Ancient Gods of Light: The Great Hymn to Aten

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Light is often a symbol of purity, power, and authority. For this reason, many religions and cults throughout history integrated the idea of light as a defining characteristic of their most important gods. Some ancient religions even developed around the worship of the sun itself. Atenism and an early form of Judaism were two light religions that existed at different times in ancient Egypt. These two belief systems shared many characteristics, such as the importance of light and the presence of a central religious leader, but there were also several key differences in the development and worship practices of Atenism and early Judaism. For centuries, the ancient Egyptians worshipped a vast host of deities who they claimed controlled all natural phenomena and the underworld (Edgar et al. pg 22). The polytheistic religion of the Egyptians was incorporated into many of the most famous examples of Egyptian art and architecture. For instance, the mysterious deities of the Egyptians were immortalized in hieroglyphic drawings, and the Egyptians’ belief in an afterlife led them to construct some of the most recognizable monuments in the world. However, for a brief instant in Egyptian history, a new, monotheistic cult overshadowed the traditional worship practices (Damen sec 1). Akhenaten, a pharaoh who reigned during the time now known as the “Amarna Period,” was the founder of this radical new religion (Damen sec 2). Originally named Amunhotep, a name which pays homage to the god Amun, the pharaoh started his widespread religious reforms by changing his own name to Akhenaten, which means “he is agreeable to the sun-disk” (Damen sec. 2B-C). The reasoning behind Akhenaten’s drastic religious reforms is not yet known, although some exper... ... middle of paper ... ...m and Hebrew Judaism no longer exist today in their original forms, these two religions passed on the idea of monotheism to other religions and left for future generations a strong reminder of the power and majesty of light. Works Cited Damen, Mark. “Section Ten: Akhenaten and Monotheism.” Utah State University. Damen, 2013. Part 4, Section 10. Web. 28 Jan. 14 http://www.usu.edu/markdamen/1320Hist&Civ/chapters/10AKHEN.htm Edgar, Robert R., et al. “Chapter One.” Civilizations Past and Present. 12th ed. Ed. Janet Lanphier, et al. Vol. 1. New York: Pearson, 2008. Print. “The Great Hymn to Aten.” University of Texas. University of Texas, n.d. Web. 31 January 2013. http://www.utexas.edu/courses/classicalarch/readings/hymn_to_aten.html Zondervan NIV Study Bible. Fully rev. ed. Ed. Kenneth L. Barker, et al. 1985. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002. Print.

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