You open your Bible, intrigued by a name you just heard mentioned – Simon Iscariot. Who was he? Why is his name listed among the disciples in the Gospel books? As you search the Scriptures, you uncover details about this little-known figure who walked with Jesus during His earthly ministry.
Simon Iscariot appears in the listings of Jesus’ twelve disciples in the Gospels, but beyond this, few details are provided about his life and identity. His name suggests he may have been connected to Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus. But the Bible gives no definitive explanation of their relationship.
As you study all the passages mentioning Simon Iscariot, some key insights emerge:
- Simon was one of the Twelve disciples selected by Jesus during His earthly ministry.
- His surname “Iscariot” implies he may have been related to Judas Iscariot in some way.
- Outside of the disciple lists, Simon Iscariot is not mentioned anywhere else in the New Testament.
- No details are provided about Simon’s background, personality, or interactions with Jesus.
- Simon appears to have remained loyal to Jesus, unlike Judas who betrayed Him.
As you dig deeper into the Scriptures and historical context, you can begin piecing together an understanding of who Simon Iscariot was and why his obscure name appears among Jesus’ chosen twelve. Tracing what the Bible reveals about his identity will enhance your knowledge of the disciples who walked closely with Jesus.
Simon Iscariot’s Name
The first key to uncovering Simon Iscariot’s identity is in his name. Simon was a very common Jewish name in first century Palestine. In fact, there are several men named Simon mentioned in the New Testament:
- Simon Peter
- Simon the Zealot
- Simon the Leper
- Simon the Pharisee
- Simon the Sorcerer
- Simon the Tanner
What sets this Simon apart is his surname – Iscariot. The name Iscariot occurs only twice in the Bible, referring to Simon Iscariot and Judas Iscariot (Mark 3:19, Luke 6:16). This indicates Simon likely had a close familial connection to Judas Iscariot.
Iscariot most likely identifies Simon and Judas as being from the same locality – a village called Kerioth. In Joshua 15:25, a town called “Kerioth Hezron” is mentioned as being located in the territory of Judah. Hezron was one of Judah’s descendants (Genesis 46:12), so Kerioth Hezron was a village populated by the tribe of Judah.
By using the surname Iscariot, Simon and Judas were distinguished from the other Simons and Judases of their day. They had roots in Kerioth, whereas the other disciples were Galileans. Simon Iscariot was the more obscure of these two men from Kerioth. But he held the distinction of being chosen by Jesus as one of the Twelve.
Simon Iscariot Among the Disciples
Simon Iscariot only appears by name in the four New Testament lists identifying Jesus’ twelve disciples:
The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him. (Matthew 10:2-4 NKJV)
And He went up on the mountain and called to Him those He Himself wanted. And they came to Him. Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons: Simon, to whom He gave the name Peter; James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James, to whom He gave the name Boanerges, that is, “Sons of Thunder”; Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Cananite; and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him. (Mark 3:13-19 NKJV)
Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles: Simon, whom He also named Peter, and Andrew his brother; James and John; Philip and Bartholomew; Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called the Zealot; Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot who also became a traitor. (Luke 6:12-16 NKJV)
Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him. (Matthew 10:2-4 NKJV)
Simon does not appear anywhere else in the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ ministry, miracles, or interactions with the disciples. His name is confined solely to these listings. This has led to him being one of the most obscure and mysterious members of the Twelve.
But a few details can be gleaned from Simon Iscariot’s inclusion among the disciples:
- He was personally chosen by Jesus – Luke 6:13 says Jesus “chose twelve whom he also named apostles.” Simon was among those hand-picked by Christ.
- He likely spent significant time with Jesus – Mark 3:14 notes Jesus appointed the Twelve “that they might be with him.” Like the other disciples, Simon would have heard Jesus’ teachings and witnessed His works.
- He was probably sent out to minister – Mark 3:14 also mentions Jesus appointing the Twelve to “preach” and exercise authority over demons and illness. As one of the Twelve, Simon likely participated in this work.
- He was considered an apostle – Luke 6:13 and Mark 3:14 specifically apply this title to the twelve men Jesus chose. The qualifications were having been with Christ from the beginning and being an eyewitness of His resurrection (Acts 1:21-22). Simon Iscariot met these criteria.
Though obscure, Simon clearly held a special status among Jesus’ followers as one of the Twelve. The Gospel writers unanimously include him in the core group of disciples who were in Jesus’ inner circle.
Relationship to Judas Iscariot
The most intriguing detail about the obscure Simon Iscariot is his apparent relationship with Judas Iscariot. As already mentioned, these two men are the only figures in the Bible identified with the surname Iscariot.
This implies they likely came from the same locale – the village of Kerioth. Many scholars believe Iscariot refers specifically to the men’s fathers. Simon and Judas had the same father, known as Simon Iscariot. They used the patronymic surname “Iscariot” to identify themselves as the sons of this man.
This means Simon and Judas were brothers. Jesus chose two men from the same family in Kerioth to be among His twelve disciples. While Simon remains obscure, Judas of course gained notoriety as the disciple who betrayed Jesus to the religious leaders for 30 pieces of silver.
For Simon, being the brother of Judas Iscariot may have brought stigma and association with Judas’ treachery:
- Some early Christian traditions portray Simon as the “other Judas” who led a mob to seize Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. However, the Bible attributes this specifically to Judas Iscariot.
- Simon could have faced suspicion that he was an accomplice in Judas’ betrayal. But again, Scripture places the blame fully on Judas.
- Being Judas’ brother may have motivated Simon all the more to prove his loyalty and commitment to Jesus. He may have seen himself as the righteous contrast to Judas’ wickedness.
Ultimately, the Bible does not provide any insight into Simon’s relationship or interactions with his brother Judas. Their family connection remains a point of intrigue that surfaces solely from the similarity of their surnames. Simon Iscariot remains an obscure figure, despite his infamous brother.
Loyalty to Jesus
Perhaps the most telling detail about Simon Iscariot is that he is not mentioned at all in connection with Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. Neither is Simon implicated in any sin or form of disloyalty towards Christ.
In contrast, the other Gospel accounts of Judas’ betrayal highlight his isolation from the rest of the Twelve:
When evening had come, He sat down with the twelve. Now as they were eating, He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.” And they were exceedingly sorrowful, and each of them began to say to Him, “Lord, is it I?” He answered and said, “He who dipped his hand with Me in the dish will betray Me. (Matthew 26:20-23 NKJV)
Then Judas, having received a detachment of troops, and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came there with lanterns, torches, and weapons. Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward and said to them, “Whom are you seeking?” They answered Him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am He.” And Judas, who betrayed Him, also stood with them. (John 18:3-5 NKJV)
Simon Iscariot’s absence from these scenes is conspicuous. While Judas turned against Jesus, Simon remained loyal. This faithfulness earned him a place in the core circle of the Twelve, but no further details about his life and ministry.
Simon did not gain prominence like Peter and John. He was not a skeptic like Thomas or a hothead like James and John. He remained obscure, known only for being chosen by Jesus and not defecting from Him.
While history fixated on his traitorous brother Judas, Simon quietly walked the path of obedience as a lesser-known member of the Twelve.
An Obscure Member of the Twelve
In many ways, Simon Iscariot’s life mirrors that of the other eleven disciples. He was an ordinary man, called by Christ to participate in an extraordinary purpose.
Jesus demonstrated no partiality in selecting His disciples. He did not pick the elite or the successful. As Paul later observed, “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise…” (1 Corinthians 1:26-27 NKJV).
The Twelve came from ordinary backgrounds. They were known as “uneducated and untrained men” (Acts 4:13). Jesus called them out of mundane livelihoods as fishermen and tax collectors to become apostles and martyrs.
Simon Iscariot fit this same mold. His connection to Judas brought him hardship. But Christ looked beyond this to recognize Simon’s potential for Kingdom work.
While the other eleven disciples experienced moments of glory and confidence, as well as deep shame and doubt, Simon’s thoughts and feelings remain unknown. At times he may have struggled with feelings of inadequacy in the shadow of a famous brother. Yet he fulfilled the calling to follow Christ as one of the Twelve.
As a believer today, you may connect with Simon Iscariot’s experience. Perhaps you feel obscure and overshadowed by those around you. When you read accounts of the “great Christians” who shaped history, you wonder how you could ever make an impact.
But Simon’s example offers inspiration. His faithful walk with Christ, though largely overlooked, still earned him a place on the foundational twelve pillars of the early church (Revelation 21:14).
The Lord sees what is in your heart, not just external results and acclaim. He delights to use the humble and obscure – you need only make yourself available to Him. Simon Iscariot did this as a little-known member of the Twelve. And through his little-known loyalty, God worked great purposes in ushering in the Kingdom.
You may never preach to thousands or heal countless sick. But by walking faithfully with Christ each day, you fulfill His calling on your life. Take heart that you serve the God who accomplished great things through Simon Iscariot and the other ordinary men He chose as His Twelve.
Your faithful obscurity may one day be honored before the throne, as you meet these men who followed Christ with little fanfare two thousand years ago. May the obscure loyalty of Simon Iscariot inspire you to fulfill the Lord’s purposes in quiet confidence, no matter how insignificant you feel. Christ sees you as His chosen vessel!
Simon Iscariot’s name may at first seem like a mere footnote among the disciples chosen by Christ. Upon closer examination, it provides some fascinating insights into one of the least-known members of the Twelve:
- Simon had familial ties to Judas Iscariot, likely being his brother
- He came from the obscure village of Kerioth, like Judas
- Simon was personally selected by Jesus to join the twelve disciples
- He spent significant time learning from and serving Christ
- No evidence exists that Simon ever betrayed Jesus or aligned with Judas
- His loyalty contrasts with Judas’ treachery, though he remains mostly unknown
Simon Iscariot’s trajectory mirrors that of the other eleven disciples – ordinary men chosen by Christ for extraordinary purposes. Jesus transformed fishermen and tax collectors into foundational leaders of the early church.
Simon’s relative obscurity, especially compared to his brother Judas Iscariot, reminds us that God delights to use the humble and overlooked. Following Christ faithfully in lowly service still carries eternal significance.
The next time you encounter Simon Iscariot’s unfamiliar name, remember the encouraging lessons learned from his faithful walk with Christ as a little-known member of the Twelve.