Akhenaten and the Origins of Monotheism

December 1, 2020
Akhenaten and the Origins of Monotheism

Pharaoh Akhenaten, who reigned for seventeen years in thefourteenth century B.C.E, is one of the most intriguing rulers ofancient Egypt. His odd appearance and his preoccupation withworshiping the sun disc Aten have stimulated academic discussionand controversy for more than a century. Despite the numerous booksand articles about this enigmatic figure, many questions aboutAkhenaten and the Atenism religion remain unanswered.In Akhenaten and the Origins of Monotheism, James K.Hoffmeier argues that Akhenaten was not, as is often said, aradical advocating a new religion, but rather a primitivist: thatis, one who reaches back to a golden age and emulates it.Akhenaten's inspiration was the Old Kingdom (2650-2400 B.C.E.),when the sun-god Re/Atum ruled as the unrivaled head of theEgyptian pantheon. Hoffmeier finds that Akhenaten was a genuineconvert to the worship of Aten, the sole creator God, based on thePharoah's own testimony of a theophany, a divine encounter thatlaunched his monotheistic religious odyssey. The book also exploresthe Atenist religion's possible relationship to Israel's religion,offering a close comparison of the hymn to the Aten to Psalm 104,which has been identified by scholars as influenced by the Egyptianhymn.Through a careful reading of key texts, artworks, andarchaeological studies, Hoffmeier provides compelling new insightsinto a religion that predated Moses and Hebrew monotheism, theimpact of Atenism on Egyptian religion and politics, and theaftermath of Akhenaten's reign.