Z is for Zealots

z“These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John;  Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;  Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.” (Matthew 10:1-4 NIV)

So out of the group of people who followed Jesus around on a day to day basis, there were two Simons. One got his name changed to Peter, or Rocky, and the other who was simply known as the Zealot. The word zealot implies a fanatical devotion to a particular cause, usually trying to imply a willingness to do harm to others for the sake of the cause you champion. With Simon they aren’t trying to say something about his passionate concern and care for following Jesus, instead they are referring to his membership in an organization known as the Zealots who were part of Jewish culture under the Roman occupation.

Zealots were a group who opposed  the Roman occupation of Israel through whatever means necessary. They fought against Roman rule and leadership of their nation and of the flagrant god flaunting that Roman coins and military pageantry embodied in trying to proclaim the cult of emperor worship. The Zealots attempted many times to make a stand against Rome, but very regularly participated in guerrilla resistance that often involved targeted assassinations of both Roman officials and Roman collaborators. The funny part about the little band of Jesus’s followers is that it included Simon, a Zealot known for killing Roman collaborators, and also Matthew, a tax collector who worked for the Romans. I’m sure the rest of the group didn’t like to leave them alone since they didn’t think Matthew would last very long. Jesus had a bit of a sense of humor, I’m sure in bringing them both along.

Zealots were essentially the Assassin’s Guild of their time and culture. There was an extremist group of the Zealots who were known as the Sicarri. They were so named because they carried curved short swords, called sicarii,  in case the opportunity to murder a Roman came up. The term also referred to the class of gladiator who wielded similar weapons, so it was an innocuous enough phrase to keep them from too much suspicion.

Secretive societies and mysterious resistance cells make for great drama in a game play setting. The popularity of the Assassin’s Creed video games speaks to that quite well. What secretive elements of society exist in the games you play and what motivates them to take a stand against the status quo? Are they freedom fighters on a holy mission or are they invested in the economic problems that arise from an occupying force? Where powerful conquerors come in, there will almost always be some kind of rebellion or resistance that takes a variety of forms. The Jewish Zealots during the Roman occupation are a very interesting place to find inspiration for just how they would stand up against an oppressing force and we got a brand new word to describe those who are so consumed with passion that they go to extremes.

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