Readers who are currently studying the letters of Paul will find an article by James E. Faulconer to be of interest. In "The Olive Tree and the Work of God: Jacob 5 and Romans 11," published in The Allegory of the Olive Tree, he suggests that the olive tree passages in Jacob 5 and Romans 11 are connected by a common text. He first discusses differences between the two passages, noting that they seem to show that the passages simply share a common rhetorical tradition. However, Faulconer goes on to consider that other linguistic evidence "suggests the possibility of a stronger connection between the Romans and Jacob passages."
For example, though there are significant differences in the context in which Jacob and Paul introduce their references to the olive tree, it is also true that they both do so in response to the same problem, namely, the apostasy of Israel. In Jacob 4:14, Jacob says that Israel "killed the prophets.
. . . Wherefore, because of their blindness, . . . they must needs fall; . . . and because they desired it God hath done it, that they may stumble." The same accusations and claims introduce the metaphor of the olive tree in Romans 11, and in virtually the same order, although more widely separated: Paul specifically mentions killing the prophets (Romans 11:3), the blindness of Israel (11:7, 8, 10), and their stumbling (11:9, 11), and he refers to the consequence as their fall (11:11). Paul attributes the agency of these events to God ("God hath given them the spirit of slumber," Romans 11:8), just as Jacob does ("God hath done it," that is, "delivered unto them many things which they cannot understand," Jacob 4:14).
Faulconer notes that nowhere but in Jacob and Romans do we find this close conjunction of the themes of killing the prophets, blindness, stumbling, and apostasy, as well as an element in both texts associating those events with the act of God. In both cases the conjunction of these themes is followed by the use of the olive tree metaphor. These factors point to the possibility that the text of Zenos's parable or a variation of that text, such as perhaps the work of Kenas, is a direct connection between Romans 11 and Jacob 5. Indeed, the warnings to Israel in the Kenas text state that Israel has "destroyed its own fruit" and "sinned against" God, and ask, "Will the shepherd destroy his flock"? Like Romans 11:1which begins with the question "Hath God cast away his people"?Kenas also answers that God will spare Israel "according to the abundance of his mercy." Thus, the best explanation is, Faulconer believes, that a third text or texts stood between Zenos and Paul. That text could have been a paraphrase or synopsis of Zenos's work, or perhaps a text on which Zenos's parable itself depended.
In spite of the difficulties associated with assuming that Paul had access to Zenos's parable, Faulconer concludes that the best explanation of the coincidence of Romans 11:311 and Jacob 4:818, and of the fact that in each the image of the olive tree is used immediately afterward to illustrate God's power to save Israel, is that Paul had available a text with the same features found in Zenos's text. Perhaps that text was a précis of Zenos's parable or a quotation of it. Perhaps it was an earlier text on which Zenos also relied. Whatever the case, there is reasonable evidence for more than a coincidental relationship between the texts of Romans 11 and Jacob 5.
Adapted from James E. Faulconer, "The Olive Tree and the Work of God: Jacob 5 and Romans 11," in The Allegory of the Olive Tree: The Olive, the Bible, and Jacob 5, ed. Stephen D. Ricks and John W. Welch (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1994), 34766.