O sole god without equal !
You are alone, shining in your form of the living Aten.
Risen, radiant, distant and near.
Great Hymn, 47 & 73-74.
In the tomb of Ay, the chief minister of Akhenaten (and later to become king after Tutankhamun’s death, p. 136), occurs the longest and best rendition of a composition known as the ‘Hymn to the Aten’, said to have been written by Akhenaten himself. Quite moving in itself as a piece of poetry, its similarity to, and possible source of the concept in, Psalm 104 has long been noted.
Akhenaten was not a usual character. He was an intellectual and philosophical revolutionary who had the power and wealth to indulge his ideas. He tried to change the Egyptian people to a concept of godhead which was both monotheistic and abstract.
He worshiped the sun (Aten) as the one true god and it is possible that the Hebrew prophets’ concept of a universal God was copied in part from this cult. The hymn gives us a glimpse of the artistic renaissance characteristic of the Amarna period.
The hymn suggests that Akhenaten considered Aten (the disk, orb, sphere, globe of the sun) as the only god, and creator of the universe, particularly in the verses translated as:
How manifold it is, what thou hast made!
They are hidden from the face (of man).
O sole god, like whom there is no other!
Thou didst create the world according to thy desire,
Whilst thou wert alone: All men, cattle, and wild beasts,
Whatever is on earth, going upon (its) feet,
And what is on high, flying with its wings.
The countries of Syria and Nubia, the land of Egypt,
Thou settest every man in his place,
Thou suppliest their necessities:
Everyone has his food, and his time of life is reckoned.
Their tongues are separate in speech,
And their natures as well;
Their skins are distinguished,
As thou distinguishest the foreign peoples.
Thou makest a Nile in the underworld,
Thou bringest forth as thou desirest
To maintain the people (of Egypt)
According as thou madest them for thyself,
The lord of all of them, wearying (himself) with them,
The lord of every land, rising for them,
The Aton of the day, great of majesty.
Many of the people who read this beautiful hymn by ‘Akhnaten’ will most likely be under the impression that ‘Akhenaten’ was the first ‘Pharaoh’ to advocate for ‘monotheism’ in a peaceful, poetic and tolerant practice. But unfortunately that was not the case.
First of all ‘Akhenaten’ was never a ‘Pharaoh’ (a concocted Biblical/Jewish title for the Egyptian kings) nor his new and so called ‘monotheistic’ faith was tolerant nor even new to ancient Egypt’ theology and culture.
Akhenaten’s so called new monotheism was actually a case of advocating intolerance and dogmatism in disguise. Akhenaten should be credited for promoting extremism and violence in the early history and evolution of religion thinking. As a matter of fact he should share this credit with the Israelites and their ‘violent’ creed that came to be later known as ‘Judaism’. Not that Akhenaten and the Israelites were (necessarily) culturally connected as the (academic) myth goes.
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