[[File:Akhenaten_as_a_Sphinx_(Kestner_Museum).jpg|thumbnail|left|Akhenaten as a Sphinx with the Sun God]]
The first monotheistic religion developed in Ancient Egypt during the reign of Akhenaten, but it failed to gain a foothold and disappeared soon after his death. Monotheism did not become a permanent fixture in the world until the adoption of monotheism by Hebrews in Babylon. While monotheism is often seen as something that derived from Judaism, the history of how monotheism became pervasive and expanded beyond Judaism is complex. Integrating both historical and archaeological data, we find that the rise of monotheism has been influenced by key political events. These political events help transform not just these early monotheistic faiths but also by extension many parts of the world today.
However, while this represented an innovation, the worship of a single god proved to be highly unpopular with the priestly classes as well as, most likely, the local population. In this period, worship of deities was very specific to given cities and temples. Additionally, these temples performed important economic activities for communities. The ban of other gods or the cessation of worship of other gods would have been devastating to local economies and communities.<ref> For information about how temples in cities function during the ancient world see: Kemp, Barry J. 2006. ''[https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0415235502/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0415235502&linkCode=as2&tag=dailyh0c-20&linkId=68c8626317aaf79a23b9398a4a09701e Ancient Egypt: Anatomy of a Civilization]''. 2nd ed. London ; New York: Routledge, Pg. 257.</ref>
== Was Ancient Judaism
In Biblical chronology, we see that the establishment of the state of Israel would constitute the world’s first true monotheistic state. However, the reality is there is no evidence yet that shows monotheism existed or was beyond a limited minority either in Judah or Israel, the two main states of the Jewish people in the Bible.<ref> For information regarding the diversity of gods in ancient Israel and Judah, see: Stavrakopoulou, Francesca, and John Barton, eds. 2010. ''[https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0567032167/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0567032167&linkCode=as2&tag=dailyh0c-20&linkId=a6fddd78b93aaa866baffd50a135f2a0 Religious Diversity in Ancient Israel and Judah]''. London ; New York: T & T Clark.</ref>
== Does the Rise of Monotheism parallel the Rise of Empires? ==
Therefore, it may not be a surprise that universal empires helped to create philosophies of universal religions and ideas, as the ideas of greater unity between populations had already become well established. On the other hand, during the period when Yahweh, for instance, was the chief god in Judah, we see no evidence that this god was considered the only god and certainly he was only associated with the Jewish people. In essence, the mental constructs of god in the pre-Babylonian exile period (i.e., before the 6th century BC) do not appear to incorporate God as being the only god. The development seems to happen later, perhaps under the presence of empires and/or the desire to transform an existing religion due to changes in political circumstances such as the loss of Jerusalem.
Updated May 4, 2019.
[[Category:Bronze Age History]]