St. Simon the Zealot (St. Simon the Zealot)
One of Rabbi Yeshua’s original twelve shlikhim (Apostles)
God calls himself in Hebrew qana, jealous or zealous or ardent Ex 20:5. The Septuagint translates qana into Greek as zelotes, zealous or ardent. Applied to God, these terms also mean jealous in the sense that God will allow us to worship no one else Ex 20:3; Deut 5:7.
Rabbi Matityahu and Rabbi Marcus call him in their original Greek Simon ho Kanaios, Simon the Cananaean Mt 10:4; Mk 3:18. However, kanaios in this context does not refer to places such as Cana or Canaan but is derived from qana. Shimeon haQana was the Semitic form of his name. Rabbi Lucas calls him Simon ho zelotes,” Simon the Zealot Lk 6:15; Acts 1:13, which translates to the English “zealot,” the Greek form of his name. We do not know whether he was a member of the Zealot party, but he obviously took his Jewish identity very seriously.
This passionate attachment to his Jewish identity contrasts sharply with Matthew’s willingness to collaborate with the Roman occupiers of the Jewish homeland. Our fallen nature leaves us vulnerable to the temptation of internecine warfare. Some rabbis say the First Jewish Revolt with its Temple destruction in AD 70 was due not to Roman military superiority but to this zealous sinat khinam (Mishna Yoma 9b), hatred without cause.
Rabbi Yeshua chose to become incarnate during a time when sinat khinam was unusually intense. Josephus dated the Jewish Wars as from the time Antiochus IV took Jerusalem in 168 BC to about three years after Titus destroyed Jerusalem in AD 70, a total of nearly 240 years, including the days of Rabbi Yeshua. Jerusalem during the time of Rabbi Yeshua had some twenty-four different factions. Among the most prominent were the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Essenes, the Herodians, the Zealots, the Priests, the Scribes and the Elders, but there were many more. For instance, the hellenized and assimilated Jews, probably including Matityahu before Rabbi Yeshua called him, were comfortable with the Roman presence. It was prosperity for them, and they deeply resented Jews who resisted Roman domination such as the Zealots. Even the Torah Jews took sides. Some followed Rabbi Hillel while others followed Rabbi Shammai. Hillel’s followers intensely disapproved of Shammai’s teachings, and Shammai’s followers intensely disapproved of Hillel’s teachings. It was a time when Jews who associated themselves with each sect were so angry with Jews of other sects that they were willing to kill, in grave violation of our Father’s law. True Torah Jews revered pikuakh nefesh and would never violate the Fifth Commandment (as Jews count, the Sixth Commandment).
Isaiah had prophesied,
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Righteousness shall be the girdle of his waist, and faithfulness the girdle of his loins. The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall feed; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The sucking child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea Is 11:1–9.
Rabbi Yeshua chose perhaps as motley a crew of shlikhim as we could imagine. Sts. Matthew and Simon the Cananaean were as good an example as any.
Aside from his mention in the lists at Mt 10:4, Mk 3:18; Lk 6:15; Acts 1:13, we find no other mention of Rabbi Shimeon haQana anywhere in the New Testament. Rabbi Yokhanan reminds us that, “there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” Jn 21:25. Rabbi Shimeon haQana was a living, breathing shaliakh, and thereby commanded vast respect among the early Christians. Remember, “And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and pallets, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them” Acts 5:14–15.
So perhaps Rabbi Yeshua chose Rabbi Shimeon haQana as a witness that the Church he instituted was universal, that it would speak to all men whatever their other differences, as we saw so vividly at Pentecost: “Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in his own language” Acts 2:5–6.