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Thread: Did Judaism emergence from the Aton cult?

  1. #1 Did Judaism emergence from the Aton cult? 
    Forum Freshman Headdresser's Avatar
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    I have a thesis (or more a picture) I wanna share and ask if it plausible or not and if there are any indications that support or contradict it.
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    I heard about the Pharao Echnaton, who made Aton the only god, and got rid of all those other gods (including there priests). Later...after his death the old gods where reinstalled (which kind of tells us that Echnaton was not very successful in getting rid of the priests or take there political power from them).
    After the Aton religion was destroyed there must have been a lot of unemployed priests and pissed believers.
    This is the one part of the story.
    Than...I visited a museum and found a very boring hieroglyph. It was about some egyptian officers who wrote down that some guys from another tribe came and asked for work and food...there was no work and they wasnt willing to give them some food...so they where told to come back tomorrow.
    That somehow reminded me that there was a whole bunch of people that must have been quiet unhappy with the egyptian establishment. People that didnt built temples or write down stuff to express their views.
    Maybe some people who felt like the losers of egyptian society welcomed the change Echnaton brought. Not because they did like him or the new religion but they felt bad treated by those who promoted the other the old religion.
    What if...the believe of Aton didnt died out, but went to the underground and became a believe of people who werent happy with there situation. Slaves, day labourer, outcasts, the poorest of the poor.
    What if the main element of it (there is only one god) survived while other things like the support for Echnaton faded.
    -
    A well known tribe...that claims to have worked for the egyptians and that claimed to be treated as slaves or at least have been members of the lower class...later came up with an One-god-only religion called Judaism.
    Judaisms main god is Jehovah.
    According to wiki the first time he was mentioned he was described as a son of El. So he was a kind of normal god who existed along with other gods.
    So...my thesis is:
    There have been an Aton (or at least Aton inspired) cult in Egypt...celebrated in the underground.
    This cult was interesting especially for those people who wasnt happy (and/or included) in the egyptian society. For example most of the tribes that where the neighbors of Egypt.
    They mixed their own gods with the new One-god-only believe. Thats how Judaism developed.
    Because they lived in the underground they weren't able to built temples or paint pictures of there god.
    So they claimed that he is an invisible abstract beeing that dont even want to be pictured.
    The more they got suppressed, the more they stick to there god and start to dislike the ideas of many gods more and more.
    Jews claim that Jehova was watching over them while they have been Prisoners. After all I heard about Egyptology, it is not known that the whole tribe of Juda was captured and forced to work. There is also not a story about a big escape. So I think it is more plausible that the jewish believes developed within or around Egypt. Later some members left, or have been forced to leave.
    So...Judaism didnt started as a tribes religion but as a underground cult.
    -

    This would explain for me:
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    -the similarities between old Egyptian and Jewish religion.

    -why Moses was such a radical about his religion and why the early jews have been known for beeing...lets say...a bit intolerant about other religions much more than most other tribes or empires.
    If Judaism started with different kind of nationalities that had the same believes, united not by beeing members of the same tribe but by a religion- it explains why religion was such an important matter for him. I guess the leaders also wanted their believer/people to become a tribe. If not at that time...at least during what was called "babylonian imprisonment"...the time where many modern scientist believe the jewish (as a people) have been formed. Many scientists believe that everything that is claimed to be happend before that time is just fake. And that the whole Exodus is a made up story of origin to unite the jewish tribe. With "my" version, Exodus could be at least rooted in reality (if we talk about a migration of only a few people who had a one-god religion).


    -why jewish religion developed in a complete other way than all the other (polytheist) religions that other tribes living next to the jews had.

    -why the word Jehovah was first mentioned in Egypt and why it describes a place not a deity.
    I could imagine that many Follower of the Undergroundversion of the Aton Cult came from there.
    -

    ...
    I know it is not very original or backed up or created by me...but...what do you think about that idea?
    Is it worthy for real scientists to do some research in this direction?
    Thx for your comments.


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  3. #2  
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    Seems doubtful given there's little archeological evidence that large Hebrew populations ever lived in Egypt. Also the earliest stories, such as flood seem, to be have stronger Babylonian influence. Or are you suggesting Aton somehow got borrowed by the Hebrew peoples (perhaps to ligitimize their claim Canaan lands).


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  4. #3  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    Seems doubtful given there's little archeological evidence that large Hebrew populations ever lived in Egypt. Also the earliest stories, such as flood seem, to be have stronger Babylonian influence. Or are you suggesting Aton somehow got borrowed by the Hebrew peoples (perhaps to ligitimize their claim Canaan lands).
    If Headdresser's theory is correct, then the people who started Judaism would have been illiterate peasants who had no real idea what their roots were, and kept an oral tradition of mostly superstition and supposition mixed with notable stories they had heard from abroad. The first 5 books were probably just an oral tradition that was later written down when the culture gained literacy.

    However, that changes once you get to the book of Kings (and perhaps as early as Judges). There are many details in the books of Kings that would not likely have been included if they weren't actual history - for the simple reason that they greatly humanize the important figures like David, and any superstition contained in that book is stuff like "Jaweh caused" followed by some mundane event where perhaps the person was lucky. There's little or nothing that happens which you would genuinely think of as a "miracle" anywhere in that book.

    Then Babylon conquered the region (and probably killed a lot of their literate people) and the stories become a bit more fanciful again for a while (various miracles done by Daniel and his friends) until Cyrus returns the Jews to their home and they start writing real, plausible histories again.

    Do you see a pattern?
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    Forum Freshman Headdresser's Avatar
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    BECAUSE there haven't been many hebrew people in egypt, I think that the Exodus of a whole people never took place the way it is described.
    But even if the jewish religion is also based on sumer and babylonian writings (the similarties of the old testament and the Gilgamesh-Epos) none of that religions had that one-god-only idea. So...maybe the jews developed that idea themselves. So yes, I still think they at least borrowed Aton or motives from the Aton history. What I'am not sure about is the time. Maybe it was about the time "Exodus" happened or (what most scientists I heard of said) it happend in Babylon in which the whole story was created to find a common origin stories for all jewish tribes.
    Even if they are not decendants of those Aton followers. Maybe the Exodus could have taken place, but it wasnt a tribe who later was known as jews, it was some Monothist religion group. And as the jews in babylon had to write their origin story they associated themselve with these people.
    If you mix up babylonian (the flood story, the paradise story) and Aton stuff (one god only)..you aint far from Judaisms .
    So...if it is certain that jews spend some time in babylon...wouldnt it be logical to assume that some jews or at least some persons they have been influenced by later lived in and later left egypt.
    -
    Ups...that was ment to be the answer for Lynx_Fox...not for Kojax
    Last edited by Headdresser; October 30th, 2012 at 04:53 AM. Reason: Didnt looked properly. : (
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    Forum Freshman Headdresser's Avatar
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    So you say: "The "magic" stuff is not equally spread about the bible"...never thought about it, this way. Maybe this tells us some more about the origins of the different books.

    But I don't think that the way someone writes about it, tells us if it is true history or not. Write something down to make it look like reality. This is the art of writing. Especially to write histories of origin that are ment to unite people. These stories MUST sound realistic.
    I think if there is a place where lower people are able to read...it was old egypt. They had so many administration work to do. Also...only one person is needed to write things down.

    And it is not me saying that the jews have been slaves. It is the old testament. But the old testament is telling us that they have been jews (with writing skills and there religion already existing) before they where captured in Egypt. And that the things that happend before Exodus was written down before Exodus, and that Exodus was written down as soon as it happened. I doubt that. One reason for it...most of the pre-egyptian story (not the part with different kings but the part with the paradise and the flood) was told by other people as well. That says nothing about if it is real or not...but I think that tells us that it was some oral tradition that have been written down centuries later. So I think it would not be wrong to assume that most of the old testament was written down by word of mouth.
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    What we should wonder about is how a simple nomad-tribe had that complex understanding of writing. I dont try to hate on nomads but...writing was normally involved if some kind of administration have been needed. So maybe I'am unfair to the antic jews...but I rather think that there marvelous writing abilities came from the contact with one of the high culutures like egypt or babylon. But I'am not sure about this. So...how old is the oldest hebrew scripture?
    -
    But of course you are right...If jews was really influenced by the remains of the Aton-Cult it would mean that all of what happened before egypt is made up or was about other people or (in the best case) oral tradition.
    I heard most modern scientist refuse everything that happened before Babylon.
    So, I think my thesis make the old-testament look much more realistic if it only erases the pre-egypt parts.
    Again...I don't say that it is sure that the jews came from egypt, I just say they have been influenced by an egypt cult, may it be because they where descendants of fugees of that cult, or just people (maybe in babylon) who heard and adapted that story.
    Last edited by Headdresser; October 30th, 2012 at 05:41 AM. Reason: Felt like doing so.
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  7. #6  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    Seems doubtful given there's little archeological evidence that large Hebrew populations ever lived in Egypt. Also the earliest stories, such as flood seem, to be have stronger Babylonian influence. Or are you suggesting Aton somehow got borrowed by the Hebrew peoples (perhaps to ligitimize their claim Canaan lands).
    Jerusalem was ruled by New Kingdom Egypt from 1550-1440 BCE. Yes, the Exodus never happened.
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  8. #7  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Headdresser View Post
    . So yes, I still think they at least borrowed Aton or motives from the Aton history. What I'am not sure about is the time. Maybe it was about the time "Exodus" happened or (what most scientists I heard of said) it happend in Babylon in which the whole story was created to find a common origin stories for all jewish tribes.
    Even if they are not decendants of those Aton followers. Maybe the Exodus could have taken place, but it wasnt a tribe who later was known as jews, it was some Monothist religion group. And as the jews in babylon had to write their origin story they associated themselve with these people.
    If you mix up babylonian (the flood story, the paradise story) and Aton stuff (one god only)..you aint far from Judaisms .
    So...if it is certain that jews spend some time in babylon...wouldnt it be logical to assume that some jews or at least some persons they have been influenced by later lived in and later left egypt.
    -
    Ups...that was ment to be the answer for Lynx_Fox...not for Kojax
    The Jews were certainly living as captives or low status serfs of some kind or another in Persia for a while between 700 BC and 600 BC. Then Cyrus decided to release them so they could return to the land of Israel and rebuild it.

    Most probably his motive was to create a buffer nation between his own empire and Egypt. Someone Egypt would have to invade first, before they could make war on Persia.

    Now, under those circumstances, I imagine he would be happy with any scribes who could make up a good story about why the Jews were supposedly "native" to that area. When they "returned" to Israel there were people living there already whom the Jews more-or-less displaced. (Kind of reminds you of recent history, no?)

    So, I'm just saying it's possible that all or most of Israel's pre-600BC history is a fabrication or at least a stretch, designed to enable Cyrus to get his wish. I really doubt that David or Solomon are fictional characters - though it's entirely possible they weren't Jews. Probably Moses lead somebody out of Egypt too. The very fact Israel originally had "12 Tribes" (Really 13, but one is always left out of the count), indicates they probably were never really the homogeneous group of "descendants of Abraham" which their history claims them to be, but rather a number of distinct tribes living in a region together.
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  9. #8  
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    Interesting theory. I think, though, that the theory stating that the Hyksos people were the ancient Jews in Egypt, is one of much more credibility. In addition, it is brought forward by Josephus Flavius in his Contra Apionem.

    Also, where is YHWH first mentioned as the 'son of El'?
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  10. #9  
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    Akhenaten was truly a trendsetter when it came to monotheism, however he did not come up with the idea of the 'one true god' over night. The cult of the Aten had its beginnings several generations before Akhenaten was even born. His father actually began construction to a temple of the Aten in Karnak's grand temple district, although he died before it was completed.

    During those times there were a large number of hyksos living in Egypt, though further north then Karnak. When Akhenaten moved the capital to Amarna he moved his theology closer to these people. Egypt did not work on slave labor in the sense that the people were chained and whipped to work, although they did not have much choice. If the pharaoh's overseers came into a village and told the men they were to work for pharaoh they ultimately had to work for pharaoh. It is without much doubt that these hyksos people would have been conscripted to work on the construction of Akhenaten's city. Thus these people would have been influenced by the cult of the Aten.

    The ancient Egyptian's religious beliefs, and not just those of the Aten, can be found mimicked in many Jewish and Christian scripture. However an exodus from Egypt of a certain group of people is not documented. Although, shortly after the fall of Akhenaten and Tutankhaten (Tutankhamun) the hyksos were expelled from Egypt by pharaoh Rameses I and finished off by his son. Could this have been interpreted as an Exodus of will... perhaps. How would it look if the story of your people told as them being overpowered and forced out of a land? It sounds much more empowering to tell it as if they left by their own free will.
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  11. #10  
    Forum Freshman Headdresser's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Beyondthought View Post
    Akhenaten was truly a trendsetter when it came to monotheism, however he did not come up with the idea of the 'one true god' over night. The cult of the Aten had its beginnings several generations before Akhenaten was even born. His father actually began construction to a temple of the Aten in Karnak's grand temple district, although he died before it was completed.

    During those times there were a large number of hyksos living in Egypt, though further north then Karnak. When Akhenaten moved the capital to Amarna he moved his theology closer to these people. Egypt did not work on slave labor in the sense that the people were chained and whipped to work, although they did not have much choice. If the pharaoh's overseers came into a village and told the men they were to work for pharaoh they ultimately had to work for pharaoh. It is without much doubt that these hyksos people would have been conscripted to work on the construction of Akhenaten's city. Thus these people would have been influenced by the cult of the Aten.

    The ancient Egyptian's religious beliefs, and not just those of the Aten, can be found mimicked in many Jewish and Christian scripture. However an exodus from Egypt of a certain group of people is not documented. Although, shortly after the fall of Akhenaten and Tutankhaten (Tutankhamun) the hyksos were expelled from Egypt by pharaoh Rameses I and finished off by his son. Could this have been interpreted as an Exodus of will... perhaps. How would it look if the story of your people told as them being overpowered and forced out of a land? It sounds much more empowering to tell it as if they left by their own free will.

    Your story is very interesting. Thanks for sharing it. I agree...IF the hyksos ever mentioned it in their history...it would possibly sound like an exodus not like "We got kicked out".
    But I don't think of a whole tribe but a small group...maybe left behind hyksos but it could also be egyptians or any other tribe.
    But I like the idea that the hyksos-friendly version of the story...maybe influenced Esra, who "created" the jewish identity in Babylon as he told his story about Moses. OR it was just a story of slaves (that had absolutely no religious bound or motives) that fled.
    I think what you taught me about slaves in Egypt is very interesting. I once read an egyptian text, in which a group of people (not egyptians but some other tribe from a desert) was described that ASKED for work...daily. This...plus your descriptions make me think of the egyptians slave system more like temporary work...(I've been a temporary worker and I can state: it IS the same situation...sometimes you desperately ask for work...sometimes you are forced to do work...you are a worker on demand)
    On the other hand I still like the idea of a little sect (which believes mainly based on the idea of Aton) that fled egypt, best.
    But honestly I don't know how an evidence for that could look like.
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  12. #11  
    Forum Freshman Headdresser's Avatar
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    P.S. If the group we were talking about were really Hyksos...that would explain why they had a "holy" land...why they had a place they called home without ever seeing it. It was the home of their forefathers or better to say the land that those who left egypt earlier live or lived in.
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  13. #12  
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    My pleasure Headdresser.

    This is one of my favorite time periods of Egyptian History to study. I am rather interested myself in the emergence and spread of religious ideas in the ancient world. While history likes to paint an image of the Akhenaten Area as being bright and innovative, it was a time of great disorder. Imagine if today Merkel came on the airwaves and told the world that Germany was leaving the Euro and was reinstating the Deutschmark? There would undoubtable be turmoil not only outside Germany but internally as well. Akhenaton did not just change a currency, he changed a religion. Something that I would imagine is a much more difficult thing to do. And while images have survived which paint a beautiful picture of his capital, the city was under constant threat from the rest of Egypt; most notably Karnak. It is no surprise why this city does not exist today intact. It was demolished quickly after Akhenaton's death and used as filler for new construction projects in Karnak. Not to mention that during this time, which is roughly from around 1350 to around 1290 bc, we witness the rise and fall of six documented kings until the Rameses Dynasty took control. If the fact that the Hyksos leaving of Egypt during this time was not only due to not so accommodating kings, I would imagine any foreigners living anywhere near this section of the nile would have left due to the political instability of the country. But again, the Egyptian have no record of a large scale migration. I would also imagine that the new pharaohs, seeking to restabilize their country, would have expelled any foreigners by force who were living close to Karnak. As it was during an unstable period several generations prior did greedy foreigners living in Egypt usurp the throne. For nearly 100 years did the people of Egypt live under the yoke of another.

    And while the term was coined some many hundred years later when the Greeks finally took hold of Egypt, Egypt was called a 'Holy Land.' The Greeks themselves coined the country the 'Holiest Land' and the 'Shrine of the World.' And I find it interesting as well to note that the Greeks kept the Egyptian Religion alive. Not only kept it alive but adopted it. Even the Romans, some of histories most oppressive overloads, allowed Egypt to keep her Gods. So might argue that perhaps these people saw some truly inspirational 'truth' to the Egyptian Religion and for this reason did not oppress it.

    I personal think that the cult of the Aton played a very large role in the emergence of the Jewish and later Christian faiths. But again, we are all human. We all think alike to a certain degree. Beavers do not communicate with one another and yet they all build dams in a very similar manner all over the world. So, I too argue that religious beliefs can emerge on different sides of the world and appear to be of the same seed. Although, in this case, as the people lived so close to each other, it is without a doubt their ideas merged.
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  14. #13  
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    The Hyksos theory sounds pretty good to me too. Monotheist or "we're the only true ones" religions tend to get pushed around. The early Christians in Rome got beaten up on pretty badly until Rome decided to adopt their faith.

    In more recent history, the Mormons in the USA were a religious group that went around telling all the other protestant faiths that they were the "only true" Christian church. They got pushed out of New York state, then out of Missouri, and then finally came to settle in Utah, which they called "The promised land". It was a place they knew they wouldn't get pushed out of. So yeah, you could call it "promised" in that sense.

    Maybe the leaders of the Hyksos told their people the land of Israel would be a "promised land" in a similar sense? Perhaps they had sized up the opposition and concluded that their forces would be sufficiently strong to wipe out the locals and hold any external threateners at bay?
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