Was Atenism Monotheism?

Discussion in 'Eastern Religions and Philosophies' started by exile, Jul 25, 2012.

  1. exile

    exile Interfaith Forums

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    It is debatable whether Atenism was monotheism. It has been called henotheism, monolatrous, and proto-monotheism. The Great Hymn to Aten makes reference to other gods like Ra-Harakhti, and Shu.

    "Adoration of Re-Harakhti-who-rejoices-in-lightland In-his-name-Shu-who-is-Aten, living forever;" - Miriam Lichtheim , Ancient Egyptian Literature Volume II: The New Kingdom pg. 96

    Our clearest evidence that Atenism was monotheism is because Akhenaten crossed out the names of other gods, but doesn't cross them all out. So there is a discrepancy as to whether Atenism was monotheist at all or henotheist. Is there anything else to say in defense of Atenism as monotheist?
     
  2. Etu Malku

    Etu Malku Mercuræn

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    We can continue through neologism to invent more detailed and tighter definitions, but in my opinion, and someone who has studied and debated this for decades . . . Akhenaten's religion was the first Monotheistic system to date.
     
  3. exile

    exile Interfaith Forums

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    I haven't studied Atenism. I've been aware of the religion for a long time. I have read that calling Atenism monotheism is because of Christian backprojecting. I have investigated Zoroastrianism and I know monotheism in Zoroastrianism is clearcut. There are no debates.

    "With these bounties, O Ahura, may we never provoke your wrath, O Mazda and Right and Best Thought, we who have been eager in bringing you songs of praise. Ye are they that are the mightiest to advance desire and the Dominion of Blessings." – Yasna 28.9

    "This I ask Thee, tell me truly, Ahura - whether Piety will extend to those to whom thy Religion shall be proclaimed? I was ordained at the first for this by thee; all others I look upon with hatred of spirit." - Yasna 44:11

    Not only do modern scholars describe Zoroastrianism as monotheist, but Shihab al-Din al-Suhrawardi (1154–1191) describes early Zoroastrianism as monotheist too. Calling Zoroastrianism anything other than monotheism is because of Christian and Muslim downgrading. I've heard one other person who was not a Zarathushtrian say with confidence that "Zoroastrianism was the first monotheism." I thought that the idea hadn't really been emphasized. But even wikipedia makes the point Monotheism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia and the same site on montheism hardly even mentions Atenism.

    Also it could be argued that Zoroastrianism is more ancient than Atenism. Yaz culture complex 1400 BC shows evidence of exhumation. The dakmas or "Towers of Silence" are not mentioned until the younger portions (Vendidad) of the Aryan Bible (Avesta) are composed. The earliest portion of the Aryan Bible (the Gathas) are absent of references to exhumation, iron, and chariots and therefore could have been composed prior to 1400. Mary Boyce who was a renowned Aryanologist places Zarathushtra at 1500 BC. Indoologists place the Vedas as early as 1600 BC and the language of the Vedas is almost identical to the language of the Aryan Bible.

    I'm curious, however, to know why Atenism is called monotheistic.
     
  4. seattlegal

    seattlegal Why do cows say mu?

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    Brian has the Hymn to Aten here on the website:

    Akhenaten : Interfaith

    this line professes monotheism:


    How manifold it is, what thou hast made!
    They are hidden from the face (of man).
    O sole god, like whom there is no other!
    Thou didst create the world according to thy desire,
    Whilst thou wert alone: All men, cattle, and wild beasts,
    Whatever is on earth, going upon (its) feet,
    And what is on high, flying with its wings.​
     
  5. exile

    exile Interfaith Forums

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    So how do you explain the reference to Shu and Re-Harakhti? And apparently there are other gods mentioned. Were there other hymns apart from the Great Hymn to Aten? Who were the other gods apart from Re-Harakhti and Shu that are mentioned?
     
  6. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    ah go exile, don't let that windfall crumble, defend it to no end...

    oh btw you'll have to only go after the Jews and Muslims....you know if scriptural evidence allows other gods that would make all Christians excluded from your lawsuits....because the bible says things like thou shalt not have other gods before me....you know that is an open admission to other gods, or when they ate of the apple they would be gods like us....

    eye needs me a windmill to tilt at.
     
  7. exile

    exile Interfaith Forums

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    I'm not really sure what you mean. Zoroastrianism and Christianity have more in common than Zoroastrianism and pre-exhilic Judaism, unless we're talking about Christian translations of the Old Testament which is full of back-projecting to make Judaism seem more like Christianity. Also the law wouldn't be concerned with what scripture says, rather the law is concerned with how most people interpret scripture. If more people are going around thinking that Yahweh was one God then people are going around with the interpretation that Yahweh was just one of many Elohim "gods" then the Jewish marketers are going to be held liable for infringement.
     
  8. seattlegal

    seattlegal Why do cows say mu?

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    They are part of the full name of Aten, according to the introduction to the Hymn.

    Hmm, let's see--there are several titles of Aten mentioned, Akhenaten is mentioned, and his wife Nefertiti and his chief vizier, Aye.
    Praise of Re Har-akhti, Rejoicing on the Horizon, in His Name as Shu Who Is in the Aton-disc, living forever and ever; the living great Aton who is in jubilee, lord of all that the Aton encircles, lord of heaven, lord of earth, lord of the House of Aton in Akhet-Aton; (and praise of) the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, who lives on truth, the Lord of the Two Lands: Nefer-kheperu-Re Wa-en-Re; the Son of Re, who lives on truth, the Lord of Diadems: Akh-en-Aton, long in his lifetime; (and praise of) the Chief Wife of the King, his beloved, the Lady of the Two Lands: Nefer-neferu-Aton Nefert-iti, living, healthy, and youthful forever and ever; (by) the Fan-Bearer on the Right Hand of the King … Eye.​
     
  9. exile

    exile Interfaith Forums

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    Nefer-kheperu-Re Wa-en-Re looks like another god. And Re-harakhti is a combination of Ra and Horus. And Shu is identified with the sun. I can see why this is monolatry.
     
  10. seattlegal

    seattlegal Why do cows say mu?

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    That is Akhenaten's Prenomen, which is part of his name/titles.
    Yes. It is part of Aten's Prenomen. The full name/title of Aten can be roughly translated as The Rahorus who rejoices in the horizon, in his/her Name of the Light which is seen in the sun disc.
     
  11. exile

    exile Interfaith Forums

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    This was a pretty good rundown of Atenism:

    "We cannot characterise Atenism as polytheistic, because it is a matter of factthat Akhenaten did not acknowledge any other deities in the writings about Aten, butwe reach problems if we say that those writings or the iconography indicate amonotheistic system – as many authors have pointed out, it is hardly unknown for gods to be described as “Lord of all”, “one”, “sole”, “alone” or “self-created” and yetto be within a polytheistic system. They may be said to indicate a henotheistic system, “worship of one god at a time but not of a single god” as Hornung defines it. Themost compelling piece of evidence for the idea that Atenism was a monotheisticsystem appears to be the erasure of the word “gods” from monuments, and thereplacement of the word “god” with “aten”. The fact that this was not doneeverywhere, and that even tombs of Atenists such as Parennefer could containreferences to gods, and even say that he was in charge of the priests of all the gods,makes definite identification of the Amarna system as monotheistic difficult. We haverelatively little information on the Amarna beliefs – due to the destruction of Tel El-Amarna, and the fact that those beliefs did not outlive Akhenaten. That lack of information makes it difficult to decide whether Atenism was monotheistic or not – asthere are indications of both monotheism, and of henotheism, and possibly of other explanations for the actions of Akhenaten as well. Perhaps, though, we should take theapproach of Jan Assmann, and not attempt to label Amarna beliefs in that way, as hesays: “It is first and foremost not a matter of importance whether there are other godsbesides this solitary god of the solar journey, but rather than he can be thought of and described as acting without reference to other gods.” We can certainly label Aten asa solitary god, and in the absence of any statement on the existence or non-existenceof other god from Atenist sources, perhaps it is better to think of him simply as asolitary god, and to define Atenism as a monolatrous religion, to use Morenz’sdefinition." - Was Akhenaten Monotheistic?
     
  12. exile

    exile Interfaith Forums

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  13. seattlegal

    seattlegal Why do cows say mu?

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    I think monolatrism can be ruled out in that even household gods/idols were outlawed. The common people could have images of the royal family and pay homage to them, but not to any other gods. Worship of Aten seems to be reserved for the royal family.

    BBC - History - Ancient History in depth: Akhenaten and the Amarna Period
    excerpt:
    In the New Kingdom, solar gods again became prominent, among them the Aten, the visible sun-disk which can be seen traversing the sky each day. Akhenaten raised the Aten to the position of 'sole god', represented as a disk with rays of light terminating in hands which reach out to the royal family, sometimes offering the hieroglyphic sign for life. Akhenaten and his family are frequently shown worshipping the Aten or simply indulging in everyday activities beneath the disk. Everywhere the close ties between the king and god are stressed through art and text. The king forms the link between the god and ordinary people whose supposed focus of worship seems to have been Akhenaten and the royal family rather than the Aten itself.
     
  14. exile

    exile Interfaith Forums

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    It also says: "Other gods still existed and are mentioned in inscriptions although these tend to be other solar gods or personifications of abstract concepts; even the names of the Aten, which are written in cartouches like king's names, consist of a theological statement describing the Aten in terms of other gods."

    Who are the "other solar gods or personfications of abstract concepts"?

    In any case Parannefer is a good argument for monlatry. Can anyone find a link to his inscriptions?
     
  15. seattlegal

    seattlegal Why do cows say mu?

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    Pharaoh's Cup-bearer could be a precarious position. He could have been arguing for the priests, so they could retain some power. Akhenaten's moving the capitol away from areas where the major cult centers were is telling--as is the violence and deaths that subsequently happened to the royal family.

    The Amarna Letters show that Akhenaten was neglecting foreign affairs. Either he had his hands full with domestic political struggles with the former cult centers, or he was so rapt with Aten worship that he showed no interest in politics. The fact that he did separate from the cult centers suggests that he was interested in politics in that manner.

    Thanks for bringing this topic up, exile. It is giving me a chance to reexamine Atenism once again and contemplate some of the finer points of it. For instance, the reference to Aten as Shu suggests that Aten is the one who causes separation (as does Shu....)
     
  16. exile

    exile Interfaith Forums

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    Your welcome Seattlegal. It's one of the topics that I myself needed to evaluate given that I'm arguing that Zoroastrianism was the first monotheism and Atenism is consistently brought up as a counter-argument.

    What kind of separation are we talking about?
     
  17. seattlegal

    seattlegal Why do cows say mu?

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    Shu is like space. He is said to be the one separating heaven (Nut) and earth (Geb.) {Or at least keeping them separate.}
     
  18. exile

    exile Interfaith Forums

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    Does Shu personify space in inscriptions from Akhenaten's reign?

    HELP. I've surfed everywhere and I can't find a translation of the inscriptions attributed to Parennefer. Want to cite the source. Pretty important piece of evidence. So hard to find. Were we all aware of Parennefer prior to my post?
     
  19. seattlegal

    seattlegal Why do cows say mu?

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    Sorry exile, I can't find it either. However, I did find some more information here:
    The artisans, like most Egyptians, were organized in hierarchies at the top of which stood royal supervisors like Parennefer, who served under Akhenaten and was buried in the southern cemetery of Akhetaten. He had the following titles:
    • Royal artisan with pure hands
    • Supervisor of all the king's artisans
    • Supervisor of all the king's works in the House of the Aten
    • Foremost of the ordinary citizens
    • One accompanying the Lord of both Lands anywhere
    • Supervisor of the prophets of all the gods
    As supervisor to all of the artisans, of course Parennefer would be pressured by all those artists to extoll Akhenaten to commission artistic works to gods other than Aten. ;)
     
  20. seattlegal

    seattlegal Why do cows say mu?

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    I did find a description of Parennefer's Amarna tomb on page 50 of this paper (which was quite interesting in itself. I've always wondered about Nefertiti's crown.)

    No inscriptions mentioning other Gods in that tomb. Perhaps the inscriptions were found in Thebes Tomb #188?
     

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