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June 18, 2005



The period from the late years of Herod the Great to the 60’s of the first century witnessed numerous uprisings and rebellions, major and minor. Formerly, historians treated these all as manifestations of a Zealot movement, but more recent studies have shown the value of recognizing the differences among these uprisings, of which the Zealot movement constitutes only one.

Josephus recounts a series of rebellions around the death of Herod the Great. Even before Herod died, a group of Pharisaic students pulled downa golden eagle that Herod had affixed over an entrance to the Tmeple. After Herod’s death, we encounter rebels such as Judas the son of Ezekias, Simon the slave, Athronges, Judas the Galilean (also attested in Acts 5:37). In the 40’s of the Common Era, Theudas led a rebellion. And in the 60’s the Zealots and Sicarii took part in the Judean War against Rome, actually taking surprising victories in the early stages of the war.

These rebellions often drew on religious traditions, imagery, and ideology, though we have little basis for ascribing them to theological ardor so much as to the smoldering resentment at political and economic deprivation. Rome ruled generously, when comared to some other conquering empires, but Rome still expropriated wealth and power from indigenous peoples to imperial purposes. A rebel who fought under the slogan “No King But God” might spend no great time reflecting on the theological implications of God’s reign; the main point was that Caesar had no legitimate claim to rule the people of God.

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External Links:

Jewish Encyclopedia (1901-06), “Zealots,” “Sicarii”

Wikipedia, “Zealots,” “Sicarii”

Torrey Seeland, “Saul of Tarsus and Early Zealotism,Biblica 83 (2002)

Posted by AKMA at June 18, 2005 07:14 PM