From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

Zealot ( Gr. ζηλωτής) occurs in  Luke 6:15 and  Acts 1:13 as the designation of Simon, one of the Twelve. In the lists given by Mt. and Mk. the equivalent ‘Cananaean’ (Καναναῖος) is used. The Zealots were the rigorous Nationalists, the party of violent opposition to Roman domination. Josephus ( Ant . xviii. i. 6) calls them a ‘fourth sect of Jewish philosophy,’ and says that ‘Judas the Galilaean was the founder.’ He adds: ‘These men agree in all things with the Pharisaic notions; but they have an inviolable attachment to liberty, and say that God is to be their only Ruler and Lord’; he speaks of their ‘immovable resolution’ and their indifference to suffering and death. These qualities were all abundantly illustrated in the final struggle at Jerusalem and at Masada. Edersheim ( LT [Note: T Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah [Edersheim].] i. 237 ff.) dates the rise of the party from the accession of Herod the Great [Note: reat Cranmer’s ‘Great’ Bible 1539.] , and the activity of guerilla bands in Galilee under the leadership of one Ezechias. ‘It was in fact a revival of the Maccabean movement, perhaps more fully in its national than in its religious aspect.’ Plummer (‘St. Luke’ in ICC [Note: CC International Critical Commentary.] ) attaches more importance to the religious aspect of the movement:—‘The Zealots date from the time of the Maccabees as a class who attempted to force upon others their own rigorous interpretations of the Law.’ In the later stages of the Jewish history the party grew more violent. Its ringleaders were known as the Sicarii , and their overthrow of all moderating leadership sealed the doom of Jerusalem. There is no special difficulty in believing that a member of this party might be attracted to Jesus and become one of His chosen disciples. Galilee was the home of the party, and it naturally included in it men of very different types, from the religious fanatic to the partisan of revolution. Simon’s zealotry, purified by the knowledge of Jesus, might readily become true loyalty to the Kingdom of God. Edersheim gives us the additional explanation that, at the period when the ministry of Jesus began, ‘A brief calm had fallen upon the land. There was nothing to provoke active resistance, and the party of the Zealots, although existing, and striking deeper root in the hearts of the people, was, for the time, rather what Josephus called it, “the philosophical party”—their minds busy with an ideal, which their hands were not yet preparing to make a reality’ ( op. cit. p. 243). We should, however, take note of the alternative possibility (see Plummer, loc. cit .) that Simon may have been called ζηλωτής ‘because of his personal character either before or after his call,’ as St. Paul ( Galatians 1:14) styles himself περισσοτέρως ζηλωτὴς … τῶν … παραδόσεων. See also Cananaean.

E. H. Titchmarsh.

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [2]

Recent studies seek to distinguish among several features of intertestamental Judaism to which the term "zealot" might be applied. The term could refer to certain persons with fervent devotion to God's Law. The term could also be applied to a general attitude and movement illustrated by Judas of Gamala and Saddok, a Pharisee, who led an abortive revolt against a Roman census in a.d. 6. These leaders promised "that Heaven would be their zealous helper." The Jewish historian Josephus calls the movement, "The Fourth of the Philosophies, " and says it agreed with the Pharisees, differing only in their "passion for liberty convinced that God alone is their leader and master"; they were willing to die for this conviction ( Ant 18.1.4 [23]). The movement could also be called a "violent religious revolutionary" one. Josephus also speaks of "The Zealots" (first in War 4.3.9 [161]) as one of several Jewish revolutionary factions, one he says was a coalition of bandits and miscreants, who fought between themselves and against the Romans in the Judeo-Roman war (a.d. 66-70). He names such leaders as Eleazer son of Simon and John of Gischala.

 Matthew 10:4;  Mark 3:18;  Luke 6:15; and  Acts 1:13 term one of the apostles "Simon the Zealot." The distinct revolutionary faction developed only later; the title must describe either Simon's pious zeal or participation in the revolutionary spirit.

Some scholars associate Jesus with the zealot movement. The title over the cross, "This is the King of the Jews, " may indicate Pilate condemned him as a violent nationalist. The whole of Jesus' teaching and actions indicate to the contrary. A true zealot revolutionary would never advocate, "Love your enemies" ( Matthew 5:44 ), paying taxes to Caesar ( Matthew 22:21;  Mark 12:17;  Luke 20:25 ), and satisfaction with two swords ( Luke 22:38 ).

J. Julius Scott, Jr.

Bibliography . W. R. Farmer, Maccabees, Zealots, and Josephus  ; M. Hengel, The Zealots  ; R. Horsley, NovT 27 (1986): 159-92; M. Smith, HTR 64 (1971): 1-19.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [3]

In the opening years of the New Testament era, the Romans exercised their rule over Judea firstly through Herod the Great and then through Herod’s son, Archelaus. But in AD 6 the Romans replaced Archelaus with a governor sent out from Rome, and Judea for the first time came under direct Roman rule (cf.  Matthew 2:22).

Since Rome could no longer collect Judea’s taxes through the Herods, it conducted a census of the province in preparation for collecting the taxes direct. A group of Jews, led by a man called Judas the Galilean, rebelled against this direct taxation, claiming that God’s people should not pay taxes to a pagan emperor. Because of their zeal in trying to keep Israel free from pagan influence, they became known as Zealots (or Patriots). They formed a minor political party in Israel ( Acts 5:37). One of the twelve apostles was possibly at some time a member of the Zealots ( Luke 6:15;  Acts 1:13).

The Zealots maintained their opposition to Rome in spite of persecution and even the execution of some of their members. From time to time other anti-Roman extremists joined them. Among these was a group known as the Assassins, who hid daggers in their clothing and murdered any whom they suspected of being on the side of the Romans ( Acts 21:38).

In AD 66, bitter at the mismanagement of Jewish affairs by the corrupt governors of Judea, the Zealots led an open rebellion against Rome. The Jews were divided among themselves, with various extremists competing for leadership. Nevertheless, they held Jerusalem against the Romans for four years. During this time Rome had systematically conquered Galilee, Perea and Judea. Finally, in AD 70, they conquered Jerusalem, destroying the temple and most of the city. This marked the end of the national life of Israel.

Webster's Dictionary [4]

(n.) One who is zealous; one who engages warmly in any cause, and pursues his object with earnestness and ardor; especially, one who is overzealous, or carried away by his zeal; one absorbed in devotion to anything; an enthusiast; a fanatical partisan.

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [5]

An ancient sect of the Jews, so called from their pretended zeal for God's law, and the honour of religion.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [6]

ZEALOT . See Cananæan, Messiah (p. 610 a f.), Pharisees.

Holman Bible Dictionary [7]

 Luke 6:15