The Zealot Saul
June 14, 2017In the Biblical days, the social structure of the day was made up of several different groups:
Pharisees Sadducees Gentiles (God Fearing Gentiles)
But one of the most prominent groups we encounter in the N.T., not because of their size but because of their significance is a group called the Zealots.
At least one of the 12 disciples and possibly two were called from this group of people, the Zealots. Now they were called Zealots because of their great zeal for political liberation. These were the men who were committed to an armed revolt against their Roman occupation.
But there was another group of people in Israel who could also be called Zealots though their zealotism was not necessarily linked to political goals or ambitions. These other Zealots were from the larger group of Pharisees. These men were Zealots for the Law of God.
Now we don’t hear anything about the Pharisees in the O.T. because they didn’t exist in the O.T. It was in the inter-testimonial period (400 years) that the Pharisees party, the group within the nation were formed. They were formed by a group of conservative Jewish people who were extremely concerned about the radical secularization of the nation where it was taking place.
They were swimming against the tide of secularism. They were calling people back to their roots. They were calling people back to the ancient law forms of Israel. So, they called themselves the “Separated Ones” or the “Set Apart Ones” or the Pharisees. They were singularly, personally, zealously devoted to living out the obedience to the Law of God perfectly in their lives. Now even within the Pharisees there was a sub-group of Pharisees who were the most zealous of all. This was a small group within that developed who condensed some or all the Laws they could find in the O.T. and they had a list of some 1001 of those Laws.
It was their belief that if anyone of their group or number could keep all the 1001 of those Laws of the Jewish faiths perfectly for 24 hours that God would send the Messiah.
Now during the time of Jesus there was one of these Zealots whose life was totally devoted to the Zealot cause of the Pharisees. He was reared in a home that was committed to the Law of God. He was given a singularly great education. He studied at the feet of the greatest Rabbi of the century, Gamaliel, at the most important theological school in the Jerusalem. This young man by the time he was 21 years old, had the equivalent of what we would call 2 Ph.D.’s. He was considered the most learned Pharisee-young Pharisee-of his day.
But with his learning, education, and his brilliance, there was a match of zeal as well. He hated anything that even smelled of a departure of the rigors of orthodoxy of the Pharisaic code.
He began to hear reports from men and women around Jerusalem about a new sect that was developing. A sect he considered heretical, a sect he judged to be a clear and present danger to the purity of the Jewish religion. A sect of people who were Jews, who were following this man called Jesus the Christ. This Jesus had the audacity to claim that He was the Messiah. This young Zealot was enraged by this and he developed a consuming hatred for Christians and for the Christian church. His name, the name for this educated, intelligent, man of zeal, the Zealot, Saul.