Akhenaton: a religious Revolutionary?

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Akhenaton: A Religious Revolutionary?
1) Excerpt from A Brief History of the Western World (8th edition, 2002) by Thomas H. Greer and Gavin Lewis
Egyptian priests and rulers often speculated that behind all the different deities they worshipped, there lay a single divine power: one god who had created all the others, perhaps, or who ruled, protected, and nourished all the nations of the world. A pharaoh of the New Kingdom, Akhenaton, who identified the supreme god with the Aten, or shining disk of the sun, took this idea so far that he actually tried to abolish the worship of other leading deities. He failed in this “religious revolution,” but even so, Egyptian polytheism always had an underlying urge toward the opposite form of belief, monotheism. [35]
2) Excerpt from Western Civilization (1999) by Steven Hause and William Maltby
[the] Egyptians long resisted monotheism. Perhaps they felt that it was too simple a concept to account for the complexity of the universe. When the New Kingdom pharaoh Akhenaton (reigned c. 1379-1362 B.C.) banned all cults save that of Aton, the Sun disk, his ideas were rejected as heretical and abandoned soon after his death. Akhenaton has been seen by some writers as an early pioneer of monotheism, but little reason can be found to believe that his views had much influence either in Egypt or elsewhere. [34]
3) Excerpt from Western Civilizations (2002) by Judith G. Coffin, Robert C. Stacey, et. al.
Akhenaton’s theology is difficult to comprehend. It was clearly monotheistic, and the conception of Aten may have had an influence well beyond New Kingdom Egypt. Great controversy still exists regarding Akhenaten’s motives. Some believe him to be the world’s first truly revolutionary intellectual, who applied imaginative force and exceptional insight to break the bonds of tradition and head in new directions. Others see him as a reactionary, troubled by the absorption of Ra into Amon, who chose to reassert the worship of the sun. Still further, one might argue for the evidence that he was a cagey politician who sought to undermine the disturbing influence of Amon’s priests by shoving that god aside in favor of a new religious regime.

These various explanations are by no means mutually exclusive. As we have seen, politics and religion were inextricably intertwined in the ancient Near East . . . Akhenaten’s religious revolution was by definition also a political coup of sorts, and he expended tremendous energy in trying to achieve it. [65-66]

Excerpts from “Hymn to the Aten”

You appear beautifully on the horizon of the heavens, living Aten, the beginning of life! When you arise on the eastern horizon, you have filled every land with your beauty. You are gracious, great, glistening, and high over every land; your rays encompass the lands to the limit of all that you have made . . . When you set in the western horizon, the land is in darkness, in the manner of death. They sleep in a room, with heads wrapped up, nor sees one eye the other. All their goods which are under their heads might be stolen, but they would not perceive it . . . .

[from James B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Bible (1969), 370-371]

Excerpts from “Hymn to the Aton”

You rise in perfection on the horizon of the sky, living [Aton], who started life. Whenever you are risen upon the eastern horizon you fill every land with your perfection. You are appealing, great, sparkling, high over every land; your rays hold together the lands as far as everything you have made . . . Whenever you set on the western horizon, the land is in darkness in the manner of death. They sleep in a bedroom with heads under the covers, and one eye does not see another. If all their possessions which are under their heads were stolen, they would not know it . . .

[from William Kelley Simpson, ed., The Literature of Ancient Egypt (1972), 290-295]
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