Egypt, Israel, and the Ancient Mediterranean World: Studies in Honor of Donald B. Redford

By Gary N. Knoppers; Antoine Hirsch | Go to book overview

THEOLOGICAL RESPONSES TO AMARNA

Jan Assmann

There is no doubt that the post-Amarna and Ramesside ages reacted in many ways to the Amarna experience. ℌResponse,ℍ however, means more than reaction. It refers to a continuity of discourse centered around a central set of problems. The paper attempts to reconstruct the theological debate of the New Kingdom and its main issues. Within this frame, two salient phenomena of Ramesside theology stand out as being related to the Amarna religion in the way of of ℌresponse:ℍ the ℌBa-theologyℍ of Amun which interprets the cosmos as the body of a hidden god who animates it from within, and the movement of personal piety that interprets not only cosmic, but individual life including destiny and history as emanating from god's will who in this aspect acts as judge and saviour. I dedicate this paper to my friend Donald B. Redford as a token of my indebtedness to his groundbreaking research on Akhenaten and his time.

Akhenaten's monotheistic revolution met with two different kinds of responses. One is practical and consists in the dismantling of his buildings, effacement of his traces and elimination of his name from the king list. The other one is intellectual and consists in changes in the worldview and basic ideas of god which seem to react to Akhenaten's revolutionary ideas. Both responses were slow and stretched over several subsequent reigns, starting with Tutankhamun and ending only under Ramesses II. The following paper deals with the second response, the intellectual or theological reaction. It meets with the problem of implicitness. There is no explicit refutation or discussion of Akhenaten's ideas. The name is, of course, never mentioned. But even allusions are missing.1 The very notion of ℌheresyℍ seems to be alien to Egyptian theology. There is no possibility of distinguishing between truth and error in matters of religion, no orthodoxy. There

1 With the famous exception of the inscription of Mes in which, for juridical
reasons, it was impossible to skip his reign in simply ascribing it to Amenophis III
or Horemheb. In this inscription he is alluded to as ℌthe criminal of Akhetaten,ℍ
A. H. Gardiner, JEA 24 (1938) 124; Donald B. Redford, Akhenaten: The Heretic King
(Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1984) 231.

-179-

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