Keith Hunt - In Search for the Twelve Apostles #16 - Page Seventeen   Restitution of All Things

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Simon the Zealot


by McBirnie Ph.D.


     SIMON was also called Canaanite, or Cananean, or Zealot (Gr.
Kanaios) in various New Testament references; "the Canaanite"
(Mt.10:4; Mk.3:15 AV) or "the Cananaean" (Mt.10:4; Mk.3:18 RV) or
"Zelotes (Lk.6:15; Acts 1:13 AV) or "the Zealot" (Lk.6:15; Acts
1:13 RV).
     According to the "Gospel of the Ebionites" or "Gospel of the
Twelve Apostles" (of the second century and mentioned in Origen)
Simon received his call to the apostleship along with Andrew and
Peter, the sons of Zebedee, Thaddaeus and Judas Iscariot at the
Sea of Tiberias (cf Mt.4:18-22; see also Henneke,
"Neutestamentliche Apokryphen," 24-27).
     Edgar Goodspeed gives us a personal account of an Armenian
tradition which was related to him, about several of the Apostles
including Simon:

"Armenian tradition, Miss Louise Nalbandian tells me, names four
other Apostles besides Thaddeus and Bartholomew who preached the
gospel in Armenia - Simon the Canaanite (meaning the Cananaean or
Zealot, of Matt.10:4; Mark 3:18); Judas (meaning Judas son of
James, Acts 1:13, who is usually identified with Thaddeus of Mark
3:18; Matt.10:3); Andrew: and Matthias, the thirteenth Apostle,
appointed to take the place of Judas Iscariot, (Acts 1:26).
Allowing for these identifications, the total list of apostolic
missionaries to Armenia would number five--Thaddeus, Bartholomew,
Simon the Zealot, Andrew and Matthias." ("The Twelve," Edgar J.
Goodspeed, p.98)

     Writing in 1685 Dorman Newman gave the following account of
Sunon Zelotes:

"He is said to have diverted his journey towards Egypt, Cyrene,
Africa, Martania, and Lybia. Nor could the coldness of the
climate benumb his zeal or hinder him from shipping himself over
into the Western Islands, yea even to Britain itself. Here he is
said to have preached and wrought many miracles, and after
infinite troubles and difficulties which he under-went, suffered
martyrdom for the faith of Christ, being crucified by the
infidels and buried among them.
Others indeed affirm, that after he had preached the gospel in
Egypt be went to Mesopotamia, where be met with St.Jude the
Apostle and together with him took his journey into Persia where,
having gained a considerable harvest to the Christian Faith, they
were both crowned with martyrdom: but this is granted by all
learned men to be fabulous, wanting all clear foundation in
Antiquity to stand on." (T"he Lives and Deaths of the Holy
Apostles," Dorman Newman, p.94)

     The Coptic Church of Egypt affirms that Simon "went to
Egypt, Africa, Britain and died in Persia." (Alkhrida, Precious
Jewels, COPTIC CHURCH 1915, Egypt, p.56)

     Otto Hophan in his book, "The Apostles," says:

"A third general opinion, which later Greek commentators in
particular followed placed the scenes of Simon's Apostolic labors
in N.W.Africa, Mauretania and even Britain." (p.285)

     Eberhard Arnold in his exhaustive critical and devotional
study, The Early Christians, quotes Tertullian, one of the early
Church fathers, regarding the early Christian witness to Britain:

"In whom have all the nations believed but in Christ who is
already come? In whom have they believed the Parthians, Modes,
Elamites, and those who inhabit Mesopotamia, Armenia, Phrygia,
Cappadocia; those who live in Pontus, Asia, and Pamphylia, in
Egypt, in Africa beyond Cyrene; those born here and those who
came here from Rome; also the, Jews in Jerusalem and other
national groups, as now the various tribes of the Gaetulians and
of the wide regions of the Moors, and the Spaniards to their
remotest  boundaries; the different nations of Gaul; the
haunts of the Britons, inaccessible to the Romans; the lands of
the Samaritans, Dacians, Germans, Scythians; and many remote
nations, provinces, and islands which are unknown to us and which
we cannot enumerate?
We are but of yesterday, yet we have filled all that is yours:
cities and islands, forts and towns, assemblies and even military
camps, tribes, councils, the Palace, the Senate, the Forum. We
left you only the temples." Tertullian, "Against the Jews" V11;
Apology 37 ("The Early Christians," E. Arnold, p.217, 218)
From the book the "Early Christians; After the Death of the
Apostles" by Eberhard Arnold. Copyright 1971 by the Plough
Publishing House, Rifton, N.Y. 12471. Used by permission.

     The exhaustive study of the Bollandistes records: 

"Afford in his annals of the British church accepts that an
Apostle came to Britain because Eusebius says, 'Surely later,
Apostles preached in Britain.' (Eus. "Demonstration Evang." ["The
Bollandistes," Pub. by Soc. of Bollandistes "Acta Sanctorium" De
S. Simone Apostolo Et Martyre, p.421-426, 1867, Paris, October,
Vol.12] Chap.5 Sect 112, Book 3 is quoted) 

     According to the Bollandistes (p.428) the arm of St Simon
was given by a Persian Bishop to the Premonstrarians convent in
Trier but preserved in the monastery church of St.Norbet,
Cologne, Germany. This monastery seems to have been destroyed in
the saturation bombing of Cologne in World War 11. Personal
investigation by the writer in November, 1971, turned up no trace
of it.

     In his book, "The Christian Centuries," Jean Danielou
indicates that Christianity had indeed penetrated all along the
coast of North Africa.

"Christianity was probably planted in Carthage as early as the
end of the first century, otherwise it is difficult to explain
how the city had a  Christian population at the time of     
Tertullian. 'We fill your squares, your markets, your
amphitbeatres', he writes the 'Apologeticum.' The Council of 
Carthage, in 216, was attended by seventy-one African bishops,
but we know nothing about the conditions in which the Gospel was
preached." ("The Christian Centuries," Jean Danielou, p.151)

     The importance of the presence of Christianity in Carthage
to our story of the journeys of St.simon is that the historical
record and traditions indicate Simon traveled westward from
Jerusalem through Mauritania, which was the name of one of the
countries of North Africa. It probably included Cathage. That
tradition is mentioned in "The Popular and Critical Bible
Encyclopaedia" as follows:

"These tranditions, however, assigned a different destiny to this
Simon, alleging that he preached the Gospel through North Africa,
from Egypt to Mauritania, and that he even preached to the remote
isles of Britain." ("The Popular and Critical Bible Ency."
Rt.Rev.Samuel Fallows, p.1590) 


     There is a long and widespread tradition which links several
of the Apostolic figures to Great Britain. Later we will show
that this was by no means unreasonable. If St.Thomas could
journey east to India, surely other Apostles could have journeyed
northwest to Britain. It would be more than strange if some of
them did not. Dorman Newman in his book on the lived of the
Apostles gives us the following tradition:

"St.Simon continued in Worship and Communion with the other
Apostles and Disciples of Christ at Jerusalem; and at the Feast
of Pentecost received the same miraculous Gifts of the Holy
Spirit; so that he was equally qualified with the rest of the
brethren for the Ministry of the Gospel. And we cannot doubt but
that he exercised his Gifts with Zeal and Fidelitgy: But in what
part of the world, is not very certain. Some say he went to
Egypt, Cyrene and Africa, and all over Mauritania, preaching the
Gospel tp those remote and barbarous Countries. And, if we may
believe our own Authors, he came into these Western Parts, as far
as our island of Great Britain; where having converted great
Multitudes, with manifold Hardships and Persecutions, he at last
suffered Martrydom by Crucifixion, as 'tis recorded in the Greek
Menologies. But Bede, Vsuardus, and Ado, place his Martyrdom in
Persia, at a City called Suanir, where they say the idolatrous
Priests put him to Death; and for this they allege the Authority
of Eusebius his Martyrology translated by St.Jerome; which,
though it be not without many Faults, nor entirely either
Eusebius's or St.Jerome's hath yet the advantage of Antiquity
above any now extant. As to the City Suanir in Persia, it is not
known to our Geographers. Possibly it might be the Country of the
Suani or Surani, a People mentioned by Pliny and Ptolemy, in
Colchis, or a little higher in Sarmatia; which may agree with a
Passage in the spurious History of St.Andrew, That in the
Cimmerian Bosphorus there is a Tomb in a Grot, with an
Inscription, That Simon the Zealot, or Canaanite, was interred
there. But this is but uncertain Tradition." ("The Lives and
Deaths o f the Holy Apostles" Dorman Newman, 1685)

     One of the earliest historical traditions about a visit of
St.Simon to Britain is from Dorotheus. It is quoted in the book,
"St.Paul in Britain," as follows:

"The next missionary after Joseph [to come to Britain--ED] was
Simon Zelotes the Apostle. There can be little doubt, we think,
on this point. One Menology assigns the matyrdom of Zelotes to
Persia in Asia, but others agree in stating he suffered in
Britain. Of these the principal authority is Dorotheus, Bishop of
Tyre, in the reigns of Diocletian and Constantius (A.D.300). His
testimony we consider decisive: - 'Sirnon Zelotes traversed all
Mauritania, and the regions of the Africans, preaching Christ. He
was at last crucified, slain, and buried in Britain. Crucifixion
was a Roman penalty for runaway slaves, deserters, and rebels:
it was not known to the British laws. We conclude Simon Zelotes
suffered in the east of Britain, perhaps, as tradition affirms,
in the vicinity of Caistor, under the prefecture of Caius Decius,
the officer whose atrocities were the immediate cause of the
Boadicean war. Two things strike the investigator of early
Christian history: the marvellous manner in which Christian seed
is found growing and fructifying in unheard-of places; the
indifference of the sowers, of perpetuating their own name and
labours." (Dorotheus, Synod. de Apostol.; Synopsis ad Sim Mot.,
as quoted in "St.Paul in Britain," R.W.Morgan, p.9)

     In the opinion of most historians the visit to St.Joseph of
Arimathea to Glastonbury, England, is only legendary.

     Nevertheless, a formidable body of scholars has researched
this matter very carefully and one cannot simply ignore them,
even if what they wrote seems to be more in the nature of making
a case for a desired conclusion rather than a purely objective
study of history. For instance, Lionel S.Lewis lists the
following historical tradition:

"There is Eastern confirmation of the story that St.Simon came
here [i.e., Britain, ED].
(1) Dorotheus, Bishop of Tyre (A.D.303), or the writer who
attributed the Synopsis to him, in his Synopsis de Apostol. (9.
Simon Zelote's says: "Simon Zelotes preached Christ through all
Mauritania, and Africa the less. At length he was crucified at
Brittania, slain and buried."
(2) Nicephorus, Patriarch of Constantinople and Byzantine
historian, A.D.758-829, wrote (Book 11, c.40): 'Simon born in
Cana of Galilee, who for his fervent affection for his Master and
great zeal that he showed by all means to the Gospel, was
surnamed Zelotes, having received the Holy Ghost from above,
traveled through Egypt and Africa, then through Mauritania and
all Lybia, preaching the Gospel. And the same doctrine he taught
to the Occidental Sea, and the Isles called Britanniae.'
(3) Greek Menology. The Menology of the Greek Church celebrates
St.Simon's Day on May 10, and supports the statements of his
having preached and been martyred in Britain ("Annales
Ecclvsiastici" Baronius under A.D.44. Sec. XXXVIII)." (St.Joseph
of Arimathea at Glastonburg, P.117).

     George F.Jowett draws the same conclusion: 

"In the year A.D.60 special mention is made of Joseph going to
Gaul and returning to Britain with another band of recruits,
among whom is particularly mentioned Simon Zelotes, one of the
original twelve disciples of Christ. This is the second time it
is specially mentioned that Philip consecrated Joseph and his
band of co-workers prior to embarking for Britain. Probably the
inclusion of Simon Zelotes indicated an important missionary
effort, hence the consecration. This was the second journey to
Britain for Simon Zelotes - and his last. According to Cardinal
Baronius and Hippolytus, Simon's first arrival in Britain was in
the year A.D.44, during the Claudian war. Evidently his stay was
short, as he returned to the continent.
Nicephorus, Patriarch of Constantinople, and Byzantine historian,
A.D.758-8299., writes:

'Simon born in Cana of Galilee who for his fervent affection for
his Master and great zeal that he showed by all means to the
Gospel, was surnamed Zelotes, having received the Holy Ghost from
above, traveled through Egypt, and Africa, then through
Mauritania and all Libya, preaching the Gospel. And the same
doctrine he taught to the Occidental Sea, and the Isles called

Simon arrived in Britain during the first year of the Boadicean
war, A.D.60, when the whole Island was convulsed in a deep,
burning angler against the Romans, which was never equalled
before or after in the long years of conflict between the two
nations. Tacitus states that from A.D.59 to 62 the brutalities of
war were at their worst. Atrocities occurred on both sides, but
the Romans carried their vicious pertetrations to such a    
extent that even Rome was shocked. Bearing this in mind we can
readily understand that any Christian evangelizing outside the   
British shield would be fraught with imminent danger. At all
times the disciples of Christ were oblivious to danger, but when
the pressure became too severe invariably they fled the land
until matters quietened down. In the year. A.D.44 a Claudian
Edict expelled the Christian leaders from Rome. Many of them
sought sanctuary in Britain. Among those who fled to Britain from
Rome was Peter.
The south of England was sparsely inhabited by the native Britons
and consequently more heavily populated by the Romans. It was far
beyond the strong protective shield of the Silurian arms in the
south and the powerful northern Yorkshire Celts. In this
dangerous territory Simon was definitely on his own. Undeterred,,
with infinite courage, he began preaching the Christian gospel
right in the heart of the Roman domain. His fiery sermons brought
him speedily to the attention of Catus Decianus, but not before
he had sown the seed of Christ in the hearts of Britons and many
Romans who, despite the unremitting hatred of Decianus for all
that was Christian, held the secret of the truth locked in their
The evangelizing mission of Simon was short-lived. He was finally
arrested under orders of Catus Decianus. As usual his trial was a
mockery. He was condemned to death and was crucified by the
Romans at Caistor, Lincolnshire, and there buried, 'circa' May
10th, A.D.61.
The day of the martyrdom of Simon Zelotes, the devoted disciple
of Christ, is officially celebrated by the eastern and western
church on May 10th and so recorded in the Greek Menology.
Cardinal Baronius, in his 'Annales Ecclesiastici,' gives the same
date in describing the martyrdom and burial of Simon Zelotes in
Britain." (The Drama of the Lost Disciples, F Jowett, p.157-59)


To be continued

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