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There were some claims, for example in the 1st 2 chapters of Moses and Monotheism by Freud, that early Judaism was basically a spin-off of Akhenaten's religion. There are indeed some remarkable similarities:

Akhenaten, an Egyptian, is perhaps the 1st monotheist in History; Judaism is the 1st organized monotheistic religion, and its becoming one is associated with the Exodus from Egypt.

Akhenaten calls his god Aton; one of the names used in Judaism is Adon or Adonai.

The word Moses means "son" in Egyptian, as in Ra-mses or Tut-mos; Biblical Moses was raised as the son of an Egyptian princess (perhaps because he was one).

Moses was fluent in Egyptian, but "tongue-tied" in Hebrew, even after considerable time as the leader of Jews.

There are also remarkable dis-similarities between early Judaism and the traditional Egyptian warship that denied the religion of Akhenaten:

The animals that were traditionally worshipped in Egypt (not by Akhenaten) are deemed "dirty" in Judaism.

Jews are forbidden to shave their heads, which was a common practice in Egypt.

Etc., Etc., Etc.

The speculation by Freud goes something like this:

The followers of Akhenaten's religion are persecuted after Akhenaten's death. The son of Akhenaten's daughter, known further as "the Son" or "Moses", decided to flee Egypt. A natural leader, he decides not to flee alone, but to create a new nation, become it leader, and install the religion of Aton with it. Jews, enslaved in the Delta, seemed a good pick. He convinces Aaron, the son of his wet nurse, to disseminate the story that Moses was actually a Jew, and to act as Moses's mouthpiece (and perhaps Hebrew-Egyptian interpreter).

Thus the question: is there any historical evidence to either support or deny such claim? Are there any contradictions between the described above speculated line of events and some reasonably known facts about ancient Egypt history?

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Freud is not known for the skill and subtlety of his historical methods. –  Mark C. Wallace Mar 23 at 20:32
@Mark C. Wallace: Nor in anything else. Frankly, I'd rank his reliability as an historian as roughly on a par with Erich von Däniken. –  jamesqf Mar 23 at 21:12
The part about the animals is pretty nonsensical. The Egyptian animal pantheon included bulls and sheep (which are "clean" - ritually fit for eating - animals in Judaism), and cats and crocodiles (which are not). So there's no correlation there at all. –  user438 Mar 23 at 23:34

5 Answers 5

Judaism was long a Henotheist religion, ie it believed there was many gods, but claimed the Yahweh was the foremost and most powerful of these gods. It is generally believed that Judaism became monotheistic, claiming that other gods did not exist at all, during the Babylonian exile, (1, 2) probably influenced by Zoroastrianism.

These events are in the 6th century BC, some 600 years after Akhenaten. I do not know of any evidence outside imaginative readings of the Bible that supports the idea that Judaism comes out of Atenism or that Moses was a descendant of Akhenaten.

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You know, I've often seen the claim in your first paragraph before, and I have never understood how such a thing is even thought possible. You can't get much clearer monotheistic statements than "that the LORD he is God; there is none else beside him" (Deut. 4:35) and "the LORD he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else" (ibid. 4:39) - and even if it is claimed that Deuteronomy dates only from Josiah's times, that is still decades before the Babylonian exile. –  user438 Mar 24 at 2:49
@user438: I'm not Lennart Regebro, but there are many statements in the Bible that imply the existence of more than one god. Psalm 82:1: "God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment." Exodus 12:12: "on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord." Exodus 15:11: "Who among the gods is like you, LORD?" Genesis 1:26: "Then [Elohim] said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness” –  Stanley Winford Mar 26 at 8:16
@StanleyWinford: yes, but (1) the claim is that some or all of those predate Deuteronomy; my question was how anyone could possibly think that the pre-exilic Deuteronomy was influenced by post-exilic Zoroastrianism. (2) The Hebrew word used in all those places, Elohim, has the more general meaning of "powerful one[s]," as in Ex. 7:1, where Moses is appointed as "elohim" over Pharaoh - not a god, but a power; or as in ibid. 21:6 and 22:7-8, where a case is brought to "elohim," the judges. So no, it needn't mean that the existence, let alone power, of any other deity is assumed. –  user438 Mar 26 at 20:30
@StanleyWinford: no, most of them trace Deuteronomy to Josiah's religious reforms of 621 BCE, several decades before the exile. So my question still stands. As for "elohim," given that all translations that I know of necessarily render it as "judges" in Ex. 21-22, then that demonstrates that not necessarily does it have to signify any kind of supra-human power. –  user438 Mar 27 at 5:18
@LennartRegebro: not so. Think of it in present-day terms: if a Jew or a Christian has occasion to refer to Zeus or Jupiter or Shiva or what-have-you, he will call them a Greek or Roman or Hindu god - not because he believes that indeed they are divine beings, but simply because that's the linguistic term for them. And consider a verse like Psalms 96:5: "For all the gods of the nations are worthless" - do you think the psalmist is calling them beings on a par with God, and "worthless," in the same breath? –  user438 Apr 3 at 0:03

"Thus the question: is there any historical evidence to either support or deny such claim? Are there any contradictions between the described above speculated line of events and some reasonably known facts about ancient Egypt history?"

It is fairly certain that there was no Exodus as described in the Bible; the kingdoms of Judah and Israel are broadly accepted to have been Canaanite in origin and never to have been in Egypt.

So any story which presumes the Exodus is highly likely to be false, whatever its other appeal.

For a more extended discussion of the problems with the Exodus narrative as history, see here: Evidence for the Exodus

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Akhenaten lived about 125 years before Rameses II, the best fit pharaoh of Moses. You'd have to explain that away first.

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Well, he would have had to live before if he was to influence what came after... :-) But yes, the idea that Moses was the son of Akhenaten is highly speculative. –  Lennart Regebro Jan 13 '14 at 21:47
OK, this definitely could be one of "reasonably known facts" I asked for. Not quite enough to decisively refute Freud's conjecture though: first, rather than being Akhenaten's grandchild Moses could be a few more generations apart, assuming that underground worship of Aton's religion persisted a little longer after Akhenaten's death; and second, I don't think we have any confidence that Ramses II was indeed the Pharo of Exodus. The proposed time gap is a good point indeed, but not conclusive enough for rejection w/out further evidence. –  Michael Jan 13 '14 at 21:49
@LennartRegebro: Freud didn't quite name the proposed relationship between Akhenaten and Moses, but, based on the spirit of the book that quoted a few things from the Biblical account, his speculation seemed to point to grandfather-grandson rather than father-son relation: the book of Exodus names an Egyptian princess (presumably Akhenaten's daughter) acting as (presumably being) Moses's mother. –  Michael Jan 13 '14 at 21:53
@Michael It's still to short, and still relies on that Moses existed, which is not sure, and that the Egyptian Exodus happened, which is highly doubtful. –  Lennart Regebro Jan 13 '14 at 22:09
A problem with the Armana religion surviving after Akhenaten is that it was a very personal sect. Akhen was buddy-buddy with the Pharoah himself, there wasn't any real spelling out of how this relation would extend to other followers or his subjects or even the Pharoah's children. The religion pretty much died with Akhenaten. –  Oldcat Jan 13 '14 at 22:27

Nat Geo sponsored DNA tests and 3d scans of him and his father but refused to release the details, why? Anyway Nat Geo then produced an episode which showed scientists looking at the results on a monitor, experts around the world noted the results and though these were inconclusive gave evidence that he was European with the highest match in Ireland. which explains the many paintings in Egypt of people with red hair. Red hair is highest in the world in Ireland Scotland.

The 3d scans showed they had a cleft palate, which matches with Moses in the Bible being slow of speech where his brother Aaron had to speak to God for him, an absurdity since God could read hearts.

It also showed they had a deformity of the spine, which again matches Moses and his famous staff and in the tomb of Akhenaten's son, King Tut they found many staffs. Not forgetting it was a serpent staff, the Royal Egyptian symbol worn on their heads.

In many tombs they also found Mose's Manna, not bread but a honeydew which ferments and will get you some Gods. It originates from the Manna Ash tree which fell not from heaven but from that tree and as the Bible said it molts in the sun whereas bread of course hardens.

We know the story in the Bible of Moses being hid in a basket of tar and sent up the river to be brought up as Royalty is fake as it's a copy of an earlier Akkadian myth some 500 years before.

The whole story appears to be a theme rather than one personality. The founders of this dynasty were Ahmose and Kamose two brothers who ruled two years apart as one was killed. Aaron was two years older than Moses, just a thought. They retook the Kingdom from the Hyksos Kings, invaders from over a century before who Josephus, the Jewish historian called the Children of Israel.

This story is also probably encoded as a birthright struggle between Judah's twin sons in the womb, Zarah and Pharez. Which could be a reference to the formation of Zarastrianim and the Pharoahs. We are moving the clock back on Zarastrianism as we find new evidence of this mystery religion.

Some of the Armana letters were found still unfired in the kilns which suggested they along with the priesthood made a hasty retreat and had no other choice but to head to the Levant area which Akhenaten of course previously ruled and such a procession and their fanatical one God religion should have had no problem taking hold.

You can also look up Yuya and Joseph from the same dynasty for more evidence.

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I'm not sure how answer addresses Akhenaten –  two sheds Mar 23 at 20:29
It's a jigsaw puzzle which he is part of. –  Greg Saunders Mar 23 at 21:00
Please keep the conspiracy theories away from this site. There is no "refusing the release the details". The details of the research was published in 2010. –  Lennart Regebro Apr 1 at 8:31
Studies have been refused for years, in 2000 Japanese scientists were refused access to the mummies for exactly the same reason, the fact that red headed and blonde characters show up in Egyptian history has been awkward for them. Yes they did partially publish data but only after the program was shown anyway. Which is why a genetical site of academics like igenea had to do much the same. Although Europe in general has a 50% match it has one of highest in Ireland. –  Greg Saunders Apr 23 at 14:11

Has anyone read the work of Messod and Roger Sabbah? They were primarily concerned with proving a link between Egyptian hieroglyphs and Hebrew/Arabic but included a story linking Akhenaten with the founding of that monotheism which developed into Judaism. In this Moses is Rameses I (r.1292-1290 BCE) and his son Joshua was Sety I. Aaron is Horemheb (r 1319-1292 BCE) who launched a military coup following the death of the Pharoah Ay, also an early name for God in the Jewish tradition. This would set the Exodus story 1290-1279 BCE. In the opening of their book "Secrets of the Exodus", Rabbi Marc Alain Oaknin is quoted "This is far from all the hairbrained publications that have already appeared concerning hidden messages in the Bible. This thesis certainly contains some rather abrupt shortcuts and some errors, But it is not the work of charlatans". Certainly the coincidences are remarkable, compare the description of Sety I's campaign in Canaan with that of Joshua in the Bible and we could well be reading an account of the same campaign.

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Remember the site is for answers. It is not a discussion forum. –  Tyler Durden Oct 2 at 17:14
I'm not sure that this answers OP's question. –  Mark C. Wallace Oct 2 at 17:38
The question is whether there is any historical evidence that Judaism may have origins in Akhenaten's monotheism. I have referenced a book that strongly suggests that the answer is yes. Whether that evidence can stand up to the rigour of historical analysis is of course another question which others may wish to question or debate. –  John Charles Pruce Oct 3 at 19:30

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