resistance activities before following Jesus.

Other scholars dispute this connection, but regardless, “the Zealot” epithet indicates Simon came from a context of political radicalism and revolutionary zeal.

This sheds light on Simon’s character and why he may have been attracted to Jesus’ message. As a zealot for Jewish independence, Simon likely saw in Jesus the hope of the long-awaited Messiah who would overthrow Israel’s enemies.

However, Jesus’ message of the Kingdom of God was not primarily political but spiritual in nature (John 18:36). Following Jesus transformed Simon’s radical zeal from politics to wholehearted devotion to God.

The Zealot Movement

The Zealot movement was a radical political movement that fiercely opposed Roman occupation of Judea in the 1st century AD. Zealots advocated armed struggle against Rome and were willing to use violence to achieve political and religious autonomy for the Jewish people.

Zealots fiercely opposed Roman occupation of Judea

Zealots deeply resented the Roman occupation of Jewish lands and sought to incite revolt against Roman authority. They viewed the Romans as tyrannical oppressors who had to be expelled from Judea by force.

The Zealots rejected any compromise or accommodation with the Romans and believed that only an armed uprising could bring freedom for the Jewish nation.

The roots of the Zealot movement can be traced back to the Maccabean Revolt in the 2nd century BC when the Maccabees led a successful rebellion against the Seleucid Empire. This established a precedent for militant resistance against foreign rule.

When the Romans took over Judea in 63 BC, Zealot ideals began taking hold among some sections of Jewish society who yearned for independence.

They advocated violence and armed revolt

Zealots were essentially a first century Jewish nationalist group. They preached that violence against the Romans and their Jewish collaborators was justifiable and necessary in order to achieve national liberation. Zealots believed in the concept of armed struggle.

They rejected the notion of passive resistance and felt military action was the only solution for ending the Roman occupation.

The Zealot movement escalated their activities from protests and isolated attacks to open rebellion during the First Jewish-Roman War of 66-73 AD. This uprising was sparked by Zealots attacking Roman forces and killing Jewish collaborators in Jerusalem.

While the revolt was initially successful in driving the Romans out of Jerusalem, it ultimately ended with the destruction of the Jewish Temple and crushing defeat for the Zealots at the hands of Roman legions.

Simon may have participated in militant activities

Simon the Zealot was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ. The word “Zealot” in his name does not necessarily mean he was a member of the radical political Zealot movement, but it does imply he was zealous for Jewish law and customs.

Before becoming an apostle, Simon may have participated in militant activities against the Romans.

As a young man living in Roman-occupied Judea in the early 1st century AD, Simon would certainly have been exposed to Zealot revolutionary ideology. The economic and political conditions under Roman rule were prime for breeding resentment and anger among the Jewish populace.

It is conceivable that Simon harbored anti-Roman views and supported efforts to remove them by force.

However, any concrete evidence of Simon actually taking up arms against Rome is lacking. The Bible does not provide details about his background. So while Simon may have been an adherent of Zealot doctrines prior to following Jesus, his specific actions cannot be historically substantiated.

His transformation into an apostle devoted to peaceful ministry indicates a repudiation of radical rebellion.

Simon’s Conversion to Following Jesus

Jesus preached nonviolence, which contradicted Zealot beliefs

Before meeting Jesus, Simon the Zealot was likely part of the Zealot movement that opposed Roman rule over Judea. The Zealots advocated for violent resistance and rebellion against the Romans. However, when Simon encountered the teachings of Jesus, he would have quickly realized the contradiction between Jesus’ message of nonviolence and loving one’s enemies compared to the militant Zealot philosophy.

For example, in Matthew 5:38-48, Jesus told his followers to “turn the other cheek” and “love your enemies. “ This was radically different from the Zealot call to arms. Simon would have faced a profound choice – either reject the Zealot dogma he had embraced or reject the way of peace put forward by Jesus.

Simon likely abandoned his radical views after encountering Jesus

The fact that Simon left everything to follow Jesus indicates he turned away from the violent ideology of the Zealots. There is no record of Simon continuing as an insurrectionist after pledging himself to Jesus. Rather, it seems his passion was redirected towards spreading the gospel.

Simon probably came to the same realization as the apostle Paul, who had originally persecuted Christians but then saw that violence was incompatible with the way of Christ. As Paul later wrote, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood” (Ephesians 6:12).

Simon apparently grasped that the kingdom of God could not be advanced through force.

He channeled his passion into spreading the gospel instead

Although Simon abandoned the militancy of the Zealots, he retained his fiery passion and channeled it towards his new life in Christ. Along with the other apostles, Simon zealously spread the message of salvation through Jesus.

According to tradition, after Pentecost Simon took the gospel to Egypt, Cyrene, and Libya. He likely proclaimed the radical new community embodied by the early church, where social barriers were dismantled and compassion reigned.

The book of Acts records how the first Christians “had everything in common” and “gave to anyone as he had need” (Acts 2:44-45).

So while Simon left behind the violent uprising of the Zealots, his passion found a new focus in spreading the revolutionary message of the kingdom of God inaugurated by Jesus. He discovered that true change comes not through force, but through transformed hearts and minds.

Simon in the Early Church

Simon played a prominent role in establishing the church

After witnessing the resurrected Jesus and receiving the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Simon the Zealot went on to play an important role in the early Christian church. As one of the 12 apostles, he helped lead the growing community of believers in Jerusalem and helped establish the church after Jesus’ ascension.

According to early church traditions, Simon was a tireless preacher of the gospel in Judea, Samaria, and beyond. He displayed tremendous zeal and energy in spreading the good news of Christ’s resurrection.

Simon apparently focused his evangelistic efforts on reaching his fellow Jews with the message of Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah.

As Christianity spread beyond Palestine, the book of Acts records how Simon was present at the Council of Jerusalem around 49 AD. This was a vital meeting in the early church where Simon and other leaders like Peter, Paul, and James made important decisions about welcoming Gentile believers into fellowship.

So Simon played a key role in helping the fledgling church transition into a multi-ethnic community of faith.

Later traditions claim he spread the gospel and was martyred

According to historical traditions, after the Council of Jerusalem, Simon ventured out as a missionary to share the gospel across North Africa and the Middle East. Some accounts claim he traveled as far as the British Isles.

Wherever Simon went, he proclaimed the Lord Jesus with charisma and conviction while performing miraculous signs and wonders.

Like most of the apostles, church fathers record that Simon eventually sealed his testimony as a martyr after years of fruitful ministry. There are various accounts of how he was killed, with the most common being that he was sawn in half lengthwise with a wooden saw while preaching in Persia.

Such a grisly death displayed his radical commitment to Christ to the very end.

So while the biblical record on Simon the Zealot is small, early traditions fill out the portrait of his pivotal contribution. From spearheading the Jerusalem church to possibly traveling vast distances to share the gospel, Simon lived up to his name as an impassioned ambassador for Christ.

Even in death, as an early martyr Simon exemplified absolute loyalty to his Lord and Savior unto eternity.


Simon the Zealot remains an enigmatic figure, but the evidence indicates he walked away from a radical anti-Roman background to become a faithful apostle of Christ. Though details of his life are scant, his example speaks across the centuries of the transformative power of the gospel to change hearts and lives.

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