What Was A Publican In The Bible


Publicans are a key yet often forgotten figure in the Bible. Though their presence is predominantly in the teachings of Jesus and are found in the Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the publicans can be traced back to the Old Testament. The publicans of the Bible are often viewed as controversial, being associated with a shady system of taxation; to understand the publican further, we must explore the historical and religious context surrounding him.

Historical Context

In Biblical times, there were two main types of taxes—those imposed on individuals directly, known as poll taxes, and those imposed on goods, known as commercial taxes or tariffs. Poll taxes were taxes levied by foreign rulers on Jews living in the promised land, and these collection duties occasionally fell to Jewish publicans. The Roman rule imposed taxes on the goods of conquered territories, and this taxation system was full of controversy. The publicans, who were often wealthy Jews of high social rank, had the role of managing the Roman tax system in return for a portion of the taxes collected.

Biblical Relevance

In the New Testament, Jesus encounters many publicans and speaks to them in a positive way. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells the parable of two debtors, one of whom is a publican. In this parable, Jesus shows that the publican whose debt is forgiven is more grateful than the Jew whose debt is not forgiven. Jesus goes on to describe publicans as “humble” and “righteous”, and he implores his followers to love and forgive them.
Publicans are also prominent figures in the ministry of Jesus. In the Gospels, Jesus is said to have recruited many publicans as his disciples, going so far as to call one of them, Levi, to be his confidant. Jesus even dined with publicans, causing uproar among the Jews, who viewed this a sign of disrespect. In one famous incident recorded in the Gospels, Jesus was criticised for allowing a publican named Zacchaeus to join his disciples and share a meal with them.

Social Impact

The publicans of the Bible had a significant social impact, as their job of collecting taxes meant that they were often perceived negatively by the Jewish people. However, Jesus shows us that it is possible to put aside our preconceptions of the publican and embrace him with love. Jesus also broke down social barriers by taking tax collectors under his wing and bringing them into his inner circle. By doing this, he challenged the social conventions of his time and demonstrated that all men were capable of humility, righteousness and love.

Moral Message

The main lesson that we can learn from the story of the publicans in the Bible is one of forgiveness and redemption. Jesus’s interactions with the publicans demonstrate his willingness to forgive those who had done wrong and to offer a chance at redemption. Publicans are often seen as outsiders and as undeserving of forgiveness, but Jesus shows us that it is possible to forgive even the most reviled of figures, and to offer them new hope.


Today, the publican of the Bible continues to have a strong impact on modern-day society. Through the moral message of Jesus’s interactions with the publicans, we can learn to be more tolerant and forgiving of those who have wronged us, and to show them a path towards redemption. We can also take lessons from Jesus about challenging social conventions and breaking down barriers between people of different classes and backgrounds. The legacy of the publicans of the Bible is a powerful reminder of the importance of love and redemption.


The publicans of the Bible were vilified and seen as a violation of the sacred laws of the Jews. Yet, Jesus accepted the publicans and showed them acts of mercy, forgiveness, and compassion. Ultimately, it was Jesus’s example that led to a shift in the perception of publicans and their role in the Jewish faith. Through their interactions with Jesus and through his message of forgiveness and redemption, publicans went on to become accepted members of Jewish society.

Jesus as a Role Model

Jesus serves as a role model for us in our interactions with publicans, teaching us to overlook preconceptions and offer them redemption and a chance to start anew. By embracing Jesus’s example, we can learn to love and accept all people, regardless of their past or current circumstances. Jesus taught us that our love and compassion should extend towards even the most despised of figures, and that no one is beyond the reach of redemption.

Faith in the Redemption of Publicans

The story of the publicans in the Bible serves as a powerful reminder of the power of faith in the redemption of all people. Jesus showed us that no matter how reviled and oppressed somebody might be, they still have the potential to be redeemed and accepted by their fellow man. Jesus’s embrace of the publicans shows us that it is possible to embrace those who have wronged us and to forgive them, even when their past might lead us to believe otherwise. This is a powerful message that still reverberates in our society today.


The publicans of the Bible offer us an example of how those who have committed wrongs can be redeemed and have a meaningful place in our society. Jesus opened the door for publicans to have a renewed sense of purpose and value, and this is a lesson for us to take note of in our contemporary society. We should look at the publicans of the Bible as an example of how we should approach issues of redemption and empathy with our fellow man.


The legacy of the publicans of the Bible teaches us that we have a responsibility to ensure that those who have sinned have an opportunity to be redeemed. We must remember that no one is beyond redemption, and that it is our responsibility to extend mercy and forgiveness towards even those who have done wrong. We must also remember to challenge social conventions and prejudices, and to look for opportunities to forgive those who have sinned rather than judging and excluding them.

Hilda Scott is an avid explorer of the Bible and inteprator of its gospel. She is passionate about researching and uncovering the mysteries that lie in this sacred book. She hopes to use her knowledge and expertise to bring faith and God closer to people all around the world.

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