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The First Monotheisms. Pharoah Amenhotep IV in Egypt (1375 BC) Aton. 1. Zoroaster in Persia (Iran) . Babylonian captivity. Israel’s monotheism. 2. Israel’s henotheism.  Jews read back monotheism into Torah. 3. Greek logos. Christianity : a Greek/Jewish synthesis. Islam.

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The First Monotheisms

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the first monotheisms
The First Monotheisms
  • PharoahAmenhotep IV in Egypt (1375 BC) Aton

1. Zoroaster in Persia (Iran)

Babylonian captivity

Israel’s monotheism

2. Israel’s henotheism

  •  Jews read back monotheism into Torah

3. Greek logos


a Greek/Jewish synthesis


Spreads through the Levant and

the Mediterranean as part of the

Roman Empire (Europe, Western Civilization)

theophany an appearance of god
Theophany: an appearance of God

to Abraham

  • to Moses

The Jews develop new type of monotheism where a personal God has a special relationship to a particular people (covenant).

Nomadic desert people develop a God that is not associated with one place, but is a God that follows them where the go. Better, a God that leads them to find pastures or toward a promised land.

  • Jews: God appears (personally reveals Himself) in the desert and on Mt. Sinai
the greeks hellenes
The Greeks (Hellenes)
  • Greek philosophy was the most developed of its time.
  • The Greek language became the language of learning in the Mediterranean world and the near east” (the Levant).
  • Both Greek language and philosophy was absorbed by the Jews and the Christians. The degree to which Jews were willing to helenize was a source of debate and tension.
greek stoic philosophers move from polytheism to more elevated gods
Greek stoic philosophers move from polytheism to more elevated gods

Logos = spark of divine reason that dwells in each person (seeking a unifying principle in religion)

Greeks eventually personified the logos as Zeus; sang hymns of praise to him and prayed to him.

The Greeks never created a monotheism of their own, but instead Greek-speaking Jews adopted Christianity and it spread to non-Jews (gentiles) in the Mediterranean and Levant.

pre socratic philosophers
pre-Socratic philosophers

Described reality as being crafted from

a single uncreated material:

Thales: all is water.

Anaximenes: all is air.

How did this happen?

Empedocles posited 2 opposing forces shaping the 4 basic elements of the universe.

Love (or Harmony) tend to bring them together to create new things.

Hate (or Strife) tend to separate and dissolve things.

Cycle: unity & dissolution


North American Indians

Creation by Craftsmanship



  • Anaxagoras’ “nous”

Nous is “mind”. It is infinite and separate from matter. It is

what set matter in motion and allows it to change and

take forms.

Plato’s “Demiurge”

The Demiurge is divine, creative reason that shapes matter in space (the receptacle). It shapes matter to make it

resemble perfect “ideals” or “forms”, but matter is

stubborn and resists (hence, evil exists). The Demiurge

is a principle, not a personified god.