The Olive Tree (Romans 11)

The Olive Tree (Romans 11) November 5, 2003

In the same issue of JSNT, Philip Esler examines ancient oleiculture to illumine Paul’s use of the olive tree image in Romans 11. When he describes branches being grafted into an olive tree, Paul refers to a common practice. But the normal practice is to graft cultivated olive branches onto a wild tree. Paul inverts that, to underline the rhetorical point that he is making throughout Romans 9-11, namely, that the Jews should be provoked to jealousy: “By using the textualized image of the olive tree Paul is able to represent the notion of Israel’s being provoked to regain what is rightfully hers with great visual solidity and power.”

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