Meeting the Apostle Simon the Zealot

Meeting the Apostle Simon the Zealot June 19, 2024

Learning about the lives and work of the twelve apostles reveals much to us about leadership present in the early church. It is also a study in the way that God chooses us. God isn’t about having the perfect resume. He knows when He calls us what we can do for Him, even if we don’t see it in ourselves. We’ve reached the halfway point of six apostles, and now we are going to learn about one most never consider: Simon the Zealot.

Contrary to popular misconception, Simon the Zealot isn’t the same as Simon Peter. Simon the Zealot had his own call and ministry. Both are definitely worth examination.

Simon the Apostle
St. Simon by Peter Paul Rubens –, Public Domain,

Who was Simon the Zealot?

Simon the Zealot is lesser known than some of the other early church leaders. We don’t know when he was born, if he was married, or had children. There’s considerable dispute on his identity. Some suspect he’s the “Simon” mentioned as Jesus’ brother in Mark 6:3:

Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t His sisters here with us?” And they took offense at Him. (NIV)

This theory, however, isn’t certain. Others associate him with Simeon of Jerusalem,  but this is as uncertain as whether or not he was the brother of Jesus. His name and title also don’t tell us much about him. He is identified as “Simon the Zealot” to distinguish him from the Apostle (Simon) Peter, but what exactly “zealot” means is up for debate. Some sources say he was “zealous for the law,” which he practiced before his apostolic call. Others say he might have belonged to a militant group (some suspect Peter also belonged), and still others think it’s a reference to his origins, meaning he was from Cana.

Simon the Zealot’s walk with Jesus

We have no specific stories about Simon the Zealot in the New Testament. He is mentioned along with the other twelve in every passage:

  • Sending out the twelve: Along with the others, Simon the Zealot was sent out to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, and drive out demons (Matthew 10:1-8, Mark 3:13-19, Luke 6:12-16).
  • The Last Supper: Along with the other twelve, Simon the Zealot was present at the Last Supper (Matthew 26:17, Mark 14:12).

Simon the Zealot after the resurrection

There’s one other mention of the Apostle Simon the Zealot in the New Testament, found in Acts 1:12-14, speaking of the election of Matthias to replace Judas:

Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. 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. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers. (NIV)

It’s obvious that while we might not have any specific interaction between Simon and Jesus, he was relevant enough to be mentioned. Like the others, he healed the sick, raised the dead, cleansed lepers, and drove out demons. He also performed necessary administrative tasks.

Later accounts

There is more about the Apostle Simon the Zealot’s ministry outside of the Bible than found within its pages. In total, there are nine different legends about his ministry work:

  • He ministered throughout Egypt and then joined with the Apostle Jude Thaddaeus, working together as a missionary team. The two worked in Persia, Armenia, and Lebanon, where they were both martyred in Beiruit in 65 AD.
  • He was crucified, as was Simeon of Jerusalem (assuming they were the same person).
  • He ministered in Georgia, died in Abkhazia, and was buried in Nicopsia (with remains transferred to Anakopia).
  • He ministered in the Middle East and Africa and was later crucified in Samaria.
  • He was martyred (sawn in half) in Sunair, Persia (modern-day Iran).
  • He was martyred at Weriosphora in Caucasian Iberia (modern-day Georgia).
  • He died peacefully at Edessa (modern-day Turkey).
  • He ministered in Roman Britain, arriving in 44 AD. He was crucified at Lincolnshire, Britain in 61 AD.
  • He was involved in the first Jewish-Roman War (66-73 AD)

With nine different theories, it’s impossible to be certain which one or ones are accurate. Regardless, he must have ministered – and done so well – for so many different stories to exist!

An additional fact: Muslims believe Simon the Zealot ministered among Berber communities in North Africa.

The Apostle Simon the Zealot is of interest in apocryphal writings:

The veracity of both are in debate.


The Apostle Simon the Zealot is not mentioned much in the New Testament. We know he was an apostle and he walked with Jesus. Perhaps that’s all we need to know to take assurance in the fact that not everyone called of God is front and center all the time. Not every apostle was Peter, or Andrew, or even Philip, and that’s all right. It’s fine that Simon the Zealot was better known after the New Testament – so much so, people of diverse populations want to claim him as the founder of faith in their areas. Maybe it’s not always about being front and center in the beginning, but about the diligence involved to work to the end.

When morning came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also designated apostles: Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. (Luke 6:13-16, NIV)

About Lee Ann B. Marino
Dr. Lee Ann B. Marino, Ph.D., D.Min., D.D. (”The Spitfire”) is “everyone’s favorite theologian” leading Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z as apostle of Spitfire Apostolic Ministries. Her work encompasses study and instruction on leadership training and development, typology, Pneumatology, conceptual theology, Ephesians 4:11 ministry, and apostolic theology. She is author of over thirty-five books, host of the top twenty percentile podcast Kingdom Now, and serves as founder and overseer of Sanctuary International Fellowship Tabernacle - SIFT and Chancellor of Apostolic University. Dr. Marino has over twenty-five years of experience in ministry, leadership, counseling, mentoring, education, and business. You can read more about the author here.

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