National Association of Christian Ministers Summary Series: Theology

The Zealots were a Jewish sect or political movement that emerged during the first century AD. They were known for their fervent nationalism and their opposition to Roman rule. The Zealots sought to resist and overthrow the Roman occupation of Judea, viewing it as a violation of Jewish sovereignty and religious freedom.

The term “Zealots” comes from the Greek word “zelotes,” which means “enthusiast” or “zealous ones.” The Zealots were characterized by their passionate devotion to the cause of Jewish independence. They believed in armed resistance and were willing to use violence to achieve their goals.

The Zealots arose as a response to the increasing Roman domination and control over Judea. They rejected any form of collaboration or compromise with the Roman authorities. The Zealots’ activities included acts of rebellion, guerrilla warfare, and assassinations of perceived collaborators.

During the First Jewish-Roman War (66-73 AD), the Zealots played a significant role in the Jewish revolt against the Romans. They took control of Jerusalem and defended the city against Roman sieges for several years. However, their resistance ultimately ended in defeat when the Romans captured and destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD.

It is worth noting that Simon the Zealot, one of Jesus’ disciples, is traditionally identified as having been associated with the Zealot movement. However, it is uncertain whether he was truly a member of the Zealots or if the term “Zealot” used to describe him referred to a different sense of zeal or fervor. The biblical accounts do not provide detailed information about Simon’s specific affiliation.