Also in A.D. 6 – The Zealots

The Census Revolt of 6 A.D. and the rise of the Jewish Sect (Fraction) of the Zealots:

After the banishment of the ethnarch Herod Archelaus in A.D. 6, Iudaea (the Roman conglomeration of Samaria, Judea and Idumea) came under direct Roman administration with Coponius appointed as its Prefect. At the same time, Publius Sulpicius Quirinius was appointed Legate of Syria, with instructions to assess the Iudean Province for taxation purposes. One of his first duties was to carry out a census as part of this order. The Jews already hated their foreign and pagan overlords, and some said that censuses were forbidden under Jewish law. The assessment was greatly resented by the Jews, and an open revolt was only prevented around Jerusalem by the efforts of the high priest, Joazar.

Judas of Galilee (or Judas of Gamala) was a Jewish leader who led the resistance to the census imposed for Roman tax purposes by Quirinius in the southern Roman Province Idumea in A.D. 6. He encouraged Jews not to register and those that did had their houses burnt and their cattle stolen by his followers. He founded what Josephus referred to in Antiquities of the Jews, as the “fourth philosophical sect” (or faction) of the Jews, the Zealots. Josephus states that Judas worked with Zadok the Pharisee, and that the zealots were a “mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore” type of group.

The other three sects or fractions were:

The Sadducees: A small but wealthy and influential sect of Hellenized and urbanized Jews who controlled the Temple in Jerusalem and who only emphasized the writings of the Torah (the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Christian Old Testament) and they did not believe in the possibility of a life of the soul after the death of the body.

The Pharisees: The pious group Jewish scholar/lawyers who studied and understood the TaNaKh (the Hebrew scriptures which includes the Torah {Ta}, plus the books of the Prophets, the Nevi’im {Na} and the “other books,” the Ketuvim {Kh}). The Hebrew Tanakh is also known later as the Messianic text, which Christians call the Old Testament. These Jewish law students also studied the Mishnah (the Jewish oral tradition) and the Talmud (the authoritative Hebrew commentaries on the scriptures and on Rabbinic Judaism in general).

The Essenes: The patriotic Jewish fundamentalist, separatist (proto-monastic) sect who lived a communal life dedicated to voluntary poverty, cleanliness (daily immersion bathing) and purity, and to asceticism. Their priestly class practiced celibacy. They are generally thought to have been the remnant of the pious Levitical priests who followed the example of Zadok from the time of King David. The Dead Sea Scrolls are a cache of scriptures which were held and protected by the Essenes.

Josephus blamed the Zealots for the First Jewish–Roman War of A.D. 66–73. Judas and Zadok’s group were anti-Roman, theocratic nationalists who preached that God alone was the ruler of Israel and urged that no taxes should be paid to Rome.

Judas the Zealot is referred to in the Acts of the Apostles, in which a speech by the Pharisee Gamaliel, who was a member of the high Jewish council, the Sanhedrin (and the teacher of Saul of Tarsus). Gamaliel identified Theudas and Judas as examples of failed Messianic movements, and he suggests that if the movement emerging in the name of Jesus of Nazareth (the nascent “Sect of the Nazarene“) was a work of men, then it would similarly fail, however, if it was actually a work of God, then the Sanhedrin would be wise not to oppose it(Acts 5:34-40).