I took Humanities in college and this one moment in history has always interested me, mainly because I think the book and the professor had it wrong. If your are mildly familiar with Egyptian history and religious culture then you know how they worshiped many gods. Not only was the Pharaoh a god who ruled over them, the elements of nature and keepers of time and justice were all composed of different gods that were all worthy of worship for their purposes. This makes for an easy religion because if ever something goes wrong, like a drought or flood, then you simply need to pay homage to that god, and you know things went wrong because you had obviously ignored or mistreated that god in some way. It was this ability to use religion to govern the people and place blame and a good story to a situation that allowed the Egyptian people to be so organized as to pull off the feats of architecture and art that it did. But one day all that changed within one or two generations in history. Why and how?
The professor I had and most accepted theories are based on Sigmund Freud’s theory that the Pharaoh Akhenaten had tried monotheism first and that Moses received training in this and then went off and made his own religion based on that knowledge. If you read and believe the bible, this makes no sense at all, since as you recall, the Jacob and his children traveled to Egypt after Joseph had found success there and brought them there to live with him. Obviously, Sigmund Freud wasn’t worried about what the biblical history stated. The only real evidence that I have ever heard stated is that the oldest archological evidence of Jewish history and writing is dated a couple centuries after the record of Akhenaten’s theological introduction.
Honestly, I can see if you wanted to completely ignore the biblical account, then based only on what we have found and then Frauds argument is valid. Valid, but stupid. First let’s look at the two scenarios, which one sounds more likely.
Egypt decides one day that the system of government and religion that has built them into the most powerful kingdom in the world needs a fresh new look. So they drop all the Gods that they once feared and decide there must be only one true god.
Egypt is brought to it’s knees by one man and his one true God. They are afraid because their many gods were powerless to protect them during the plagues. They probably questioned everything about their beliefs. So the quick thinking government in charge came up with a fix. We will embrace this one true god idea, but not Moses’ God, because we need to control the story line. So Akhenaten creates Aten, the one true god above all the previous gods, which can explain why we just got whooped by a bunch of slaves and foreigners. We should have been worshiping Aten, and now that we are, all is well. But once enough time had passed and the story of Moses’ God had been forgoten, Akhenaten and his Aten god were cast down as false and the people went back to their old polytheistic ways.
Now, but you may say, the archeological evidence doesn’t prove that. Well let’s see what the bible says happened. After Moses left Egypt, they received the Law from God. The second law in this list of ten was DO NOT make idols. In fact for the next 40 years in the desert wondering and then 40 years after that on the move as well. So it’s unlikely they made a lot of art or archeologically active locations for the next couple hundred years. In fact, when you think about it. The timing of the archeological dating is spot on accurate for what we would expect if the biblical history is true.
So that’s my beef. Let me know what you think.