Chiefly British. a person who owns or manages a tavern; the keeper of a pub.
Roman History. a person who collected public taxes.
any collector of taxes, tolls, tribute, or the like.
(in Britain) a person who keeps a public house
(in ancient Rome) a public contractor, esp one who farmed the taxes of a province

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 (5:27; 15:1; 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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