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How did Monotheism Develop

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[[File:Akhenaten_as_a_Sphinx_(Kestner_Museum).jpg|thumbnail|left|250px|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. ''[ Ancient Egypt: Anatomy of a Civilization]''. 2nd ed. London ; New York: Routledge, Pg. 257.</ref>
== Was Ancient Judaism MonotheistMonotheistic? ==
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. ''[ Religious Diversity in Ancient Israel and Judah]''. London ; New York: T & T Clark.</ref>
== Does the Rise of Monotheism parallel the Rise of Empires? ==
<div class="portal" style='float:right; width:35%'> ====Related Articles===={{#dpl:category=Religious History|ordermethod=firstedit|order=descending|count=8}}</div>What is also telling is that Interestingly, monotheism only appears to emerge during a period when larger states and empires were present. In fact, all religions that we can call monotheistic, or more accurately universal religions (i.e., a religion relevant to all people and not just a population group; e.g., Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Manichaeism) develop at a time of large scale empires where kings were now being called “king of kings” and seen as unifiers of many people.<ref>For the concept of “king of kings” and larger unification of multiple populations during the period of the large empires see: Shayegan, M. Rahim. 2011. ''[ Arsacids and Sasanians: Political Ideology in Post-Hellenistic and Late Antique Persia]''. Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press.</ref> In essence, before a single or universal god became the norm, the concept of a universal king or emperor became well established. This likely makes the idea of a single political unity more palatable for multiple population groups. We know universal empires sought to unify people through a common government and other common cultural links, including through the economy.<ref>For information about emerging concepts of universalism in empires see: Cline, Eric H., and Mark W. Graham. 2011. [ <i>Ancient Empires: From Mesopotamia to the Rise of Islam</i>]. Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press.</ref>
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.
====Conclusion====What is clear is monotheism was not something that clearly develops for took a long period of timeto develop. We can see archaeological and historically that at least through the first half of the first millennium BC BCE polytheism dominated. The later monotheistic faith of Judaism appears to initially be a polytheistic religion. After the influence of empires and the loss of the Judean temple, we begin to see greater transformations toward monotheism. This eventually gives rise to modern monotheistic Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Along the way, Zoroastrianism likely played an influential role in the development of these universal faiths.
Updated May 4, 2019.
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[[Category:Bronze Age History]]

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