Egypt, Israel, and the Rise of Monotheism

James K. Hoffmeier, Professor of Old Testament and Ancient Near Eastern History and Archaeology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois has published an informative review of Jan Assmann’s new book Of God and Gods: Egypt, Israel, and the Rise of Monotheism (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2008).

Below is a description of Assmann’s book:

For thousands of years, our world has been shaped by biblical monotheism. But its hallmark-a distinction between one true God and many false gods-was once a new and radical idea. Of God and Gods explores the revolutionary newness of biblical theology against a background of the polytheism that was once so commonplace. Jan Assmann traces the concept of a true religion back to its earliest beginnings in Egypt and describes how this new idea took shape in the context of the older polytheistic world that it rejected. He offers readers a deepened understanding of Egyptian polytheism and elaborates on his concept of the “Mosaic distinction,” which conceives an exclusive and emphatic Truth that sets religion apart from beliefs shunned as superstition, paganism, or heresy. Without a theory of polytheism, Assmann contends, any adequate understanding of monotheism is impossible.

Hoffmeier concludes his review by saying that “Jan Assmann has written a thoughtful and insightful book that must be read by serious students of biblical and Near Eastern religions. This study is an important contribution to the ongoing discussion on the origins and history of monotheism.”

The review was published in “The Review of Biblical Literature”, a publication of the Society of Biblical Literature.  You can read the review by clicking here.

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary


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