Visionary or megalomaniac?

No, not Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, the Fred Flinstones Order of the Buffalo or the Karnak Temple whirling dervish go-cart 500. Akhenaten and another sort of religious revolution based on monotheism and worship of the sun god Aten. Idealist, reformer, visionary or megalomaniac? Or all of the above?

The young prince, Amenhotep IV, to give him his “baptismal” name as it were, at first kept any iconoclastic ideas he may have had well in hand: His early portraits show a figure in the typical heroic Egyptian mold. In the course of time he married Nefertiti, a sister or cousin, or neither, who must have been a beauty if she looked like the well-known portrait head, and she promptly bore him the first of six daughters.

—Nubian Leading a Laden Camel along the Banks of the Nile
Frederick Goodall, 1822-1904
Signed with monogram and dated 1885—In today’s world, the pre-eminent issue surrounding Akhenaten is whether or not his religion did—or even could have!—influenced the development of Hebrew monotheism, a theology which the historical data suggest evolved several centuries later. The answer to that question depends on several factors. For instance, how alike are Hebrew and Egyptian monotheism? And is there any way in which the Hebrews could realistically have had significant contact with atenism, enough to borrow elements from it or, if not, even just have been influenced by it?
To answer the first, Hebrew monotheism differs in several significant ways from Akhenaten’s religion. While the aten is an omnipotent divinity, it’s also present specifically in the light of the sun-disk and the pharaoh’s family, so its divinity is limited in a way the Hebrew deity’s is not. The God of Israel acts through all sorts of different media: angels, rainbows, floodwaters and, as biblical Egyptians ought to know perfectly well, frogs. Nor was there any real attempt by Egyptian monotheists to extend the aten’s power beyond Egypt, the way God’s power is seen by later Hebrew prophets to embrace all creation. So, while Akhenaten claims the aten is universal, he speaks of it more like it’s a pharaoh at the center of some cosmic court full of fawning minions—that is, like him. —Read More: image:

Early in his reign, however, he began to evince a marked disinterest in the dynasty’s favorite, Amon, and marked interest in the sun god Re, particularly in the deity’s visible manifestation, the radiant disk, or Aten, to give it its Egyptian name. In doing so, he was on well-trodden ground, venturing into nothing unorthodox: the cult of Re had started a thousand years before the young king was born, and his father and grandfather had even transformed the Aten itself into a divinity and offered worship to it.

But Akhenaten’s attachment obviously went a good deal further. After some six years on the throne, he took the dramatic step of changing his name from Amenhotep, “Amon is Satisfied,” to Akhetaten, “The Effective Spirit of Aten,” and took an even more dramatic step by moving away from Thebes and out of the shadow of the awesome temples of Amon. About 250 miles farther down the Nile, at a place called Tell el Amarna, he built a whole new city for this particular divine favorite, dubbing it Akhetaten, “The Horizon of Aten.”

Gerome. Moses on Mount Sinai . 1895. source: wiki—-Rabbi Israel Ariel, who was rabbi of Yamit, revealed that Gen. Chaim Erez, who was responsible for the expulsion, said, after the rabbi admonished him as how he, as a Holocaust survivor, can evict Jews: “I am ashamed of the work imposed on me. During the day I expel residents, and at night, at the Command, I make plans to re-occupy Sinai.” Rabbi Ariel added that today we see that it is about to become a reality.
Avi Farchan, a close associate of Ariel Sharon, and founder of Yamit, who also later deported from Eli Sinai that he established at the northern Gaza Strip, said that Egypt is preparing its army for a blood soaked war with Israel for thirty years, and that only by agreement with Israel it now has the ability to fight with a well equipped army. Farchan called on the people of Yehuda and Shomron not to repeat the mistake of Yamit and Gush Katif, and prepare accordingly.
MK Dr. Michael Ben – Ari told of his experiences as a Yamit Yeshiva student, and said that there are moments where one must show leadership. “It is unfortunate that we didn′t see this in Kfar Maimon. We must come together today to stop the withdrawals.” Ben – Ari said he would not forget how Rabbi Ariel stood at the barricade opposite the soldiers, calling on them to refuse orders.
Benny Katzover, who led the fight in the Sinai as the Gush Emunim representative, revealed that after Sadat′s assassination Sharon wanted to stop the agreement in the Sinai.—Read More:

The temple of Aten, in dramatic contrast to Amon’s, was open, bathed in the sun’s light. Temple, palace, mansions, and tombs were decorated with the art that is the hallmark  of the iconoclastic movement: portrayals of the pharaoh in all his grotesqueness and in scenes of startling intimacy. The pharaoh’s taste inevitably set a style: painters and sculptors dutifully gave eggheads and potbellies to the queen and princesses, and courtiers deferentially instructed their own portraitists to follow suit.


(see link at end)…Still, both cultures share the central notion, if not the details, of monotheism. Could the Hebrews have picked that up from the Egyptians somehow? Such a notion presumes, of course, that Hebrews existed in some form during Akhenaten’s reign—the eradication by later pharaohs of all records of Akhenaten’s religion and regime makes later cultural borrowing highly unlikely—and besides, many scholars would flatly say there weren’t any Hebrews at all during that time, at least not Hebrews as such. Israel was definitely not an organized nation in the fourteenth century BCE, but then theological notions do not require a political state for their existence. Wandering patriarchs, as attested in the Bible during this age, could easily have borrowed the concept of monotheism from Egypt. But there’s no evidence Egyptian monotheism spread beyond the borders of its native land, so if Hebrews borrowed the notion, they would have to have been living in Egypt around the time of Akhenaten’s reign. That seems unlikely, except that biblical sources say they were….

—Akhenaton (1303-1335 BCE) formerly known as Amenhotep IV had abandoned the worship of previous gods to accept and worship one god known as Aton the “sun disk god”. Akhenaton is known for stimulating the biggest changes in Egypt, he abandoned the temples and priest and moved his capital to a city he created known as Tell EL- Amarna”. At this time Akhenaton portrayed himself to be both the son and prophet of Aton. After a while Akhenaton new religion and city were both abandoned. The time period of Akhenaton changed Egyptian art it started with the statue of him. The statue was created completely different than those of previous gods. The statue had casted Akhenaton with weak arms, a small waist, large belly, wide hips and large th

.—Read More:

In the so-called Egyptian Captivity which the Bible claims lasted several centuries, Hebrews did, in fact, live in Egypt, enslaved by powerful New Kingdom pharaohs until the Exodus in which Moses led them to freedom in the Holy Lands. If that really happened, they must have been in Egypt when Akhenaten had his brief day in the blazing sun. But because a majority of scholars downplay the historicity of the Exodus—there is certainly no corroborating evidence massive numbers of Hebrews fled Egypt at any point in ancient history—again this seems unlikely. Still, it doesn’t take huge crowds of Hebrews in Egypt to introduce the idea of monotheism into Israelite thinking. One “Joseph” is certainly enough.

So, it’s possible to weave together from the historical data a scenario in which the idea of monotheism threaded its way somehow out of Egyptian theology and into Israelite culture. But when one looks closely, it’s not a very tightly woven tapestry, especially in light of where biblical scripture says the Hebrews were in Egypt. Read More:

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