Was Atenism Monotheism?

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

  1. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    Aldred and Redford’s books in the 80s first stirred this topic up. The sayings of Parennefer were a really old British Egyptology shorthand for the Budge translations (“Hymns to Amen and Aten”) used by non-Egyptologists like Haggard and Yeats (I think). Recently the term has showed up in French and German pseudo-science works.

    Anyway, look Parennefer and Paren-nefer up on google scholar where you can get references, but you have to get them the old-fashioned way, and inter-library loan. I think Redford’s son or daughter had a PhD at U of Michigan (or at least housed there).
     
  2. seattlegal

    seattlegal Why do cows say mu?

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    If you want evidence for gods other than Aten during the Amarna period, the paper I linked to above argues that Akhenaten was the personification of Shu and Nefertiti was the personification of Tefnut in these following excerpts:
    78
    Sir Alan Gardiner,
    Egypt of the Pharaohs
    (London: Clarendon Press, 1961), 218;Gunn further states that: “The chief purpose of this name seems to establish the equation Aten = Shu =Horakhty = Re, which proclaims the identify of the Aten with the other purely solar gods of Egypt from the beginning of history, and so consolidates and legitimizes his position as the supreme god,” (BattiscombeGunn. “Notes on the Aten and His Names,” in: JEA 11 [1923], 174)



    20
    According to Assmann, Amarna theology presents concepts concerning the disc’s aloneness and uniqueness; its remoteness and hiddenness; its remoteness and nearness; and its role in creating life and being worshipped by this life.
    83
    Generally in Egyptian theology to be alone
    refers to a state of “deficiency” or “primeval existence.”
    84
    Being alone is what led the creator god, Atum, to make his children. The Amarna theology rejects this tradition of negativity, and instead embraces the idea of aloneness and uniqueness, in that the sun is alone on its journey through the sky.
    85
    In this new cosmic conception the sun moving through the sky becomes the sole basis of what is said about god; worship of only what the human eye can observe.
    The idea of sunlight plays the most prominent part in the new theology. The sun is remote in that it rises above all of the earth. Yet its light shines down onto earth, making it both remote and accessible and near, so near you can feel its heat on your skin. According to Assmann, Amarna texts utilize the words nfrw, “beautiful,” and mrwt , “beloved,” as synonyms for the word stwt , “rays.” This simple change strongly reinforces the idea that the new theology interprets the light that shines down upon the earth from the god as being “a form of” the god’s physical presence and, in turn, allows it to reveal his beauty and love, while entrancing all whose eyes fixate upon its rays.
    86
    According to Assmann, light is “luminous air” that creates living space and is also dependant on the sun. Without the sun, there is no light. Moreover, without the movement of the sun, there is no time. As Assmann relates, “time, required by all life to realize itself (hpr), and the breath of life (tAw n anh), which animates everything with the force of life, stream from the sun through its rays and movement into the created world, continually bringing it forth and keeping it alive.”
    87
    The idea of the sun being the creator and sustainer of life is also where the theorized identification of Akhenaten and Nefertiti as Shu and Tefnut, the first children of Atum or Re,originates.
    88


    21

    The theology of Shu and Tefnut comes from the Old Kingdom, and states that the god Atum created the twin primeval deities, brother and sister, Shu and Tefnut through masturbating.
    89
    Shu received the name anx, “life” and nHH, “forever,” and Tefnut received mAat, “truth,” and Dt, “evermore.” It is a combination of the elements of Shu and Tefnut that ensured the continuation of the world. Assmann argues that this is the only Egyptian theology that creates a divine triad of 1:2, one parent and two children. (As opposed to the traditional two parents, one child.) Thus the Aten (Atum) is the parent, the creator, and Akhenaten and Nefertiti are his children (Shu and Tefnut).
    90
    This could explain Nefertiti’s prominence and activities as being the female counterpart to that of Akhenaten, since she was necessary to the divine triad.



    48

    THE TOMB OF APY
    30
    The tomb of Apy is located in the southern cluster of tombs. It too faces west, and is in the same area as the tombs of Mahu and Rames. This offering scene from the entrance to the tomb of Apy depicts Akhenaten, Nefertiti and Meretaten, Meketaten and Ankhsenpaaten orientated facing left (Figure 46). The Aten is placed in the upper left corner of the composition. Its double cartouches appear directly to the left, accompanied by its titles and several more cartouches to the right. An offering table sits at the left of the composition, directly under the Aten. The king and queen are posed alike, both lifting trays with cartouches of the Aten. The cartouches lifted by Akhenaten are flanked by standing figures of the primeval god Shu, identified by the characteristic crown also seen on the heads of colossi statues of Akhenaten as Shu from the gm pA itn at Karnak (Figure 47).
    31
    The cartouches of the Aten lifted by Nefertiti are accompanied by a seated female figure wearing the tall blue crown.

    32
    I believe that Akhenaten is represented as Shu in these small figures, and Nefertiti is represented as Tefnut. Behind the queen three princesses lift sistra with their right hands,shaking in unison. The king wears the xprS crown, and Nefertiti wears the tall blue crown.

     
  3. exile

    exile Interfaith Forums

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    This statement is kind of giving me brain-damage because it is a pretty strong statement of monotheism, but there are elements that detract from it being monotheism too because Maat and Re were other deities mentioned in the Great Hymn to Aten. There are other Hymns that were recorded during Akhenatens rule Ancient Egyptian Literature: Volume II: The New Kingdom - Miriam Lichtheim - Google Books where Aten is referred to as "Sole-one-of-Re." Re and Aten appear to have been separate deities. Re was the sun, and Aten was the actual light that was projected by the son depicted as the hands. I just finished reading Akhenaten and the Religion of Light and the author Erik Hornung says by the time this Hymn was written that Atenism had become a strict monotheism, but even he says that the affix -iti in Nefertiti implies that she was acknowledged as a goddess, Akhenaten's "protective goddess."

    He mentions a few other things like by the 5th year of Akhenatens rule Ipis letter to Akhenaten says that proscribed offerings were still being carried out in their entirety for all the gods and goddesses of Memphis.

    Akhenaten stressed that "he lived on Maat" but abstained from representing Maat as a goddess. So I'm not 100% what that means because Maat was still mentioned.

    The god Thoth was not effected by Akhenaten's persecutions.

    I've also read in more than one source that there was some sort of trinity involved. Hornung says that Akhenaten, Nefertiti, and Aten formed a triad.

    Hornung mentions Parennefer who stresses that "one measures the payments to every (other) god with a level measure, but for the Aten one measures so that it overflows." Parennefer was close to Akhenaten, and after Akhenaten's rule Parennefer was responsible for renewing the cult of Amun at Karnak.

    One of the sources I posted here says that there are other instances where a god has been referred to as the "sole god" but where other gods are still acknowledged. Can anyone think of an example?
     
  4. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    It's more like monolatric or henotheistic. Atenism, like Zoroastrianism, is "on the edge" of being truely monotheistic (Zoroastrianism later became more clearly monotheistic but there is still the problem of Manichaeism). There is even a very strong sub-curreent of monotheism in the Vedas and Hinduism in general.

    A lot of serious research and writing going on as we speak (for example the Taylor -Caputo debates ot the Armstrong-Smith-Wright dialogue). Very worthwhile topics!
     
  5. seattlegal

    seattlegal Why do cows say mu?

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    Ma'at means Truth, which is roughly equivalent to the terms dharma, dhamma, The Way, etc. The Principle of Ma'at was represented by a feather, or a lady with a feather headdress, much in the same manner as we personify the principle of Justice as Lady Justice today.

    Yes, the author of the paper I linked to earlier believes that Akhenaten personified Shu, while Nefertiti personified Tefnut.

    Well yes, as the representative of the artisans to the Royal House, that would be part of his duties.

    Zoroastrianism has Mithra, as just one example of a yazata, which were mentioned in the Gathas as beings worthy of worship.
     
  6. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    And Mithra was just one of the six, and one of the three Ahuras. Good question, exile, and great response, SG.
     
  7. exile

    exile Interfaith Forums

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    Actually Mithra is not mentioned in the Gathas, but he is mentioned in the Yasnas which are part of the younger portions of the Avesta.

    Nevertheless, I'm finding it real hard not to accept Atenism by the time the Great Hymn of Aten was written as describing a strict monotheism. Although, several sources even Hornung apparently don't seem to have quite accepted it, it just seems easier to accept that it is monotheism by Akhenaten's 9th year, keeping in mind that it that was one of the few expressions that the religion had in common with later monotheistic religions (the incarnation being the only other one I can think of), was only worshiped by the Royal Family, and it was shortlived only lasting until Akhenaten's death, and was totally forgotten for thousands of years until the Great Hymn to Aten was discovered in 1890. Zoroastrianism on the other hand had a lot in common with the Abrahmic faiths, was the state religion of successive empires, the Persian, Parthian, and Sassanid, Samanid, and only began to die out around the first millenium, and there are still Zoroastrians today. Would it be naive to just accept Atenism as monotheism?
     
  8. exile

    exile Interfaith Forums

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    I thought that it was the other way around. The purer monotheism in Zoroastrianism was in the Gathas, and the younger portions show traces of polytheism creeping back into the religion.
     
  9. seattlegal

    seattlegal Why do cows say mu?

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    from the wiki article on Yazata

    . Amongst the lesser Yazatas being invoked by name by the poet of the Gathas are Sraosha, Ashi, Geush Tashan, Geush Urvan, Tushnamaiti, and Iza,​

    The Gathas are the oldest Zoroastrian texts, no?
     
  10. exile

    exile Interfaith Forums

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    That's correct. The Gathas are the oldest texts. The Yazatas are more like angels (they influenced the Abrahamic concept of angels) and do not share divine status with Mazda Ahura. They are however worthy of being (not so much worshiped but) praised, such as saints are venerated. The Yasnas and Yashts (cf. yazata) are praises to Ahura Mazda who himself is a Yazata (in later tradition apprently), and the rest of the Yazatas, worthy of being praised. I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that even men can be yazatas. I know that the Deavas sometimes appear in the form of men in the Gathas.
     
  11. exile

    exile Interfaith Forums

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    That's correct. The Gathas are the oldest texts. Mazda alone has dominion or supreme authority. The Yazatas are more like angels and do not share divine status with Mazda Ahura. They are however worthy of being (not so much worshiped but) praised, such as saints are venerated. The Yasnas and Yashts (cf. yazata) are praises to Ahura Mazda who himself is a Yazata (in later tradition apparently), and the rest of the Yazatas.
     
  12. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    All of those names SG lists are in the Gathas as Yazadas.
     
  13. exile

    exile Interfaith Forums

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    I see what SG is getting at, but they're angels. Mazda Ahura isn't mentioned as a Yazad in the Gathas. That comes much later. Dominion is only attributed to Mazda Ahura. The word "angel" looks to even be a Persian loan into the Greek and English language: Diogenes Laertius 300 CE claims the Persians worshiped the stars which they called angelos "angels" (what was the word for angel in the septuagint). Even the Koran, which is quoted as being strict monotheism makes references to at least one angel Jibreal "Gabriel." Can anyone think of a religion other than Zoroastrianism that mentions a sole god but makes mention of other gods?

     
  14. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    Look at previous postings, Atenism, Hinduism (Shaivism has always been monotheistic).

    First of all, no one can really read Old Avestan. Second of all it is mere supposition that the rest of the Yazad is "younger". Your argument is a lot like someone saying the Priestly text in the OT is the oldest and ignoring the fact that both E and J could (and most likely are) older. Oh, and add to that the fact that the vast majority of the corpus is "lost". Once one starts dating Zoroastrain texts to before Denkard, one is really on thin ice (there just are no texts to date).
     
  15. exile

    exile Interfaith Forums

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    Is Shaivism an example of a sole god being acknowledged along with the acknowledgment of the existence of other gods, because I'm not seeing to much about the religion being a monotheistic one. Is Shaivism still practiced today?

    That most of the Avestan corpus is unfortunate. Maybe we should excavate Afghanistan in search of the legendary Avestan scripture that was supposed to have been written on cowhides. Unfortunate as it may be it hardly seems relevant when taking into account what the existing (scripture or oldest) compositions do take into account:

    1. one universal God (if not the entire concept influenced the OT the universalism of this god did)
    2. a son of God (as evidenced in Alcaibides and confirmed by Zoroastrian tradition; Zoroaster was immaculately conceived)
    3. Tano-Mathro or Word Made Flesh
    4. Kwarena or Halo
    5. Spenta Mainyu or the Holy Ghost
    6. the Menog or Spirit World
    7. Amesha Spentas or angels
    8. Angra Mainyu or the Devil
    9. Daevas or demons
    10. Gurodemana or Heaven
    11. Drugodemana or Hell
    12. Irista or the Resurrection
    13. Frasho-Kereti or Judgment Day

    3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, and 13 weren't mentioned in the OT

    And correct my if I'm wrong, but the Codex Sinaiticus and Vaticanus are our earliest versions of the NT but they don't mention dates either. The OT doesn't have dates. The earliest secondary sources of the NT Justin Martyer's version of the Nativity or the First and Second Clement don't have dates.

    The earliest Greek references (secondary sources) to Zoroaster begin with Xanthus of Lydia 450 BC and are consistent up until the 1st millenium CE. They do also attest to a worldview that has accepted that Zoroaster was very ancient, more ancient than the Egyptians dating to 6000 years before Christ.

    I don't even think Herodotus mentioned dates. If that's right, then what your saying is that the dates for all the Greek authors' works that refer to Zoroaster are on thin ice too.
     
  16. seattlegal

    seattlegal Why do cows say mu?

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    The arguments you use against monotheism in regards to Atenism will also have to be applied to Zoroastrianism is you do not want bias errors in your interpretation. The same goes towards the consessions that you grant towards Zoroastrianism--they will also have to be granted to Atenism.

    Perhaps if you define the "strict monotheism" you are looking for, you will find that there is no room for growth within any belief embracing that--leaving only room for corruption. A bit of "fuzziness," rather than "strictness," is required for stability, imo.
     
  17. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    Yes, it does seem both the definition of "monotheism" and "sources of proof" should be better defined. If "monotheism" means no other divine creatures other than G!D... well I thin we are left with Daoism (if one admits the Way as divine) and panentheism (where everything is divine, but G!D has a "little extra"). All the monotheistic faiths have a "glitch" or "hiccup" (assuming a very wide source of proof which would allow criticism of the Abrahamic religions). So that is too narrow.

    Then it becomes a matter of degrees, statring with one G!D and no others (JWs and Muslims and Sikhs and Bahai's and Jews and Parsis) but inevitably opening gates up to the Trinitarians and Smartas and Native American beliefs. One must define where the cut-off is: "what do you mean by monotheistic?"

    The second concern is does one look at the text alone? In that case Dao-de-Ching qualifies as do some suttas and some Vedic forms. Do you upen that up to the entire corpus (like the OT in Judasim and the NT in Christianity). That, in turn opens up the problem of interpretation (the plural "elohim" is an abstraction per Miamonides and consubstantiality per the Nicean Fathers). Very complex, again, one must define a cut-off: "what do you mean by 'can anyone think of'?".

    Basically, as fat as Atenism goes it is (at best) pure monotheism (after all we have no one to speak to who practices it) to monolatrism (at worst).
     
  18. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    "Can anyone think of a religion other than Zoroastrianism that mentions a sole god but makes mention of other gods?" is what you asked in post #33. I answered "Atenism, Hinduism (Shaivism has always been monotheistic)" in post #34. Yest on post #35 you dismiss them at not answering your question. What am I missing?




     
  19. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    Quote:
    Originally Posted by radarmark
    First of all, no one can really read Old Avestan. Second of all it is mere supposition that the rest of the Yazad is "younger". Your argument is a lot like someone saying the Priestly text in the OT is the oldest and ignoring the fact that both E and J could (and most likely are) older. Oh, and add to that the fact that the vast majority of the corpus is "lost". Once one starts dating Zoroastrain texts to before Denkard, one is really on thin ice (there just are no texts to date).

    That most of the Avestan corpus is unfortunate. Maybe we should excavate Afghanistan in search of the legendary Avestan scripture that was supposed to have been written on cowhides. Unfortunate as it may be it hardly seems relevant when taking into account what the existing (scripture or oldest) compositions do take into account: (see the problem is you assume it is the oldest with no justification… that is precisely what I meant with the analogy to the Priestly text being the eldest… what I expect I an academic citation that says “due to textual analysis, we believe the Gathas are the eldest of the Yazad” and not “they are from the older language”… the two problems here are 1) they may not be older and 2) by textual analysis some of the non-Gathic Yazad may be older )

    1. one universal God (if not the entire concept influenced the OT the universalism of this god did)
    2. a son of God (as evidenced in Alcaibides and confirmed by Zoroastrian tradition; Zoroaster was immaculately conceived)
    3. Tano-Mathro or Word Made Flesh
    4. Kwarena or Halo
    5. Spenta Mainyu or the Holy Ghost
    6. the Menog or Spirit World
    7. Amesha Spentas or angels
    8. Angra Mainyu or the Devil
    9. Daevas or demons
    10. Gurodemana or Heaven
    11. Drugodemana or Hell
    12. Irista or the Resurrection
    13. Frasho-Kereti or Judgment Day

    3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, and 13 weren't mentioned in the OT (I fail so see the relevance vis a vis my argument, I never said these terms were not there…. I believe the translations are not rigorous and accepted we do not really have a context to put them into, except a Parsi one and there, they use lots of differing translations for these)

    And correct my if I'm wrong, but the Codex Sinaiticus and Vaticanus are our earliest versions of the NT but they don't mention dates either. The OT doesn't have dates. The earliest secondary sources of the NT Justin Martyer's version of the Nativity or the First and Second Clement don't have dates. (Yes, but we have outside sources with which to validate them… because of the inconsistencies in the traditional Parsi dating and the fact that Zoroastrianism is well headed to extinction we cannot be as sure as them in the dating… it is not a matter of dates given in the text themselves, but independent corroboration).

    The earliest Greek references (secondary sources) to Zoroaster begin with Xanthus of Lydia 450 BC and are consistent up until the 1st millenium CE. They do also attest to a worldview that has accepted that Zoroaster was very ancient, more ancient than the Egyptians dating to 6000 years before Christ. (possible, but not bloody likely… Moulton’s Early Zorastrianism, Jackson’s Zoroaster, have pretty definitive lists and Appendix V of the latter even gives all the quotes… these are the source of the Hemming-Gershevitz-Gnoli-Kellens dating of 618-541 B.C.E. based on “258 years before Alexander per Ammainus”)

    I don't even think Herodotus mentioned dates. If that's right, then what your saying is that the dates for all the Greek authors' works that refer to Zoroaster are on thin ice too. (Again, it is not a matter of dates in the text, but when independent verification can be done… We have lots of data on Ammainus).


    Yes, Zoroastrianism is important. Yes, by my definition it is monotheistic (but so are Shaivism, Shaktism, Smartism, Vaishnavism and Vendanta). Yes, it is (along with Atenism and Privative Judaism) one of the three possible first Western Monotheistic faiths. I am merely pressing for the proof of your certainty.
     
  20. seattlegal

    seattlegal Why do cows say mu?

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    If you push the definition of theism, then Taoism would qualify as panentheism, with taiji being the causal factors of the universe, {being,} and wuji would the source/infinite void {non-being} from whence being/change/space-time {taiji} sprang/came into being.
     

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