Tax collectors in the Roman Empire (Latin, publicani). The system was to offer contracts to capitalists, who then hired natives of the region to obtain the money: they were able to do this in excess of the amounts transmitted to Rome. There was thus considerable scope for theft and for greed, with the result that in Palestine the publicans were a despised class. Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1) and his colleagues were hated both for their probable corruption and also for their collaboration with ‘unclean’ Gentiles (Matt. 9:11). Jesus rejected the customary contempt and said that some publicans and harlots were believers who would enter the Kingdom (Matt. 21:31). Zacchaeus is cited as a model of penitence (Luke 19:8). Matthew, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus, was a publican (Matt. 9:9).

Dictionary of the Bible.

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  • Mark 2 — 1 And again he entered into Capernaum after some days; and it was noised that he was in the house. 2 And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached… …   The King James version of the Bible

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