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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Zacchaeus

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(Ζακχαῖος, for the Heb. Zaccai [q.v.]), the name of two Jews, mentioned the one in the Apocrypha, and the other in the New Test.

1. An officer of Judas Maccabaeus left with two others to besiege the citadel of Zion (2 Maccabees 10:19). Grotius, from a mistaken reference to 1 Macc. 5, 56, wishes to read καὶ τὸν τοῦ Ζαχαρίου .

2. The name of a tax-collector near Jericho, who, being short in stature, climbed up into a sycamore tree, in order to obtain a sight of Jesus as he passed through that place. Luke only has related the incident (19, 1-10). Zacchaeus was a Jew, as may be inferred from his name and from the fact that the Savior speaks of him expressly as "a son of Abraham" (υἱὸς Ἀβραάμ ). So the latter expression should be understood, and not in a spiritual sense; for it was evidently meant to assert that he was one of the chosen race, notwithstanding the prejudice of some of his countrymen that his office under the Roman government made him an. alien and outcast from the privileges of the Israelite. The term which designates this office (ἀρχιτελώνης ) is unusual, but describes him, no doubt, as the superintendent of customs or tribute in the district of Jericho, where he lived, as one having a commission from his Roman principal (manceps, publicaous) to collect the imposts levied on the Jews by the Romans, and who in the execution of that trust employed subalterns (the ordinary τελῶναι ), who were accountable to Dim, as he in turn was accountable to his superior, whether he resided at Rome, as was more commonly the case, or in the province itself. (See PUBLICAN).

The office must have been a lucrative one in such a region, and it is not strange that Zacchaeus is mentioned by the evangelist as a rich man (ουτος ην πλούσιος ). Josephus states (Ant. 15:4, 2) that the palm-groves of Jericho and its gardens of balsam were given as a source of revenue by Antony to Cleopatra, and, on account of their value, were afterwards redeemed by Herod the Great for his own benefit. The sycamore-tree is no longer found in that neighborhood (Robinson, Bibl. Res. 1, 559); but no one should be surprised at this, since "even the solitary relic of the palm-forest, seen as late as 1838" which existed near Jericho, has now disappeared (Stanley, Sinai and Pal. p 307). The eagerness of Zacchaeus to behold Jesus indicates a deeper interest than that of mere curiosity. He must have had some knowledge, by report at least, of the teachings of Christ, as well as of his wonder-working power, and could thus have been awakened to some just religious feeling, which would make him the more anxious to see the announcer of the good tidings, so important to men as sinners.

The readiness of Christ to take up his abode with him, and his declaration that "salvation" had that day come to the house of his entertainer, prove sufficiently that "He who knows what is in man" perceived in him a religious susceptibility which fitted him to be the recipient of spiritual blessings. Reflection upon his conduct on the part of Zacchaeus himself appears to have revealed to him deficiencies which disturbed his conscience, and he was ready, on being instructed more fully in regard to the way of life, to engage to "restore fourfold" for the illegal exactions of which he would not venture to deny (εἴ τινός τι ἐσυκοφάντησα ) that he might have been guilty. At all events, he had not lived in such a manner as to overcome the prejudice which the Jews entertained against individuals of his class, and their censure fell on him as well as on Christ when they declared that the latter had not scorned to avail himself of the hospitality of "a man that was a sinner." The Savior spent the night probably (μεῖναι , ver. 5, and καταλῦσαι, 1 Maccabees 5:56, are the terms used) in the house of Zacchaeus, and the next day pursued his journey to Jerusalem. He was in the caravan from Galilee, which was going up thither to keep the Passover. The entire scene is well illustrated by Oosterzee (Lange, Bibelwerk, 3, 285).

We read in the Rabbinic writings also of a Zacchaeas who lived at Jericho at this same period, well known an his own account, and especially as the father of the celebrated rabbi Jochanan ben-Zachai (see Sepp, Leben Jesu, 3, 166). This person may have been related to the Zacchaeus named in the sacred narrative. The family of the Zacchaei was an ancient one, as well as very numerous. They are mentioned in the books of Ezra (Ezra 2:9) and Nehemiah (Nehemiah 7:14) as among those who returned from the Babylonian captivity under Zerubbabel, when their number amounted to seven hundred and sixty. For the modern traditions respecting Zacchaeus's house, see Robinson (Bibl. Res. 2, 543). According to ecclesiastical tradition, Zacchaeus eventually became bishop of Caesarea in Palestine (Const. Nat. Apost. 7:46; comp. Clement, Recogn. 3, 65 sq.). See Sturemberg, Zacchaeus Illustratus, in the Symbol. Duisb.; Kresse, De Sycamoro Zacchcei (Lips. 1694); Crossman, Hist. of Zacchaeus (Lond. 1854); and the literature referred to by Darling, Cyclop. Bibliog. col. 1031, 1032. (See JESUS CHRIST).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Zacchaeus'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/z/zacchaeus.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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