The Bible gives the impression that all ancient Jews shared a common belief system ... with only an occasional group straying from the fold. But the evidence paints a different picture. As Dr. Patai states, "... it would be strange if the Hebrew-Jewish religion, which flourished for centuries in a region of intensive goddess cults, had remained immune to them." Archaeologists have uncovered Hebrew settlements where the goddesses Asherah and Astarte-Anath were routinely worshipped. And in fact, we find that for about 3,000 years, the Hebrews worshipped female deities which were later eradicated only by extreme pressure of the male-dominated priesthood. And then there's the matter of the Cherubim that sat atop the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies. Fashioned by Phoenician craftsmen for Solomon and Ahab, an ivory tablet shows two winged females facing each other. And one tablet shows male and female members of the Cherubim embracing in an explicitly sexual position that embarrassed later Jewish historians ... and even the pagans were shocked when they saw it for the first time. This cult of the feminine goddess, though often repressed, remained a part of the faith of the Jewish people. Goddesses answered the need for mother, lover, queen, intercessor ... and even today, lingers cryptically in the traditional Hebrew Sabbath invocation.
Patai presents a vast lore of the Hebrew goddess in all her names and legends - Shekhina, Sophia, the Matronit, the Shabhat Bride. As a classical scholar in Hebrew legends, he shows us a mythology rich in female powers. What does it mean, for example, that a traditional term for the Hebrew goddess was "the neglected cornerstone", and then Jesus spoke of building on the cornerstone which the builders neglected?
The book touches on numerous sides of Jewish heritage. For example, concerning the underworld of old fashioned demonology he explains:
"At night, the female Liliths join men, and the male Lilin women, to generate demonic offspring. Once they succeed in attaching themselves to a human, they acquire rights of cohabitation, and therefore must be given a get, or letter of divorce, in order that they may be expelled. Jealous of the human mates of their bedfellows, they hate the children born of ordinary wedlock, attack them, plague them, suck their blood, and strangle them. The Liliths also manage to prevent the birth of children, causing barrenness, miscarriages, or complications during childbirth." (p. 225.)
This old myth suggests a certain equality of male and female evil spirits. The spirits are of both sexes, and afflict both men and women equally. The human hosts of evil are innocent victims, who must be somehow saved from harm. This is roughly what Jesus believed about demonic possession.
Patai's work gives an enriched view of the biblical heritage, exposing the massive contribution of Jewish mothers through the ages.
--author of Correcting Jesus: 2000 Years of Changing the Story