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[[File:Akhenaten_as_a_Sphinx_(Kestner_Museum).jpg|thumbnail|left|Akhenaten as a Sphinx with the Sun God]]
While monotheism is seen as something that has derived from Judaism, the history of how monotheism became pervasive 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.
==First Evidence of Monotheism==
The first evidence of monotheism emerges from Egypt in the 14th century BC (1353-1336 BC) during the reign of Akhenaten.<ref>For information about Akhenaten see: Reeves, Nicholas. 2005. ''[https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0500051062/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0500051062&linkCode=as2&tag=dailyh0c-20&linkId=677e84cbaa3df8a547a903e9e58c82b0 Akhenaten: Egypt’s False Prophet]''. 1. Aufl. London: Thames & Hudson.</ref> The king was known to have worshiped Aten, the sun disk god (Figure 1). While initially Akhenaten allowed the worship of many gods, as Egyptian kings had always done so, by the 5th year of his reign there was a decisive movement that made the worship of Aten the only recognized cult in the country.
[[File:376px-Statuette_Goddess_Louvre_AO20127.jpg|thumbnail|200px|left|Figurine of Astarte (Asherah) with a horned headdress, Louvre Museum]]
==Ancient Judaism: Not Very Monotheistic==
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> In fact, excavations throughout modern Israel reveal very commonly other gods, in particular Asherah (or Astarte), was worshiped, likely in conjunction with Yahweh, the Jewish god. While the Jewish Yahweh god may have been the main god, it appears other gods were worshiped and accepted by much of the Jewish population. Perhaps one of the starkest indications that monotheism, if it existed at all, would have been limited a very small minority of Jews. During the 8th century BC, archeologists have found evidence that suggests that Yahweh was married or coupled with the goddess Asherah.<ref> For information about this inscription, see: Ruether, Rosemary Radford. 2006. ''[https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0520250052/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0520250052&linkCode=as2&tag=dailyh0c-20&linkId=d016bd8cf492a027e3ef5cd3d600f5b7 Goddesses and the Divine Feminine: A Western Religious History]''. 1. paperback print. Berkeley: Univ. of Calif. Press, pg. 74.</ref> This indicates that even if Yahweh had supremacy he was not the only god worshiped. In fact, the Bible does seem to suggest this was the case (e.g., the Asherah poles worshiped in the Bible). What is not indicated is the extent of which ancient Judah and Israel, in essence, appeared to be very similar to other contemporary states, which had chief gods (e.g., Ba’al, Marduk, Ashur, etc.) but also worshiped other deities.<ref>For information about other states and how divinity was structured see: Snell, Daniel C. 2011. ''[https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/052168336X/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=052168336X&linkCode=as2&tag=dailyh0c-20&linkId=8863fbc417e1e248326b0e496a5416b4 Religions of the Ancient Near East]''. New York: Cambridge University Press.</ref>
What is clear is monotheism was not something that clearly develops for a long period of time. We can see archaeological and historically that at least through the first half of the first millennium BC 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 these universal faiths.
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