Intro on the Zealots
In first-century Israel there were many groups and revolutionaries, which were people who sought to bring about political or social change. A broad term for many of these groups was a zealot. A zealot is fairly similar to a revolutionary, except for their increased passion and belief in their cause. A zealot would typically then share their beliefs with others, and convince them to share their same feelings.
Some of these revolutionary movements focused on a form of “social banditry”. These Social bandits were basically like a first-century Israel version of the hero, Robin Hood, who would steal from the rich and give to the poor. They would attack the elite and powerful upper classes within Israel, along with the Roman troops who protected them. From doing this they gained popular support from the poor and common people. Of course the Romans were not in favor of their practices, viewing them as just criminals.
Another of these Zealot like movements, was one called the “messianic”. They were given this title due to their political aims to overthrow the Roman rulers. From that they would then establish an independent Jewish state. The people originally believed that the messiah would be one who would come and overthrow the Roman rule and oppression, so that is where the name messiah came from.
Prophetic Zealots were people who gained support of the people by proclaiming that God was planing on delivering Israel soon. These movements often had one central leader.There was one movement which held similar beliefs to the Pharisees but they believed in no other leadership than God.
The Sicarii were a dangerous and deadly group. They would kill people in broad day light. They would carry concealed daggers and stab roman sympathizers in crowded areas. after killing someone they would quickly re-conceal their weapon and blend back in with the crowed and leave unnoticed.
Zealots in the Bible
Zealots are mentioned in the the new testament. Acts talks about a man named Theudas who lead a group of 400 but who was killed. It also talks about someone named Judas the Galilean. Judas the one who tried to overthrow the romans claiming that only God could be the leader of Israel. Also in the book of Acts there is a spot that mentions and Egyptian who lead a group of 4000 into the wilderness. Barabbas the one the people freed instead of Jesus was likely a Zealot. The same greek word used to describe Barabbas is used for the two criminals next to Jesus. They very well could have been Zealot like people as well.