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The Zealots—Firebrands of Revolution

  • Ardent nationalists who awaited an opportunity to revolt against Rome.
  • Resisted paying taxes to Rome or to the temple.
  • One particular tax revolt against Rome, led by Judas the Galilean (6 B.C.), secured Galilee’s reputation as a seedbed of revolutionaries.
  • Blamed by some for the collapse of Judea to Rome in the war of A.D. 66-70. Josephus, a Jewish historian, claimed that they degenerated into mere assassins or sicarii (“dagger-men”).
  • Sided with the Pharisees in supporting Jewish Law.
  • Opposed the Herodians and Sadducees, who tried to maintain the political status quo.
  • Intolerant of the Essenes and later the Christians for their tendencies toward nonviolence.
  • Two recruited by Jesus were Judas Iscariot and Simon the Cananite.

The Word in Life Study Bible, New Testament Edition, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville; 1993), p. 71

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