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Not only was Akhenaten one of the most controversial rulers of Ancient Egypt, he was one of the greatest and most important religious innovators in the history of civilization.
After the Great Pyramids of Egypt and the mysteries behind their construction and purpose, Akhenaten and his history are surely the next biggest controversy of ancient Egypt.
Known before the fifth year of his reign as Amenhotep IV, Akhenaten is one of the most controversial Pharaohs to ever rule over Ancient Egypt. He was a Pharaoh of the eighteenth dynasty of Ancient Egypt and ruled the land of the Pharaohs for 17 years and he reigned the first 12 years in conjunction with his father, Amenhotep III. According to many scholars, Akhenaten is one of the worlds’ greatest and most important religious innovators and is noted for abandoning traditional Ancient Egyptian Polytheism and introducing a religion which would become centered on the Aten. However, it was not a new idea that was introduced by Akhenaten since the Aten appears in several ancient texts from the 12th dynasty. Aten is the disk of the sun and is considered a physical manifestation of Ra.
Many consider him as the first monotheist in all of history, a precursor to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Muhammad as prophets who worshiped one god.
Akhenaten claimed, “There is only one god, my father. I can approach him by day, by night.”
But who was this enigmatic ruler? Akhenaten was the Pharaoh responsible for taking ancient Egypt towards an entirely different religious lifestyle, trying to reconstruct religion departing from traditional ancient Egyptian polytheism, even though in the end after his reign, tradition was restored and his ‘revolutionary’ ideas were discredited and he was nearly erased from history. In archival records, Akhenaten is referred to as ‘the enemy’ or ‘that criminal’.
Among the numerous changes, Akhenaten made during his reign, is the construction of a new capital city which he called Amarna and he dedicated it to the sun. Akhenaten spent the next ten years there and in that time he instituted changes in art and culture and one of the most notable changes were how he would be publicly depicted.
Upon taking the ‘throne’ Akhenaten started off similar to other Pharaohs but broke off tradition within a few years into his reign, changing the worship of numerous immemorial gods, defying the powerful Amun priesthood. He instituted the monotheistic worship of the Aten, which he considered being the source of life.
Many scholars share the idea that Akhenaten is without a doubt a pioneer of a monotheistic religion that later became Judaism, and among the first scholars to propose such an idea was the great Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis.
According to Freud, Moses was an atheist priest who was forced out of Egypt with his followers after Akhenaten’s reign ended. After Akhenaten, the Aten cult ended abruptly, but Akhenaten’s ideas are believed to have lived on after him.
„Even though the Bible in Exodus, 2:10 tells us that Moses’ royal mother, who adopted him, called him Moshe because, she said, “I drew him out of the water”, Freud demonstrated that Moshe had a different meaning. In fact, the Hebrew word m sh a, as a verb, can mean either ‘to draw’ or ‘one who draws out’. The name Moshui, is the one that means ‘one who has been drawn out’. It was then Freud’s conclusion that the name of the Jewish leader was not of Hebrew origin, but comes from the Egyptian word, mos, meaning a rightful person.“ – Excerpt from Historical Deception: The Untold Story of Ancient Egypt by Moustafa Gadalla.
Interestingly, there are numerous similarities between Akhenaten and Moses:
According to historical records, Akhenaten chose the Heliopolitan solar form of the Egyptian temple and set it as the place where the Aten was to be worshiped. Interestingly, Moses was one of the first to introduce a temple into Israelite worship, when he created the tabernacle in Sinai.
In addition to the above, Akhenaten adopted the practice of a holy boat, usually kept in the temple, and the ark was used to carry the diety during processions. Moses, on the other hand, was also the one who introduced the ark where the Pentateuch scrolls were kept (Exodus, 25:10). Interestingly, rituals and worship of the newly-established Israelite priesthood were strikingly similar to those introduced by Akhenaten.
Also, there are no records of Israelite priesthood existing prior to the time of Moses.
Donald B. Redford has noted that some have viewed Akhenaten as a harbinger of Jesus.
Before much of the archeological evidence from Thebes and from Tell el-Amarna became available, wishful thinking sometimes turned Akhenaten into a humane teacher of the true God, a mentor of Moses, a Christlike figure, a philosopher before his time. But these imaginary creatures are now fading away one by one as the historical reality gradually emerges. There is little or no evidence to support the notion that Akhenaten was a progenitor of the full-blown monotheism that we find in the Bible. The monotheism of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament had its own separate development—one that began more than half a millennium after the pharaoh’s death
Tutankhaten replaced Akhenaten at the age of eight with Akhenaten’s old vizier, Ay, as regent. In the third year of his reign, Tutankhaten changed his name to Tutankhamun due to the pressure of the priests that surrounded him.
Tutankhamun was forced to take drastic measures corrupting the written record of ancient Egyptian succession and history, leading towards the complete deletion of the Amarna Revolution and Atenism.
This, in turn, led towards the destruction and disassembly of numerous temples built by Akhenaten including the temple located in Thebes. The religious instability created by Akhenaten eventually lead towards the complete removal of any inscription related fo the Aten. Ultimately, Akhenaten, Smenkhkare, Tutankhamun, and Ay were removed from the official lists of Pharaohs.
Freud firmly believed that Akhenaten was one of the greatest promoters of monotheism something that only Moses was able to achieve later in history. In his Book Moses and Monotheism, Freud proposes that Moses wasn’t Hebrew as many scholars believe but was actually born into Ancient Egyptian nobility, and was a follower of Akhenaten. Freud contradicts the biblical story of Moses.
Scholars stress that Akhenaten appeared in history nearly two centuries prior to the first archeological and historical evidence of the existence of Judaism and Israelite culture.
However, even though Akhenaten did not achieve wat he intended during his reign, he is considered as a pioneer in religion and a monotheistic ruler, first of its kind on Earth.