Apostles called him Simon the Zealot, and Simon Kananaios or Simon Cananeus (“Simon” signifying שמעון “hearkening; listening”, Standard Hebrew Šimʿon, Tiberian Hebrew Šimʿôn), was one of the most obscure among the apostles of Jesus. Little is recorded of him aside from his name. A few pseudepigraphical writings were connected to him, and Jerome does not include him in De viris illustribus.
The name of Simon occurs in all of the synoptic gospels and Acts that give a list of apostles, without further details: Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, and Judas [“the son” is interpolated] of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
To distinguish him from Simon Peter, he is called Kananaios, or Kananites, the “Zealot”. Both titles derive from the Hebrew word qana, meaning The Zealous, though Jerome and others mistook the word to signify the apostle was from the town of Cana, in which case his epithet would have been “Kanaios” or even from the region of Canaan. The translation of the word “the Cananite” or “the Canaanite” is traditional and without contemporary extra-canonic parallel.
Another tradition holds that this is the Simeon of Jerusalem who became the second bishop of Jerusalem, although he was born in Galilee.
St. Isidore of Seville drew together the accumulated anecdotes of St. Simon in De Vita et Morte; the fully developed aura of legend is presented in the Legenda Aurea.
In later tradition, Simon is often associated with St. Judeas an evangelizing team; they share their feast day on 28 October. The most widespread tradition is that after evangelizing in Egypt, Simon joined Jude in Persia and Armenia or Beirut, Lebanon, where both were martyred in 65 AD. This version is the one found in the Golden Legend. He may have suffered crucifixion as the Bishop of Jerusalem.
One tradition states that he traveled in the Middle East and Africa. Christian Ethiopians claim that he was crucified in Samaria, while Justus Lipsius writes that he was sawn in half at Suanir, Persia. However, Moses of Chorene writes that he was martyred at Weriosphora in Caucasian Iberia. Tradition also claims he died peacefully at Edessa. Another tradition says he visited Britain — possibly Glastonbury — and was martyred in Caistor, modern-day Lincolnshire. Another, doubtless inspired by his title “the Zealot”, states that he was involved in a Jewish revolt against the Romans, which was brutally suppressed.
In art, Simon has the identifying attribute of a saw because according to legend, he was put to death by a saw.
St. Simon, like the other Apostles, is regarded as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the Oriental Orthodox Churches, the Eastern Catholic Churches, the Anglican Church and the Lutheran Church.