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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature


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(Chald. הֲלָךְ, halak', a way-tax. i.e. toll, Ezra 4:13; Ezra 4:20; Ezra 7:24; Gr. τέλος, a tax. 1 Maccabees 11:35; Matthew 17:25; Romans 13:7; φόρος, tribute, 2 Maccabees 4:28; τηεή, price; 1 Maccabees 10:29), RECEIPT OF (τελώνιον, collector's office, i.e. toll-house, Matthew 9:9; Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27). (See TOLL). Under the Persian and Syrian supremacy, imposts of various kinds were collected by local agents. Under the Romans, the management of the provincial revenues was generally committed to the Roman knights, who were thence denominated chief publicans, or chief collectors of the taxes; the tax-gatherers or exactors whom they employed were termed publicans. It was different in Judaea, for there the management of the revenues was committed to the Jews themselves, and those who held this office eventually obtained an equal rank with the knights of Rome (Luke 19:2; Josephus, War, 2:14, 9). The subordinate agents, or publicans, in collecting the revenues, took their position at the gates of cities and in the public ways, and, at the place appointed for that purpose, called the "receipt of custom," examined the goods that passed, and received the moneys that were to be paid (Matthew 9:2; Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27; Luke 5:29). These tax-gatherers, if we may believe Cicero (Pro Flacc. 28), were more inclined to exact too much than to forget the promise which they had made to their masters; and were, accordingly, in consequence of their extortions, everywhere, more particularly in Judaea, objects of hatred, and were placed in the same class with notorious sinners (Mark 2:15-16; Luke 3:12-13). The Pharisees held no communication with them; and one ground of their reproaches against the Savior was, that he did not refuse to sit at meat with persons of such a character (Matthew 5:46-47; Matthew 9:10-11; Matthew 11:19; Matthew 18:17; Matthew 21:31-32). The half-shekel tax was a tax or tribute to be paid annually by every adult Jew at the Temple. It was introduced after the captivity in consequence of a wrong interpretation of certain expressions in the Pentateuch, and differed from the revenue which accrued to the kings, tetrarchs, and ethnarchs, and from the general tax that was assessed for the Roman Caesars. It was required that this tax should be paid in Jewish coin (Matthew 22:17-19; Mark 12:14-15). The prominent object of the temple money-changers (q.v.) was their own personal emolument; but the acquisition of property in this way was contrary to the spirit of the law in Deuteronomy 23:20-21. It was for this reason that Jesus drove them from the temple (Matthew 21:22; Mark 11:15; John 2:15). Messengers were sent into other cities for the purpose of collecting this tax (Matthew 17:25). The Jews who collected this tax from their countrymen dwelling in foreign nations transmitted the sums collected every year to Jerusalem. This accounts for the immense amount of the treasures which flowed into the Temple (Josephus, Ant. 14:7, 2). (See TAX).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Custom'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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