Saturday, April 30, 2005

Who was Abraham? (11)

Based on the works of scholars, who will be revealed when the blogging for this topic ends. Works of other authors may be included, but where these are done, full acknowledgement will be made.

Advice: Those who may take offence in seeing biblical (OT) quotations or liberal discussion of OT biblical characters should not read this topic.

Before he changed his name to Akhenaten, Amenhotep IV was co-regent to his father, Amenhotep III. According to Nicholas Reeves, author of the book Akhenaten, it was a short co-regency (about 12 years), with the son assuming complete powers after his father died. That was also when his far more famous wife Nefertiti came into prominence. She was a very beautiful woman, whose discovered bust lies in the Berlin Museum. It was stated that even the Nazi leader, Adolf Hitler, was taken by her beauty.

In his book, Reeves discussed the various theories of her origin, including the possibility of her being a non-Egyptian, and concluded that, based on available evidence, she was Egyptian, and probably the daughter of Kheperkheprure Ay who was better known by his official title of the God’s Father, Lord Ay, the Grand Vizier to Akhenaten. The 'God' was a reference to the Pharaoh, thus the title 'God’s Father' could have meant the 'Pharaoh’s father-in-law'.

This made Nefertiti the cousin sister of Akhenaten, as Lord Ay was the brother of Akhenaten's mother, the Lady Tiye.

Amenhotep changed his name to Akhenaten (the glory of Aten) in honour of Aten, the sole god he worshipped, which was represented by the sun disk. Some historians suggested that it was the sunlight, or just light that he revered rather than the sun disk or the sun. But he was certainly the first historical figure to practise monotheism, much as Jews or Christians for obvious and understandable reason may wish to dispute.

The sun cult in Egypt, like sun cults of other countries, was very ancient, and manifested in the worship of Ra (or Re), and various other representations of the sun, such as Nefertem. The sun cult had its centre in Heliopolis, where among many sun temples, the priests of On served this god.

The politics in Egypt was not only influenced by the royal family but also by the clergy. During the times of Amenhotep III and the all conquering Tutmoses III (Akhenaten’s father and grandfather respectively), the Amun cult, with its base of worship in Thebes rose into political prominence under the patronage of those Pharaohs. In Egypt a compromise between religious cults, when it became necessary, was not unusual. Their gods would syncretised, as it did with the two most influential sects, into Amun-Ra, which became the 'chief' god. In fact their syncretism was already noticed much earlier, around the 5th Dynasty.

From whatever religious revelation, Amenhotep IV chose to worship only Aten (an earlier aspect of Ra or Re), making Aten-worship the official and only religion in Egypt. After his father’s death, he built a completely new city dedicated to Aten at modern day Tel al Amarna, and named it Akhet-aten, meaning 'the city of the horizon of Aten’.

To pursue his monotheistic doctrine, he banned all other Egyptian gods and even set about defacing or destroying them completely, hence he was later known as the ‘heretic’ Pharaoh. Some said he conducted the desecration to snub the powerful priesthood of Amun, with the intention of curbing their political powers. His reign was short-lived, when he either died or disappeared after a brief 17 to 20 years rule (the exact length of his reign is still uncertain).

After his reign, all evidence of his rule and his magnificent city Akhet-aten were destroyed to erase the memory of his unpopular monotheistic rule. It took nearly 3,000 years before an Egyptian woman digging for fertile soil for her garden accidentally stumbled upon some 300 clay tablets with hieroglyphs known as the Amarna letters, thus leading to the lost city of Amarna or Akhet-aten.

While it was known that he had several daughters, historians still debate whether he had sons. The growing consensus seemed to that the most famous Pharaoh in the world, discovered by Howard Carter in 1922, Tutankhamun was his second son.

After Akhenaten’s highly unpopular rule, Lord Ay removed all reference to Aten in an effort to re-consecrate the old gods, even changing the name of the new Pharaoh, Akhenaten’s second son Tutankh-aten to Tutankh-amun to placate the angry priests of Amun.

Sigmund Freud analysed that one of Akhenaten’s Egyptian believer, a high official named Tutmoses, was the ‘Moses’ of the Bible. Tutmoses apparently 'adopted' the Hebrew tribes, converted them to the monotheistic Aten-ism, and led them out of Egypt.

Graham Phillips, author of The Moses Legacy also suspected the same thing, however suggesting that the biblical Moses was a composite of two members of Egyptian nobility, both named Tuthmoses, but living one century apart. One of them was probably the same Tutmoses identified by Freud.

However, Keith Laidler, author of The Head of God, disagreed.

To be continued ........

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