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Publican

publicans, jews, luke, tribute, xviii, roman, romans, time, temple and matt

PUBLICAN (Gr. reT.c.ivtis ; among the Romans pub/jennies), a person who farmed the taxes and public revenues. This office was usually held by Roman knights, an order instituted as early as the time of Romulus, and composed of men of great consideration with the government, the principal men of dignity in their several countries,' who oc cupied a kind of middle rank between the senators and the people (Joseph. Aidiq. xii. 4). Although these officers were, according to Cicero, the orna ment of the city and the strength of the common• wealth, they did not attain to great offices, nor enter the senate, so long as they continued in the order of knights. They were thus more capable of devoting their attention to the collection of the public revenue.

The publicans were distributed into three classes : the farmers of the revenue, their partners, and their securities, corresponding to the Mancipes, Socii, and Prxcles. They were all under the Qucestores lErarii, who presided over the finances at Rome. Strictly speaking, there were only two sorts of publicans, the Mancipes and the Socii. The former, who were generally of the equestrian order, and much superior to the latter in rank and char acter, are mentioned by Cicero with great honour and respect (Orat. pro Hanel°, 9) ; but the com mon publicans, the collectors or receivers of the tribute, as many of the Socii were, are covered both by heathens and Jews with opprobrium and contempt.

The name and profession of a publican were, indeed, extremely odious among the Jews, who submitted with much reluctance to the taxes levied by the Romans. The Galileans or Herodians, the disciples of Judas the Gaulonitp, were the most turbulent and rebellious (Acts v. 37). They thought it unlawful to pay tribute, and founded their refusal to do so on their being the people of the Lord, because a true Israelite was not permitted to acknowledge any other sovereign than God ( Joseph. Antrq. xviii. 2). The publicans were hated as the instruments by which the subjection of the Jews to the Roman emperor was perpetuated; and the paying of tribute was regarded as a virtual acknowledgment of his sovereignty. They were also noted for their imposition, rapine, and ex tortion, to which they were, perhaps, more especi ally prompted by having a share in the farm of the tribute, as they were thus tempted to oppress the people with illegal exactions, that they might the more speedily enrich themselves. Theocritus con sidered the bear and the lion the most cruel among the beasts of the wilderness ; and among the beasts of the city the publican and the parasite. Those Jews who accepted the office of publican were execrated by their own nation equally with hea thens : Let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican' (Matt. xviii. 17). It is said they were not allowed to enter the temple or synagogues, to engage in the public prayers, fill offices of judi cature, or even give testimony in courts of justice. According to the Rabbins, it was a maxim that a religious man who became a publican was to be driven out of the religious society (Grotius, ad Hatt. xviii. ; Lightfoot, Hor. Hob. ad Matt. xviii.)

They would not receive their presents at the temple any more than the price of prostitution, of blood, or of anything wicked and offensive.

There were many publicans in Judxa in the time of our Saviour, of whom Zacchmeus was probably one of the principal, as he is called chief among the publicans' (Luke xix. 2), a phrase supposed to be equivalent to our Commissioner of the Customs. Matthew appears to have been an inferior publican, and is described as sitting at the receipt of cus tom' (Luke v. 27). Jesus was reproached by the Jews as the friend of publicans and sinners, and for eating with them (Luke vii. 34) ; but such was his opinion of the unbelieving and self-righteous chief-priests and elders who brought these accusa tions, that he replied unto them, 'The publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you' (Matt. xxi. 31). The parable of the Pharisee and the Publican who went up in to the temple to pray (Luke xviii. so) is a beautiful illustration of the distinction between hypocrisy and true piety. When Jesus visited the house of Zacchmus, who appears to have been eminently honest and upright, he was assured by him that he was ready to give one-half of his goods to the poor ; and if he had taken anything from any man by false accusation, to 'restore him fourfold' (Luke xix. 8). This was in reference to the Roman law, which required that when any fanner was convicted of extortion, he should return four times the value of what he had fraudulently obtained. There is no reason to suppose that either Zacchxus or Matthew had been guilty of unjust practices, or that there was any exception to their characters beyond that of being engaged in an odious employment. Some other examples of this occur. Suetonius ( Vesp.) mentions the case of Sabinus, a collector of the fortieth penny in Asia, who had several statues erected to him by the cities of the province, with this inscrip tion, To the honest tax-farmer.' It has been imagined by some commentators that by the Jewish laws it was forbidden to pay tribute to foreigners, or to be employed as pub licans under them (Dent. xvii. 15) ; but publicans that were Jews are so often mentioned in the N. T., that Dr. Lardner inclines to think the Roman tribute was collected chiefly by Jews. He con ceives that in most provinces the natives were em ployed in the towns as under-collectors, and that the receivers-general or superior officers only were Romans. As the office was so extremely odious, the Romans might deem it prudent to em ploy some natives in collecting the taxes ; and there is little doubt that in every district they would find Jews willing to profit by the subjection of their country, and to accept appointments from their conquerors.—G. M. B.

PUBLIUS (11671-Tios), governor of Melita at the time of Paul's shipwreck on that island (Acts xxviii. 7, 8). Paul, having healed his father, pro bably enjoyed his hospitality during the three months of his stay in the island. An inscription found in Malta designates the governor of the island by the same title (irparos, or chief') which Luke gives to Publius. [MELITA.]