The Religion Of Moses -- By: Harold M. Wiener

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 076:303 (Jul 1919)
Article: The Religion Of Moses
Author: Harold M. Wiener

The Religion Of Moses

Harold M. Wiener

The views entertained on the Pentateuchal question influence, and are influenced by, the conception held of the history of Monotheism in Israel. In a paper on “Hebrew Monotheism” which appeared in the Bibliotheca Sacra for October, 1907 (vol. 64. pp. 609-637), I showed how the current ideas which derive from Kuenen are flatly contradicted by the evidence and his own emphatic statements made under the influence of an impartial examination of that evidence.1 It is now desirable to approach the subject from another point of view; for, if I mistake not, there is Egyptian material which is not without its bearing on Old Testament criticism and the trend of Israel’s thought.2


The Exodus from Egypt took place in the second year of the Pharaoh Merneptah, i.e. (on the basis of the dates given by Petrie and Breasted) not earlier than 1233 B.C. nor later than 1223 b.c. A century and a half earlier, in the reign of Amenhotep IV. (Akhenaten, Akhnaton, Ikhnaton, Khuenaton), 1383–1365 b.c. (Petrie) or 1375–1358 b.c.

(Breasted), there arose in Egypt a monotheistic worship of the Aten or Aton, to which it is worth while to devote some attention.3

By way of introduction a few sentences may be quoted from Professor W. M. Flinders Petrie’s “Religion of Ancient Egypt” (1906), pages 54 f.:—

“Aten was a conception of the sun entirely different to Ra. No human or animal form was ever attached to it; and the adoration of the physical power and action of the sun was the sole devotion. So far as we can trace, it was a worship entirely apart and different from every other type of religion in Egypt. The Aten was the only instance of a ‘jealous god ‘in Egypt, and this worship was exclusive of all others, and claims universality. There are traces of it shortly before Amenhotep III. He showed some devotion to it, and it was his son who took the name of Akhenaten, the glory of the Aten,4 and tried to enforce this as the sole worship of Egypt. But it fell immediately after, and is lost in the next dynasty. In the hymn to the Aten the universal scope of this power is proclaimed as the source of all life and action, and every land and people are subject to it, and owe to it their existence and their allegiance. No such grand theology had ever appeared in the world before, so far as we know; and it is the forerunner of the later monotheist religi...

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