Tag: Andres Bonifacio and the Zealots

Bonifacio and the Zealots: What did They have in Common?

Bonifacio and the Zealots: What did They have in Common?

Bonifacio Day is a holiday celebrated in the Philippines annually on November 30 to commemorate the birth of Andres Bonifacio, a Filipino nationalist, patriot and one of the original founders of KKK (Kataas-taasan, Kagalang-galangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan) or simply called Katipunan. The Katipunan is a secret movement devoted to fighting the Spanish occupation of the Philippines.

The Katipunan (KKK)

Being a nationalist, Andres Bonifacio was the first to have a clear vision of what a Filipino nation would be. So when Jose Rizal established the La Liga Filipina in 1892 with the purpose of uniting the people under “one compact homogenous ” body (nation) to institute reform, education, and cooperation, Bonifacio became one of its first members.

But just 4 days after the establishment of the Liga on July 7, 1892, Jose Rizal was arrested by the Spaniards and deported him to Mindanao. After Rizal’s arrest, Andres Bonifacio and others decided to revive La Liga to continue pressure on the Spanish government to free the Philippines. Along with his friends Ladislao Diwa and Teodoro Plata, he also founded a group called Katipunan.

The Philippine Uprising

Over the summer of 1896, the Spanish colonial government began to realize that the Philippines was on the verge of revolt. To preempt the uprising, the government began arresting hundreds of people and jailing them on charges of treason. Among those arrested was Jose Rizal who was on a ship in Manila Bay waiting to ship out for service as a military doctor in Cuba.

On the other hand, Bonifacio kicked off the revolt by leading thousands of people to refuse to pay any more taxes to the Spanish Colonial regime. After the revolution, Bonifacio named himself president and declared the nation’s independence from Spain on August 23, 1896.

Bonifacio’s Rivalry with Aguinaldo

As Spain fought hard to defend the capital of Manila, a group of Cavite rebels led by an upper-class politician named Emilio Aguinaldo became successful in driving them out. Aguinaldo later on became one of Bonifacio’s lieutenants, but being a more successful military leader and a member of a much wealthier, more influential family, Aguinaldo formed his own rebel government in opposition to Bonifacio’s.

On March 22, 1897, an election was held at the Rebel’s Tejeros Convention to let the people decide who would be president between Bonifacio and Aguinaldo. But Aguinaldo rigged the election to show that he was the proper president of the revolutionary government. Andres Bonifacio refused to recognize the new rebel government and began forming another group. But Aguinaldo sent a group to arrest him; they tried Bonifacio for treason and sedition, convicted and sentenced him to death. Bonifacio, together with his brother Procopio were shot dead by a firing squad on May 10, 1897.

Andres Bonifacio, a Filipino nationalist (“makabayan” in Tagalog), and revolutionary, is remembered on his death rather than his birth because unlike Dr. Jose Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines, Bonifacio was executed not by the Spanish but by the very same Filipino revolutionary government that he founded.

Although Aguinaldo is officially named the first president of the Philippine Republic, many have argued that Andres Bonifacio should be remembered as the first president as the Katipunan had its own constitution and was in control of the Philippines before the creation of the first government. Andres Bonifacio is also often called “The Father of the Philippine Revolution.”

The Zealots

Do you know that the Bible mentions nationalists like Andres Bonifacio called the Zealots? The Zealots were one of the four Jewish groups that existed during the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry founded by Judas the Galilean and Zadok the Pharisee in 6 AD who sought to overthrow the occupying pagan Roman government.

We read in Acts 5:35-39 how Gamaliel, a well-known and greatly respected Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin, mentions Judas and his group when he urges the council to treat the apostles carefully. One of the first disciples chosen by Jesus was Simon the Zealot. He must have learned later a worldview that stood in contradiction with his likely desires to overthrow his occupying government.

What did the Zealots believe?

The first-century Jewish historian Josephus wrote that in most respects the Zealots aligned with the Pharisees, but they have an inviolable attachment to liberty and strongly maintained that God should be the leader of the nation rather than the government.

Clearly, the Zealots held strongly to the teachings of the Torah as the foundation of all things, yet they want them enforced through activism and even acts of violence. Looking at the attitude and actions of the Zealots in this period, some have likened them to modern-day terrorists.

However, this label is only partly correct since not all Zealots were violent but all Zealots desired to forcibly remove the Roman government from Judea and were willing to use any kind of violence in order to do it. Add to that the fact that they were just fighting to defend their own homeland.

In 66 AD the Zealots helped lead a military revolt against the Romans after the introduction of imperial cult worship in Israel. Although they succeeded at first, the Romans went on to destroy the temple and the city of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

The End of the Zealots

After Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD and the temple was burned to the ground, 960 zealous Jews took refuge by capturing Masada, which was originally a Roman fortress. Rome sent a legion to recapture Masada but failed to do so even with the invention of new weapons.

It was not until 73 AD when the Romans were able to finish a huge siege ramp made of earth that led to Masada and gave them the ability to use the full power of their newly made siege engines against the walls of Masada. But when the fortress was finally torn down, the Romans found all the Zealots committed suicide.


Andres Bonifacio and the Zealots were alike in the sense that they both fought hard to overthrow those who were ruling their nation and were willing to die for their independence. They both set out a revolt by convincing their own people to stop paying taxes to the ruling government.

There is nothing wrong with zeal; it is biblical and it is absolutely essential for Christianity to succeed. Being zealous in Christ is what God desires for all of us (Romans 12:11 NIV; 1 Peter 3:13 NIV). Jesus Himself was filled with the zeal of the Lord when He cleansed the Temple (John 2:13-17; Matthew 21:12-13).

When Jesus was writing to the churches in the Book of Revelation (Rev. 3:19), He said “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore, be zealous and repent.” Being zealous is like having a great passion for the things of God, including living in obedience to God.

However, zeal for the work of the Lord is totally different from the attitudes and actions of Bonifacio and the Zealots for they were not doing the will of the Lord. In the history of the church, there are many examples of such misguided zeal, most notably, the crusades.

We can be zealous for the Lord but we must be careful for even the Jews were zealous for the Law. When Paul spoke to the church leadership at Jerusalem he related how God had been bringing many of the Gentiles to Christ (Acts 20:20-21). There’s always a risk of being zealous for the wrong things.