Amenhotep III and His Son

Amenhotep III

Image: Amenhotep III

Archaeologists digging in Egypt have made a discovery that could bring major changes to Egyptian history and chronology. Below is a summary of a news report announcing a discovery related to Amenhotep III and his son Amenhotep IV:

A team of Spanish and Egyptian archaeologists made a find in a southern Egyptian tomb that opens the way to a reinterpretation of Pharaonic chronology, since it could show that Amenhotep III and his son Amenhotep IV reigned together.

The team, headed by Spaniard Francisco Martin Valentin and funded by Spain’s Gaselec foundation, excavated the remains of a wall and columns of the mausoleum of a minister of the 18th Pharaonic dynasty – 1569-1315 B.C. – in the province of Luxor.

What is exceptional about the discovery, Martin Valentin told Efe, is that in the excavation they found the names of Amenhotep III and Amenhotep IV carved together.

This “could confirm that the two Pharaohs governed jointly between nine and 10 years of the 39 that Amenhotep III governed, since the hieroglyphics on the columns explain that they were both sovereigns of Upper and Lower Egypt,” the archaeologist said.

“There is nothing similar in Pharaonic history,” Martin Valentin said decisively.

The reigns of Amenhotep III, also known by the Hellenized name of Amenophis III, and of Amenhotep IV, who went down in history as Akhenaten, are among the most significant in Ancient Egypt for a number of reasons.

The father governed a country that witnessed one of its greatest periods of prosperity and internal stability under his long, almost 40-year reign.

Until now, experts thought the son had rebelled against his father’s way of ruling and that, after succeeding him on the throne when he died, acquired the name of Akhenaten and established monotheism for the first time, with Aten as the supreme deity.

But this new discovery, Martin Valentin said, could indicate that father and son were together in this revolutionary movement, since they shared the throne for some 10 years.

Scholars have debated whether Amenhotep III and his son Amenhotep IV reigned together. An article in the Wikepedia summarizes this debate:

There is currently no conclusive evidence of a co-regency between Amenhotep III and his son, Akhenaten. A letter from the Amarna palace archives dated to Year 2-rather than Year 12-of Akhenaten’s reign from the Mitannian king, Tushratta, (Amarna letter EA 27) preserves a complaint about the fact that Akhenaten did not honor his father’s promise to forward Tushratta statues made of solid gold as part of a marriage dowry for sending his daughter, Tadukhepa, into the pharaoh’s household. This correspondence implies that if any co-regency occurred between Amenhotep III and Akhenaten, it lasted no more than a year.

Lawrence Berman observes in a 1998 biography of Amenhotep III that,

“It is significant that the proponents of the coregency theory have tended to be art historians [ie: Raymond Johnson], whereas historians [such as Donald Redford and William Murnane] have largely remained unconvinced. Recognizing that the problem admits no easy solution, the present writer has gradually come to believe that it is unnecessary to propose a coregency to explain the production of art in the reign of Amenhotep III. Rather the perceived problems appear to derive from the interpretation of mortuary objects.”

If this new discovery proves that there was a coregency, then, Amenhotep III’s attempt to curtail the power of the priesthood could be an indication that father and son were involved in what became a movement to establish monotheism in Egypt.

Amenhotep III’s son, Amenhotep IV, is better known as Akhenaten, a name meaning “The Splendor of Aten.” The reason Akhenaten is well known is because he abolished the power of the priests of Amun, closed many temples where the Egyptian gods were worshiped, and established the cult of the Sun God Aten.

After the death of his father, Amenphosis IV moved the Egyptian capital to Amarna, where he established the worship of Aten. This monotheistic religion emerged in Egypt a century or so before Moses. Some scholars have intimated that the monotheistic characteristics of Akhenaten’s religion influenced the monotheism taught by Moses.

In fact, Aten has some characteristics that are very similar to the character and nature of the God of Israel. For instance, Aten was believed to be the creator god who created out of nothing by the power of the word. However, the religion of Akhenaten was not a pure monotheistic religion since Aten was the personification of the sun. Thus, his religion comes closer to pantheism than monotheism.

There is no evidence that Akhenaten had any influence on Moses and the monotheism of Israel. The religion of Israel was aniconic, that it, no image was allowed in the worship of Yahweh. In addition, the religious movement established by Akhenaten had little popular support.

The monotheistic movement in Egypt never gained popularity. After the death of Akhenaten, the worship of the many Egyptian gods was restored and the monotheistic effort of Akhenaten was soon forgotten.

NOTE: For other studies on the history and archaeology of Egypt, read my post Egypt, The Land of the Pharaohs.

Claude Mariottini
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary



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5 Responses to Amenhotep III and His Son

  1. chappymartin says:

    This is of course if you buy into the idea that the exodus was the “late date”. I have never heard a sufficient rebuttal of William Shea’s argument in ISBE. I cannot remember if it is the first edition or second. It seems, according to Shea, that it has to be the “early date”, which one then could speculate if Moses affected the Egyptians in believing in monotheism!


    • Chappy,

      Thank you for your comment. Although the early date for the exodus is held by many evangelicals, more and more evangelicals are coming to accept the late date for the exodus. You should read James K. Hoffmeier’s article published in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. He presents the best evangelical argument for the late date for the exodus.

      Thank you for visiting my blog.

      Claude Mariottini


  2. PAUL HANSEN says:

    Dear Dr.,
    I have just read of the virgin birth narrative of Amenhotep III, and that it is believed in some circles that the birth stories of Jesus were simply lifted from it. If you could shed any light on that topic i would be grateful.


    • Paul,

      Many ancient stories about kings and conquerors portray them as special people, as sons of the gods. If you carefully study the story of the birth of Amenhotep III, you will discover that there was actual sex involved.

      Since the king in Egypt was considered to be a god, the only way he could become a god was being born from a god. In the birth of Jesus, there is no sex involved. Although ancient stories are based on myth, there is no myth involved in the birth narratives of the New Testament. Although it is hard for many people to believe, God actually took human form and lived among us.

      Thank you for your comment.

      Claude Mariottini


  3. Pingback: RH - The Amarna Letters, Part 2 - EURO·FOLK·RADIO

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