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Bridgeway Bible Dictionary

Zealot

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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.


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Bibliography Information
Fleming, Don. Entry for 'Zealot'. Bridgeway Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/bbd/z/zealot.html. 2004.

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