Friday, October 25, 2019

Ancient Egyptian Religion And The Monotheistic Religion Of Moses :: Religious History Essays

Ancient Egyptian Religion And The Monotheistic Religion Of Moses In the glorious Eighteenth Dynasty, when Egypt became for the first time a world power, a young Pharaoh ascended the throne about 1375 B.C., who first called himself Amenhotep (IV) like his father, but later on changed his name to Akhenaten (1370-1358 B.C.). This king undertook to force upon his subjects a new religion, one contrary to their ancient traditions and to all their familiar habits. It was a strict monotheism, the first attempt of its kind in the history of the world, as far as we know; and religious intolerance, which was foreign to antiquity before this and for long after, was inevitably born with the belief in one god. But Amenhotep’s reign lasted only for seventeen years; very soon after his death in 1358 B.C. the new religion was swept away and the memory of the heretic king proscribed. From the ruins of his new capital, which he had built and dedicated to his god, and from the inscription in the rock tombs belonging to it, we derive the little knowledge w e possess of him.1 This spark of monotheism can be traced back to Akhenaten’s father Amenhotep III. During his reign, ideas about the uniqueness of the sun god Re were developed in some de-tail. Some Egyptian priests conceived the possibility that all gods were part of a unique god from which all life originated and based on their experiential knowledge of nature (at least as they perceived it in Egypt) the sun was a good candidate for this universal god. 1 Freud, Sigmund. Moses and Monotheism. (New York: Vintage Books; 1934), p. 21. Political conditions at that time had begun to influence Egyptian religion as well. During the prosperous reigns of Thotmes III (1490-1436 B.C.) and Amenhotep II (1436-1412 B.C.), Egypt had expanded its frontiers in all directions and the nation was becoming increasingly difficult to govern. Egypt was the richest state in the world and Pharaoh represented the supreme power behind Egyptian prosperity. Annexed territories that belonged to Nubia and Syria were fully engaged in trade with the empire and the idea of a supreme and unique ruler was in perfect agreement with the idea of a supreme and unique god. In fact, the so-called revolution of Akhenaten is now thought to have been a political rather than a religious movement, a reaction to events outside Egypt.

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