The authors compare and correlate stories and themes from 61 stories in Genesis with other Jewish sources on the same events or themes. Some of these are folk tales presenting variations of the Genesis stories. Others are fanciful reflections from later eras. Some provide background or fill in details missing from the stories in Genesis, answering some of the questions that arise for later generations in different cultures.
The authors compare the Genesis stories with the myths and legends of contemporaneous peoples in the Middle Eastern region. These are also correlated with the later "classical" cultures, including the Greeks and Persians. This book represents a careful and detailed collaboration over a period of years.
Mystical Eastern Worldview
Cover notes describe the contents:
"Sixty-one stories of cosmic forces, deities, angels and demons, giants and heroes, from Genesis and other ancient Hebrew and Aramaic sources...." This work provides good insights into the mythic and mystical eastern worldview as a whole.
This is helpful and instructive to the analytical western rationalist cultures, which tend to discount the creative imaginative aspects of human consciousness and the insights this provides to unseen realities and the interconnected character of all creation common to most other cultural worldviews.
Esoteric and Fanciful
It is fascinating to see what Jewish tradition has done with the dominant themes and personalities from the Genesis foundations of the Torah. The highly esoteric and fanciful nature of many of the later Jewish legends provides insight into the view Jewish people have taken of their scriptures.
Their intimate and affectionate attitude toward the Torah and Writings is surprisingly, but refreshingly, different from the recently-dominant American Christian insistence on taking a literal reductionist historical view, which derives from Enlightenment Rationalism.
The Jewish people throughout their history apparently had a personal and dynamic relationship with their Scriptures, an affectionate and respectful reverence, which was interactive, not academic and limiting.
These two authors bring a resourceful combination of backgrounds and skills to this task. Robert Graves is a British poet and prolific author, from a Protestant background, and a graduate of St John's College, Oxford. Among his notable works is a translation of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, jointly with Omar Ali-Shah.
Patai was raised as a German-speaking Hungarian Jew. He studied in rabbinical seminaries and earned two doctorates, one of which was in Semitic languages and oriental history. He was ordained as a rabbi, and is likewise a well-known author.
As they discuss the themes of these stories, these writers also provide good information on several of the ethnic peoples mentioned in the Bible, discussing their possible origin and customs.