October 28th, Feast of Sts Simon and Jude
The Church honors two of her Apostles in a single feast, as Sts Simon and Jude were united in their last ministry and martyrdom. According to the Traditional Roman Martyrology, St. Simon first preached in Egypt and Jude in Mesopotamia, but they both ultimately came to Persia where they suffered martyrdom.
It is interesting to note that these two Apostles share names with two others of the Apostles – Simon called Peter, and Judas who betrayed the Lord. We will consider how the Church has added “nick-names” to our two Apostles so as to distinguish them from the others: Simon is called the “Zealot” and the “Canaanite”, while Judas is commonly referred to as “Thaddeus”.
Simon: A Canaanite who was no Canaanite
In Matthew 10:4 and Mark 3:18, St Simon is distinguished from St Simon Peter as being “the Canaanite”. This has led some – notably, those who know neither Greek nor Hebrew – to conclude that Simon was literally a Canaanite gentile, and not a Jew. A brief consideration of the Greek text of the Gospels will show that the traditional belief that St Simon was a Jew is the better opinion.
Although the English (and the Latin) text of “Canaanite” is spelled identically to the name for people of the land of Canaan, the original Greek (and also the Hebrew) spelling of the words is clearly diverse. When Sts Matthew and Mark call St Simon a “Canaanite”, they spell it kananaios; but the Greek for a pagan “Canaanite” of the land of Canaan is spelled chananaia – notice that the first letters of the two words are not the same, k is a “kappa” while ch is a “chi”.
Thus, the Gospels do not state that St Simon is from Canaan – and this should be obvious to all, since the Apostles were all Jews and not Pagans. Rather, it is possible that Simon was from the city of Cana – this is the opinion of St. Jerome, and (more recently) Fr. Cornelius a’ Lapide. On the other hand, it is also likely that the Hebrew word used to designate Simon as the “Canaanite” may be the same as calling him the “Zealot”.
Simon: A Zealot who was no Zealot
The Hebrew word for “zeal” is qana, which could be transliterated into Greek as kana. Hence, when Simon is called (in Greek) kananaios, this may be a reference to the Hebrew word meaning “the zealous”. And here we recall that both Luke 6:15 and Acts 1:13 refer to St Simon as “the Zealot” or “Zelotes”.
However, calling Simon the “Zealot” is no indication that he was a member of the politico-religious Jewish movement of the Zealots. Rather, St Simon is called the Zealot in reference to his great zeal for the faith.
St Simon, then, is called the “Canaanite” and the “Zealot” to distinguish him from the other St Simon who is called Peter.
Judas “the Generous”, not the betrayer
St Jude Thaddeus shares his name with the one who betrayed the Lord. Although, in English, we make the distinction between “Jude” and “Judas”, there is no such difference in the Hebrew, Greek, or even Latin versions of the name. St Jude has the exact same Hebrew (and Greek, and Latin) name as Judas Iscariot.
Hence, so as to distinguish him from the son of perdition, the Church following Sts Matthew (10:3) and Mark (3:18) attaches the surname “Thaddeus ” to Judas. But what does this nick-name “Thaddeus” indicate about our St Judas?
In some manuscripts, “Thaddeus” is replaced with “Libbeus”. These two names are very closely related and, in fact, are perhaps nicknames.
“Libbeus” is from the Hebrew leb (heart), meaning “hearty”.
“Thaddeus”, similarly, is from the Aramaic root meaning “chest” or “heart”. This name means “full-hearted” in the sense of “generous”, “kind”, and “courageous”. It is especially under this title that St Jude is invoked as the patron saint of (seemingly) hopeless causes.
Sts. Simon and Jude, Pray for us!