Sunday, August 23, 2009

Romans 11

In Romans 11 I think we find one of the most important pieces of imagery for understanding the relationship of the NT and OT people of God and of the Old and New Covenants. That image is that of the Olive Tree, employed by Paul to impress on the Gentile Christians their indebtedness to the Jews and therefore prayerful humility in their attitude to unbelieving Jews.

The important point is that Gentile Christians are considered as wild (uncultivated) olive braches that have been grafted (contrary to nature) into an already existing cultivated olive tree with a rich (pioths) root. Unbelieving Jews are considered to be broken off. The olive tree therefore represents the covenant people of God which has continued into the New Covenant Age from the Old, onto which Christians are grafted and become members. This idea of a renewed covenant with Israel, of which Gentile Christians then become beneficiaries through their in-grafting is reflected in the New Covenant passage in Jeremiah 31, and in the Pentecost narrative. This strong theme of continuity in Paul's thought must be recognised when interpreting Paul.