Friday, July 08, 2011


Most primitive religions either set Nature as God or have a sort of Pantheistic aspect to them. The idea that there is an uncreated beginning, a single God who created everything is very rare. Plato stands out from the rest of the Greeks in believing in a single source. His concept of an invisible and supreme spiritual Being, is so different from the prevalent polytheism of other Greek philosophers and so remote from the pantheon of Homer and its scandalous Olympians with their permanent strife and marital and extra-marital affairs with mortal women, that one is inclined to think that Plato, at the time of his travel to Egypt thirty years old, happened to sit at the feet of Ezra. This would be around 400 BC or just after. It is easy to draw the conclusion that Plato's monotheism had a Mosaic source.

But Plato was not the first monotheistic, non-Semite. One of the Pharaohs, Amenhetep IV who called himself Akhenaten overthrew the prevailing polytheism in Egypt and set up a monotheistic religion. He is conventionally dated from the 14th century BC. Could he have been influenced by Jewish tradition?

The majority of modern scholars date the Patriarch Joseph to the Second Intermediate Period of Egyptian history, ca. 1786-1570 BC, a time when the Hyksos ruled the delta of the Nile. This view is based primarily on two assumptions: first, that the so-called Late Date of the Exodus during the reign of Ramses II is correct, and that the rise to power of an Asiatic like Joseph can best be placed during a period of Egyptian history when his fellow Asiatics, the Hyksos, controlled the government.

If the Exodus occurred in the 13th century BC, and the time in Egypt lasted approximately 400 years (430, according to Exodus 12:40), Joseph would belong in the 17th century BC. But if the Exodus took place in the 15th century BC as some suggest, Joseph's career would be shifted back to the 19th century BC, during the days of the 12th Dynasty of the Middle Kingdom. Such an early date might mean that the rule of the Hyskos was a consequence of the devastation of Egypt following the destruction of Pharaoh's army in the Red Sea.

1 Kings 6:1 dates the Exodus 480 years before the fourth year of Solomon, ca. 966 BC.

I am not sufficiently skilled in Egyptian chronology to judge between these dates and I suspect that each scholar who looks at the data has his own hobby-horse to ride. Some years ago I read a long and detailed book by Donavon Courville on this subject by an author who thought all the experts were wrong about the dating. His thesis was that several of the Dynasties overlapped.

In any event it could well be that the monotheism of Akhenaten also had a Hebraic origin.

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