From Akhenaten to MosesAncient Egypt and Religious Change

From Akhenaten to MosesAncient Egypt and Religious Change

Jan Assmann

Print publication date: 2015

ISBN: 9789774166310

Publisher: American University in Cairo Press


The turn from polytheism to monotheism created the world in which we are still living. Akhenaten and Moses symbolize this turn in its incipient, revolutionary stages and represent two civilizations that the Bible (especially the book of Exodus and the concept of God as the liberator from Egyptian serfdom) already brings into closest connection. Egypt stands for the old world that has to be rejected in order to enter the new one. The seven chapters seek to shed light on this transformation from different angles. Chapter 1 focuses exclusively on ancient Egypt, elucidating the structure and the changes within Egyptian religion; chapter 7 deals exclusively with monotheism and especially with the problem of religious violence. The chapters in between deal in various ways with the transition from one to the other, analyzing the Exodus myth as the narrative representation of a religious revolution (chapter 2), viewing the turn in terms of evolution and revolution (chapter 3), confronting Akhenaten and Moses in discovering new parallels and connections (chapter 4), discussing Karl Jaspers’ theory of the Axial Age in connection with monotheism and its media such as writing, canonization, and exegesis (chapter 5), and dealing with the idea that the 18th century formed about the Egyptian mysteries as a cultural model (chapter 6).