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Pub"li*can, n. Etym: [l. publicanus: cf. F. publicain. See public.]

1. (rom. Antiq.)

Defn: a farmer of the taxes and public revenues; hence, a collector Of toll or tribute. The inferior officers of this class were often Oppressive in their exactions, and were regarded with great Detestation. As jesus at meat . . . many publicans and sinners came and sat down With him and his disciples. Matt. 1x. 10. How like a fawning publican he looks! Shak.

2. The keeper of an inn or public house; one licensed to retail beer, Spirits, or wine.

---excerpt from the Illustrated Bible Dictionary

Publican - One who farmed the taxes (e.g., Zacchaeus, Luke 19:2) to be levied from a town or district, and thus undertook to pay to the supreme government a certain amount. In order to collect the taxes, the publicans employed subordinates (Luke 5:27; Luke 15:1; Luke 18:10), who, for their own ends, were often guilty of extortion and peculation. In New Testament times these taxes were paid to the Romans, and hence were regarded by the Jews as a very heavy burden, and hence also the collectors of taxes, who were frequently Jews, were hated, and were usually spoken of in very opprobrious terms. Jesus was accused of being a "friend of publicans and sinners" (Luke 7:34).


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