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Withakay (2)
Monday, April 27, 2009

The History of Abrahamic Religion, part 3

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Now let's look at the first known monotheistic religion Atenism.

Around 3300 years ago, the Egyptian pharoah Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten) realised that the priests in charge of each deities temples were gaining power and wealth. He decreed that there was only one god (Aten) and that the only way to this god was through himself and closed down the other god's temples, thereby gaining all the power and wealth for himself. He then spread this wealth among his loyal followers, basicaly bribed them, imagine how the priests felt about that.
He changed his name to Akhenaten (which means Effective Spirit of the Aten) and effectively proclamed himself as Aten on earth, a deity, which wasn't unusual for the Egyptians as they thought of all their pharoah in this way
Akhenaten eventualy dies, the preists regain power with a vengance and start to systematicaly take Atenism apart, the old religions returned in a revolutionary manner with great upheaval and violence and anybody that was associated with Aten (those that were bribed especialy) worship would be either killed or would have to flee. This would be it's priests, the builders of it's temples, and also the builders of the new capital that the pharoah built, Akhetaten or 'Horizon of Aten', at the site known today as 'Amarna', which was wrecked and abandoned. It may also have included all those who had simply chosen to live in the new city as well. Basicaly, anyone that the followers of the old religions saw as collaborators of the new religion.
Imagine it, it could literaly be thousands and thousands of people.
But it didn't all happen overnight, we know this because such a massive exodus of people all leaving at once would definately leave huge amounts of evidence in wide areas. Many would claim to be loyal to the old ways and a 'witch-hunt' style of seeking out secret Atenists and banishing them would continue for some time, maybe even '40 years.'

Around this time, the Amarna letters are written, a series of letters from the leaders of Canaan to the leaders of Egypt, including Akhenaten, that complain of constant worsening raids by tribes of nomadic outcasts from many of the kindoms in the Fertile Cresent known as the Habiru. As outcasts from the surrounding kingdoms of the Fertile Cresent, the Habiru would naturaly follow the polytheistic pantheon tradition I mentioned earlier.
Just a couple of hundred years after the fall of Atenism, we see the first evidence of the Judaistic form of monotheism at the same time as the formation of the Kindom of Israel and Judaism's own religious accounts tell of how they were once tribes of nomads who attacked Canaan.

Now, it's useful at this point to compare the Atenist 'Great Hymn to the Aten' and the later Judaistic 'Psalm 104', which are remarkably similar, so much so that Psalm 104 must have been influenced by the Great Hymn to the Aten, there's no other explanation for their similarity. Which means that Judaism must have been influenced by Atenism at some point.
So, we can surmise that the Atenists forced to flee Egypt met up with and joined the Habiru, and, after a couple of generations, their two religions eventualy merged forming Judaism with the creator god 'El' of the Habiru's previous pantheon now becoming a monotheistic god like Aten and the mythology of the Habiru's religion being changed ever so slightly into the versions we see today in the Old Testament and the Habiru themselves became known as the 'Hebrews.'
8:01 pm - 10 comments - 2 Kudos - Report!
mamosa wrote on May 20th, 2009 4:42am

Your premise is ridiculous. Because two songs praising gods are similar that means that Atenism influenced Judaism? Idiotic. If you look geographically, you can see that Egypt was the international trade route. Egypt was the center of culture. Not religion, but culture. So assuming the hymn to Aten was written in the contemporary style-- a fairly reasonable assumption-- it is very likely that the writer of the Psalms was inspired by that specific kind of writing. And if you look at the other tehilim, you'll see that they are all written in a similar style. They were written by David, a long time after Aten (when Judaism was around for a while), who was obviously interested in that form of art.


SlackerBabbatha wrote on May 20th, 2009 9:20am

So you call it ridiculous then state that one may have 'inspired' another?
Are you agreeing or disagreeing with me here?
The similarity between The Great Hymn to the Aten and Psalm 104 is just one example, monotheism itself is another, until Judaism came about there was no other monotheistic religion, yet within just 300 years of Akhenaten developing monotheism, the Hebrews that were in an area that was essentialy right next door to Egypt had changed their beliefs from polytheism to monotheism. Are you claiming that this is just coincidence?


mamosa wrote on May 22nd, 2009 12:41am

They changed their beliefs because Abraham was spreading it.... If you read the Torah/Old Testament, he travels all around Canaan.

And I was saying the culture was influenced, not the religion.


SlackerBabbatha wrote on May 22nd, 2009 10:50am

If you read history correctly, then you'd know that the first 'known' monotheism was Atenism. Judaism claims that Abraham was monotheistic before then, but the earliest examples of Judaistic monotheism that we have date to after Atenism.
It's scripture 'v' archeology and 'known' history. Personaly, I'd rather side with 'known' history than scripture.


mamosa wrote on May 24th, 2009 6:15am

As you say, known, but many, many historians believe the Torah to be pretty accurate regarding historical events. Besides, it isn't like Abraham was a society; he was one man who had a belief. You would be correct by saying that the first widely practiced example of monotheism is Atenism, but Abraham was still there. I'm sure he wasn't jotting down notes for posterity dating when he began monotheism.

Day 1: I notice a seemingly unusual pattern of entropy. Hm...
Day 2: It must mean there is only one god! ZOMG!!!!
Day 3: I'm too stoned to write......
Day 4: How to contact this celestial being.....


SlackerBabbatha wrote on May 24th, 2009 8:24am

It is possible that a guy named Abraham was having ideas about monotheism before Atenism, but we just cannot know for cirtain because a) we don't know if he definately existed and b) if he did exist, we can't find a definate date for his existance.
What we do know is that about 300 years before the Kingdom of Judea was formed, Atenism failed on a massive scale, people were seriously persecuted and an entire city dedicated to the Aten was abandoned.
The Bible tells of an exodus of Hebrew slaves from Egypt who eventualy invade Canaan but Egyptian and Canaanite history has no mention of Hebrew slaves leaving Egypt and going to Canaan, but Egyptian records do have records of Atenists gradualy leaving Egypt to become outcasts and Canaan records show the invasion of a group of nomadic tribes called the Habiru, who were made up of outcasts from all the surrounding nations.


mamosa wrote on May 26th, 2009 1:20am

I am not saying there is 100% certainty, I'm just giving you a counterpoint. And the kingdom of Judea was formed after the Jews entered Israel. A long time after.


SlackerBabbatha wrote on May 26th, 2009 9:26am

mamosa wrote on May 26th, 2009 at 12:20am :

I am not saying there is 100% certainty, I'm just giving you a counterpoint. And the kingdom of Judea was formed after the Jews entered Israel. A long time after.

Well that's kinda my point. If my hypothesis is correct, we are talking about a religion that developed as an amalgam of several different cultures who were all thrown together in the nomadic tribes of outcasts from the nations of the fertile cresent known as the Habiru. But that's not something that you woud expect to happen overnight. From the death of Akhenaten to the formation of the Kingdom of Judea was a gap of roughly 300 years, around 12 generations, which to me sounds about right.


Withakay wrote on May 27th, 2009 3:40pm

I love this part. Where did you get your sources from? I need to read up on Akhenaten and the Habiru. Great stuff, Slacker.


SlackerBabbatha wrote on May 29th, 2009 10:46am

There's literaly hundreds of books about Amenhotep/Akhenaten. Some particularly good ones are 'Akhenaten and the Religion of Light' by Erik Hornung, 'Amenhotep: Perspectives on His Reign' by David O'Connor, 'Akhenaten: The Heretic King' by Donald B. Redford, and 'Akhenaten: Egypt's False Prophet.' by Nicholas Reeves.
As for the Habiru, "Hurrian Hebrews; Ea as Yahweh; The Origins Of The Hebrews & The Lord." by Forrest Reinhold and "The Origins of the Biblical Tradition" and "Ancient Israel's Faith and History: An Introduction to the Bible in Context" both by George E. Mendenhall are a good place to start, but if you're up for some seriously heavy reading, you could always check out translations of the "Armana Letters" for yourself.


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