By Hoyt H. Houchen
Question: The KJV refers to the apostle, “Simon the Canaanite” (Mk. 3:18). Was he a descendant of the Canaanites who were the original inhabitants of Palestine?
Reply: The two references which list the second Simon (the first being Simon Peter) refer to him as “Simon the Canaanite” in the King James Version (Matt. 10:4; Mk. 3:18). These same two references list him as “Simon the Cananaean” in the American Standard Version. The footnote reads, “Or, Zealot.”
The term “Canaanite” which is applied here to Simon, has led some to suppose that he was either a descendant of the original Canaanites or a citizen of the town of Cana. Neither is correct. The word “Canaanite” or “Cananaean” has political, rather than geographical, significance. The Greek word would be better translated “the Zealot,” and Luke refers to him as such (Lk. 6:15; Acts 1:13). Probably this name is given to him because he had belonged to the Jewish party known as the Zealots. Josephus refers to them as the “fourth sect of Jewish
Philosophy” (the others being the Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes). See Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews (XVIII, ch. 1, 1, 6). He tells us that Judas of Galilee (Acts 5:37) was the founder of the Zealots. This party despised foreign rulers who demanded tribute. They revolted against the Roman government in A.D. 66, which led to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Evidently Simon had been a member of this party before he became a follower of Christ. Other than his name, we know nothing more about this apostle.
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 22, p. 677
November 21, 1985