Every new archaeological discovery in the Middle East bears further witness to the stature of "one of the most remarkable Old Testament scholars of modern times," as Hurman Gunkel is characterized by W.F. Albright in the introduction to this book. Relying on a highly developed sense of religious and aesthetic values, and a broad knowledge of literary forms, Gunkel found in the Patriarchal legends accurate memories of past happenings.
Gunkel recognized the influence of Mesopotamian, Egyptian, and Canaanite elements and their transformation and integration into Hebrew thinking. He stood up against Wellhausen's widely influential treatment of Genesis as a collection of primitive, unhistorical myths. He prepared the way for contributions from cultural anthropology to the understanding of the Biblical period." The parallels between the life of Genesis and the activities mentioned in contemporary extra-biblical sources are very far-reaching indeed," Albright declares, as he reminds us that "Abraham turns out to have been a caravan leader, and the very name 'Hebrew' refers to donkey caravaneering."