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Zealots were a political movement in 1st-century Second Temple Judaism, which sought to incite the people of Judea Province to rebel against the Roman Empire. The term zealot, the common translation of the Hebrew kanai (קנאי, frequently used in plural form, קנאים, kana'im), means one who is zealous on behalf of God. The term derives from Greek ζηλωτής (zelotes), "emulator, zealous admirer or follower".
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- The Zealots ... want to initiate a holy war and to establish within a human framework a Kingdom of God which is an earthly kingdom and which at the same time takes the place of the Roman Empire. Jesus sees that use of this method places one on exactly the same plane as every other totalitarian State. This is also an abandonment of the New Testament expectation of a kingdom which is really God's, and not a human kingdom. If the Zealots succeed in realising their ideal, it will be a totalitarian State of the most extreme form; one making divine claims.
- Oscar Cullmann, The State in the New Testament p. 52