When reading “The Great Hymn to Aten,” one of the first things I notice is the remarkable number of similarities between Christianity and what Akhenaten has to say about Aten. At one point in the hymn, Akhenaten states, “O Sole God beside whom there is none!”1 This quote lays out plain and simple that Akhenaten believes there is only one God and there are no others. This is the same idea as Christianity, where there is only one God. The hymn goes on to describe another aspect of Aten that is called the, “form of living Aten,”2 which seems to point to there being another side of Aten that takes a different shape, much the same as Christianity has the Holy Spirit as an extension of God. Just like Jesus is the Son of God in Christianity, Aten has a son as well. Aten’s son is described as “Neferkheprure, Sole-one-of-Re,/ Whom you have taught your ways and your might.”3 When all of these aspects of Aten are combined, it forms a more complete image that resembles the model of the Trinity, just like in Christianity. I find this very interesting to see in a religion that predates Christianity. This observation allows me to see how past cultures and ideas can influence one another.
It is also quite interesting for me to see how Ancient Egyptians view Aten. To them he is a loving, caring, nurturing God, much different than the gods of Ancient Mesopotamia. Akhenaten talks about Aten as the God “Who feeds the son…Who soothes him to still his tears…You open wide his mouth,/ You supply his needs.”4 The God that Akhenaten, as well as all of the other Ancient Egyptians, has is there to nurture and support the creations he has made and to ensure that they have all that they need to thrive. To the Ancient Egyptians, Aten is everything. Without him, “Earth is in darkness as if in death…One sleeps in chambers, heads covered…Every lion comes from its den,/ All the serpents bite;/ Darkness hovers, earth is silent.”5 It seems as if, without Aten, the world wouldn’t be able to function, and everyone would live in constant fear. This helps to reveal just why Aten is important enough to be chosen as the one God to worship in place of the many other gods. He is the God that protects and cares for his people when he is around. Akhenaton describes how “You (Aten) made the far sky to shine therein,/ to behold all that you made”6 showing that Aten is pleased with all of his creations and wants to watch over them.
It seems to me that it may have been Akhenaten’s goal to win the favor of Aten by creating this hymn for him. Perhaps he was hoping to have a happier and more prosperous life. He could have also written this hymn in response to a particularly prosperous year for agriculture, or in hopes that the next year would yield better crops than the year the hymn was written. He could have even written this hymn to Aten thinking that it would improve his chances of obtaining a magnificent afterlife. Akhenaten’s view of Aten as the singular God deserving worship is most definitely subjective. It is evident that not everyone so wholeheartedly loved Aten, as Ancient Egyptians returned to polytheism after the death of Akhenaten.
1 Akhenaten, “The Great Hymn to the Aten by Akhenaten,” 3