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Receipt of Custom

CUSTOM, RECEIPT OF (niv “tax collector’s booth”). The post from which Matthew (Levi) was called to follow Christ (Matt.9.9). In postexilic days the tribute was usually in terms of a road toll. The Romans imposed tribute or tax on Jews as on all their subjects for the maintenance of their provincial government. Tax collectors or publicans were despised because of their notorious dishonesty and willingness to work for a foreign power.

CUSTOM, RECEIPT OF. This phrase occurs in connection with the call of Matthew (Levi) to become a disciple of Jesus Christ. It is found in the three synoptic passages (Matt 9:9; Mark 2:14, and Luke 5:27). In each case KJV renders kathēmenon epì tò telōnion as “sitting at that receipt of custom.” More accurately ASV tr. it “sitting at the place of toll,” and RSV, “sitting at the tax office” (NASB, “in the tax office”). That is to say the telōnion was the table or booth where the telos or “tax” (KJV “custom,” as in Matt 17:25 and Rom 13:7) was collected from the taxpayer. More exactly, the telos was an indirect tax or customs duty levied on goods or in connection with a business transaction of some sort, in contradistinction to a phoros or “tribute” (which amounted to a poll tax or head tax). Another term for this latter type of tax was kēnsos, which appears in the episode of the “tribute penny” (Matt 22:17; Mark 12:14). The telos seems to have furnished the principal source of revenue for the government (and for the publicans like Matthew who made their living thereby).

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