Pharisee and the Publican

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican is a parable told by Jesus in the gospel of Luke. In it, a Pharisee, grateful for his own virtue, is judged lower than a tax collector who is ashamed of his own sin. The lesson teaches the value of displaying humility by seeking forgiveness for one's sins over displaying pride at one's own righteousness.


From Luke 18:9-14, NIV

Historical context

During the first century, Pharisees were men of high standing in the religious community and were well known for their strict adherence to the Law of Moses. On the other hand, publicans were Jews who collaborated with the Roman Empire. Because they were best known for collecting taxes they are commonly described as tax collectors. In the parable, Jesus presents these two men in the context of the popular stereotype of the time.


In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee is read as part of the preparatory period leading up to Great Lent. The Parable is a major theme which one finds repeated numerous times throughout the Lenten services. The Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee falls on the fifth Sunday before the beginning of Lent (part of the moveable cycle of the Orthodox Christian calendar).

The Jesus Seminar rated the parable (other than the last sentence) probably authentic ("pink"). As in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, here the despised character is revealed as the virtuous one, a reversal typical of Jesus' style.


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