Akhenaten and the Origins of Monotheism

ISBN : 9780199792085

James K. Hoffmeier
312 Pages
162 x 241 mm
Pub date
Mar 2015
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Pharaoh Akhenaten, who reigned for seventeen years in the fourteenth century B.C.E, is one of the most intriguing rulers of ancient Egypt. His odd appearance and his preoccupation with worshiping the sun disc Aten have stimulated academic discussion and controversy for more than a century. Despite the numerous books and articles about this enigmatic figure, many questions about Akhenaten and the Atenism religion remain unanswered. In Akhenaten and the Origins of Monotheism, James K. Hoffmeier argues that Akhenaten was not, as is often said, a radical advocating a new religion but rather a primitivist: that is, one who reaches back to a golden age and emulates it. Akhenaten's inspiration was the Old Kingdom (2650-2400 B.C.E.), when the sun-god Re/Atum ruled as the unrivaled head of the Egyptian pantheon. Hoffmeier finds that Akhenaten was a genuine convert to the worship of Aten, the sole creator God, based on the Pharoah's own testimony of a theophany, a divine encounter that launched his monotheistic religious odyssey. The book also explores the Atenist religion's possible relationship to Israel's religion, offering a close comparison of the hymn to the Aten to Psalm 104, which has been identified by scholars as influenced by the Egyptian hymn. Through a careful reading of key texts, artworks, and archaeological studies, Hoffmeier provides compelling new insights on a religion that predated Moses and Hebrew monotheism, the impact of Atenism on Egyptian religion and politics, and the aftermath of Akhenaten's reign.


1. When the Sun Ruled Egypt
2. Sky and Sun Together
3. The Dawn of the Amarna Period
4. The Domain of Aten: the Temples of Aten at Karnak
5. Finding Aten and Founding Akhet-Aten
6. Aten Alone
7. Is Atenism Monotheism?
8. The Hymns to Aten: A Monotheistic Manifesto
9. The Influence of Atenism in Egypt and the Bible?

About the author: 

James K. Hoffmeier is Professor of Old Testament and Ancient Near Eastern History and Archaeology at Trinity International University.

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