tax collectors

tax collectors

Persons responsible for collecting tolls and taxes on behalf of the Roman government. In areas ruled by the Roman Empire, contracts for collecting taxes in a region were farmed out, usually to wealthy foreigners. These persons, in turn, hired local inhabitants to collect the taxes, such as Zacchaeus, who is called a chief tax collector in Jericho (Luke 19:1). Such individuals would rely on low-level tax gatherers (often slaves) to do the actual work of collecting the monies, which might involve, for example, examining goods being transported along local roads and assessing tolls accordingly. Goods sold in certain markets were also subject to taxes. Tax collectors were responsible for paying to the government the revenue they had promised in obtaining their contract, but they were generally free to collect extra taxes from the people in order to make a profit. Opportunities for theft, fraud, and corruption abounded, and tax collectors are portrayed negatively in almost all Greco-Roman literature. Thus in the NT, “tax collectors and sinners” are cited together as examples of undesirable types (Matt 9:11; Matt 11:19; Luke 15:1). In a surprising reversal of cultural norms, Jesus lauds tax collectors and harlots over the Jewish leaders, because the tax collectors and harlots believed John the Baptist (Matt 21:31). The chief tax collector Zacchaeus believes in Jesus and says that he will repay fourfold those whom he has defrauded (Luke 19:8). Jesus is also sharply criticized for associating with tax collectors (Matt 9:10-13; Matt 11:19; Luke 15:1), and he is even reported to have called a tax collector to be one of his disciples (Matt 9:9; Matt 10:3).

Luke 19:1

* Invalid citation format *

Matt 9:11

* Invalid citation format *

Matt 11:19

* Invalid citation format *

Luke 15:1

* Invalid citation format *

Matt 21:31

* Invalid citation format *

Luke 19:8

* Invalid citation format *

Matt 9:10-13

* Invalid citation format *

Matt 11:19

* Invalid citation format *

Luke 15:1

* Invalid citation format *

Matt 9:9

* Invalid citation format *

Matt 10:3

* Invalid citation format *

 NEH Logo
Bible Odyssey has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor
Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this website, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.