Who were the Zealots?

by | May 17, 2022 | 02 Library, Who is

The ancient historian Flavius Josephus identifies four rival religious philosophies among the Jews at the time of Jesus: Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and Zealots.


  • The Zealots were a revolutionary movement that arose in response to Jewish oppression by the Roman empire (but they were not the only revolutionary movement).
  • They hated the misconduct by Jewish and Roman officials, the burdensome taxation, the fact that occupying forces pilfered their natural resources and enslave the people.
  • Zealots were found by Judas the Galilean about 6 AD and were active through the Jewish war of 66-73 AD.
  • Masada was Zealot community.
  • Luke mentions Simon the Zealot (Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13) but this could refer to his character rather than his political party.
  • In belief and practice, they were similar to the Pharisees, except while the Pharisees thought they could oust Rome if everyone returned to the law, the Zealots believed Rome would be ousted only through revolt.
  • They believed if they could throw off Roman rule the Messiah would come.
  • They were anti-Rome, anti-Sadducee and anti-establishment.


Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology: Zealot

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary: Zealot

Easton’s Bible Dictionary: Zealots

Fausset Bible Dictionary:

Holman Bible Dictionary: Jewish Parties in the New Testament

Holman Bible Dictionary: Zealot

Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible: Zealot

Kitto’s Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature: Zealots

Morrish Bible Dictionary:

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: Zealot; Zealots

McClintock and Strong: Zealots

The Nuttall Encyclopedia: Zealots, The

The Jewish Encyclopedia: Zealots

Alfred Edersheim: Chapter 15 Relation of the Pharisees to the Sadducees and Essenes, and to the Gospel of Christ


Who were the Pharisees?

Who were the Sadducees?

Who were the Essenes?

Photo by Rolf Schmidbauer on Unsplash