Phusis, Romans 11:16ff

In Romans 11:16ff Paul uses a metaphor of grafting olive trees, which 
sheds more light on his use of the term _phusis_:
     Romans 11:21:
 Ei gar ho theos tOn kata phusin kladOn ouk epheisato, oude sou pheisetai.

 "For if God spared not the branches according to _phusis_, neither will 
he spare you. ..."   .....
     v. 24 ...
 Ei gar su ek tEs kata phusin eksekopEs agrielaiou kai para phusin 
enekentisthEs eis kallielaion, posOi mallon houtoi hoi kata phusin 
egkentristhEsontai tEi idiai elaiai?

 "... For if you were cut out of the according-to-phusis wild-olive-tree, 
and were grafted contrary to phusis into the cultivated-olive-tree, how much 
more [easily] will these be grafted according to phusis into their own 

      Here God is shown, according to the usual English translations, 
acting "against nature" to bring Gentiles into the salvation prepared for 
Jews.  This is a usage of "against nature" which works contrary to the 
sense of nature as God's ordained plan, or what is morally correct, since 
God could not possibly be violating his own plan or acting immorally.

     Richard Hays (1986) described this passage as a deliberate 
metaphorical reversal of the pejorative sense of _para phusin_ in Romans 
1, a "stunning manifestation of the offensive paradox of grace, a 
scandalous but gracious act of righteousness by the God who 'justifies 
the ungodly' (cf. Rom. 4:5)'" (199).

     One tends to see logical desperation when paradoxes are resorted 
to.  Wouldn't it be much easier to read _phusis_ here as outward 
characteristics?  Then God would not be violating any (English) sense 
of "nature" but merely grafting an unlike branch into a dissimilar tree.  
As far as I have been able to discover, grafting wild olive branches into 
cultivated olive trees was not a violation of Jewish laws against 
hyrbidization (Lev. 19:19 I think).  It is unlikely that any contemporary 
farmers would have considered the grafting process described here as 
unnatural or immoral in any way.  The only incongruity is one of 
appearance.  In terms of the metaphor, uncircumcised Gentiles 
(wild-looking branches) have derived sap (Holy Spirit/whatever) from the 
root (Jewish religion) in place of the non-Christian Jews 
(cultivated-looking branches, i.e. circumcised/whatever) who have 
rejected the Messiah (been broken off).

Greg Jordan