About the Origin of Judaism
- Development and Significance
Among the questions of cultural history, the question about the origin of Judaism undoubtedly occupies a fundamental position. First, because this phenomenon of more than 3.000 years has exerted a sustained influence upon the whole history of the Mediterranean region as well as upon Europe, and via the latter also upon the entire development of the world; second, because it is at the same time source also to the two largest religions and the ethical views spread by them. These religions, however, Judaism included, have incorporated a whole host of experiences from the times of early history, but also transformed them in a very specific way corresponding to the early systems of rule at the time of their origin. They have contributed to the moulding of thinking. From all of that it follows as a matter of course that Judaism bears within itself a fundamental social question as to its origin and substance.
Already since the 17th century single plates of ancient
history were discovered, of the old Egyptians, the Mesopotamian peoples
and even the Hittites. 
But it was not before the 19th century, along with the development of
capitalism and internationalisation, with the spreading of the bourgeois
rule, that the old documents were systematically
envisaged and here was the start to analyse the old cultures which also
played a central role in the origin and the spreading of Judaism as
well as of a number of other religions.
1887 one even found the cuneiform script archive in El Amarna, the site
of excavation of a former capital of Egypt, Akhet-Aton, which had a
very revolutionary and important, albeit short role to play; this was
the diplomatic archive of the 18th dynasty of the New Kingdom in Egypt
which maintained an intensive correspondence with the peoples of Mesopotamia,
above all the Babylonian empire, the Hittite empire, and with minor
potentates as well. The three states were the ”world powers” of then
in the whole ”Middle East” sphere, they struggled for hegemony, led
numerous wars against each other, but also had an intense commercial
exchange. The analysis of these findings made it possible to do quite
a detailed research of the 2nd millenium BC. This, however,
is the period before the Jewish religion in its fixed moulding
of the Old Testament originated.
who took up these researches was also Sigmund Freud, an author who otherwise
hardly emerged with historical analyses or researches but stands for
the "psychoanalysis" thus founded by himself.
to Sigmund Freud requires a commentation here, though, because of the
position his other documents, the so-called psychoanalysis, take in
the debate since the end of the 19th century. What did Freud and his
supporters find as starting point in the sciences, when they began?
background we have to assess the Freudian theory of "psychoanalysis".
It radically excludes the social factors, represents man as a product
of isolated drives and makes an isolated way of looking at things the
principle, which sometimes really importunately leads to the single
individual’s self-inspection.This must be taken as a kind of opposition
against the existing social knowledge. We can't assume that Freud and
his comrades-in-arms hadn't heard of the - at that time new - social
theories, nothing at all speaks for such a thesis in the case of a man
as educated as Sigmund Freud. It is the opposition - to say it directly
- of people who refuse themselves to a certain knowledge and simultaneously
develop new knowledge on such sectors which haven't found such a strong
scientific examination yet, in order to build up opposite positions
in this way.
for Freud’s personal development is the bourgeois medicine which has
always been most closely connected to the rule, which has been understood
as a factor of power within the state.
may figure here as an example, the editor of Freud’s works.
She is a determined defender of the "psychoanalysis", among
other things author of a book "Back to Freud's Teachings ".
Against the work in question she is fuming, she would like to declare
it a "daydream", the product of a Freud getting older, who
due to the circumstances of his life wasn’t the master of himself any
What she’d like best was to make this work disappear.
So, there already were attempts ahead of Freud to formulate these historical connections, and there was Freud’s own book of 1912. But here Freud went on much further. He tried to put the thing in a logical, historical cohesion and to explain Judaism, being able now to count on a whole host of indications.
from the point that the exodus from Egypt under the leadership of Mose,
as described in the Bible, was based on actual events and that Mose
- this name is Egyptian already by descent - was a supporter of the
particular "reform" pharaoh Ikhnaton, or a supporter of a
comparable direction. Ikhnaton was a pharaoh who operated a short-time
but intensive revolution in the Egyptian state, which declared war on
the completely corruption-dominated business of the old Amun priesthood
and introduced a new, almost naturalistic cult
of the solar disc Aton. His original name was Amenhotep IV, he changed
his name into Achenaten, written with us mostly as Ikhnaton.
During or after
the march through the Sinai this exodus meets another tribe of Hebrews,
ethnically related to the first one but standing on a completely different
level as compared to the tribes and families which had probably spent
several generations in Egypt. Here the sources
lie for a second figure of Moses, which in fact and not at all
unobtrusive is to be found in the Old Testament. He represents a tribal
religion resident east of the Jordan rift and the gulf of Akaba, which
doesn't fit to the original Mose at all. Here an original God Jahwe
is introduced who is a kind of furious volcanic deity which puts the
fear of God into friend and enemy. The Midianite prophet dates from
this source. This figure is overlaid for Mose and put in his place in
the later accounts.
Freud, following the considerations of another scholar of religious
studies, assumes that the original Egyptian Mose has been murdered by
the members of the trek led by himself. As causes for that Freud sees
possible character traits, like domineeringness, and the fundamental
problem for an enlightener to cope with such a tribe still full of primordial
ideas like the Hebrews of then. This leads to a kind of trauma.
the use of the religious concepts in these quotations one must always
realize that social questions were, at least very often, treated in
a religious form in the early time.
These theses by which Freud tries to decode Judaism are verified at a whole number of the historical phenomena. Freud finally goes also into the emergence of antisemitism or rather antijudaism, and in doing so gives some elements for the explanation of Christianity, too. It goes without saying that these historical explanations didn't remain without a yell. Both the church and the Jewish clergy were decided against this analysis. Freud didn’t survive it for a long time. He died in the London exile three months after the publication at the age of 83.
Unfortunately, it has to be noted that these important achievements of the analysis of religion, of materialism, did not on the whole meet the corresponding appreciation and continuation after the 2nd World War, although the excavations and researches in ancient history like also the investigation of the Stone Age had made tremendous progress. This must be explained by the political changes after 1933 and after 1945. The USA, its foundations being strongly co-determined by religious groups, are afraid of these uncoverings, and in the Federal Republic of Germany, too, in which the churches have a grounding in the state, among others, there is an interest to keep this development of human knowledge and enlightenment under the lid.
The connection between Judaism and the Mesopotamian culture is obvious. For one hundred years an extensive literature has been developed about this subject. Particularly in the story of the genesis (1st book Mose, the genesis) the predecessorship of Mesopotamian legends and myths is recognizable. The Sumerian garden Eden of the early days could have handed in the example to the ”paradise” with its unfolding of systematic horticulture and wealth, the development of knowledge. Prosperity and class society as well as struggles with usurpers from abroad finally developed, who for the time being put an end to the construction and shifted it in northern zones. The history of the Flood has been known there for a long time and appears in more than one document.
Abraham, the progenitor of Judaism according to the biblical legend, came from Mesopotamia, from the city of Ur, as it is told, a Sumerian foundation. It is handed down that he immigrated via the northern region of Mesopotamia into the region of today’s Palestine. This region was contested by several powers, an Egyptian dominance already existed in its south, Phoenician cities ruled in the north, and the Hittites with their hegemony ran into that one of the Egyptians who dominated the parts more to the south.
The Sumerian culture also has created the earliest known corpora or collections of laws which for their part were further developed in the codex Hammurabi. There are numerous parallels between this law and the laws of the Old Testament, but also clear differences especially with regard to the ethical realm.
of Mesopotamia goes through an eventful history with alternating empires,
in the course of which the upper stratum becomes harder and harder.
The Mesopotamian culture has at least in the beginning a very uninhibited
attitude to sexuality which also is connected very directly with the
religious rites. The matriarchy, although superseded long ago, still
lives on in the religious ideas, the temple prostitution is regularized
in a bureaucratic way which corresponds to the class system of the state.
It must be assumed that the further development and dehumanization of
the bureaucratic and slavocratic power in this region, which finally
passes to the rule of the Assyrian empire, produced every form of degeneration
and despicable villainy against the labouring masses in these states.
of dissociation certainly did not happen with one stroke, on the contrary,
the struggle with the surrounding tribes had to be resumed again and
again. It also is in question whether the monotheism of the Jews was
created with a blow here. This is improbable.
The monotheism of the Jews has precursory developments also in other areas. Also in Mesopotamia an increasing internalization of the religion, a getting rid of the cults of nature can be obeserved, explainable by the increased level of knowledge of the society.
Here a new
ethics, a higher relation to sexuality was developed, a higher demand
of man on himself, which will form an essential element of the cohesion
of the coming societies.
From the beginning
it was clear that the Egyptian experience plays a fundamental role in
Judaism, because this occupies a large portion in the Pentateuch itself.
The contradictoriness of the account, the interruptions and repetitions
in the text apparently composed of several revisions, all of that was
conspicuous. But with the Egyptian world of gods, as it dominated there
for millenia, the Israelite religion seemed to have nothing to do, as
it was absolutely different; there rather were certain common points
with Christianity to be discovered with regard
to the emphasized ”hereafter”-ideology of the Egyptians. With the discovery
of the Amarna period, which is some decades prior to Mose’s exodus from
Egypt, new possibilities were up for the debate. As it soon was stated
at the excavations and reconstructions, a religion was present here
which showed some essential common approaches with the biblical tradition
of the Pentateuch. The first assumptions that the ideology of the Amarna
period, the epoch of the worship of Aton, could have to do something
with the emergence of Judaism, are discussed very soon after the excavations
between 1900 and 1910. The scholar of religious studies Eduard Meyer
proceeds against such theses already in 1906, and in one of the first
relevant books by Arthur Weigall about Ikhnaton 
such a connection is indicated.
history starts approximately around the time 3200 B.C., from the preceding
cultures ruling there it rises to an extraordinary level in a short
time. One of the impulses for the sudden advancement is formed by the
union of the two Kingdoms, of the Nile delta (Lower Kingdom) and of
the strung-out Nile valley above the delta (Upper Kingdom), into one
state, approximately around 3100 BC. The reason for the quite sudden
emergence of this advanced civilization isn’t completely clear yet.
Some authors also suppose the penetration by a conquering people from
the Mesopotamian area in which, at that time, there were already forms
of advanced civilization, but this is not at all certain. One can assume
with certainty that the fundamental progress in the control of the natural
forces, in the skills of craftsmanship, in the development of the script,
and primarily the ability of the systematic usage of the Nile floods
for agriculture were a decisive point. The union undoubtedly released
enormous forces of synergy in the entire new state.
So a whole lot of factors come together which made the ”cultural explosion” in Egypt after the time of 3100 possible. The fusion of different cultural factors, but also favorable conditions in the Nile’s valley and delta for improving oneself in the struggle with nature and to reach a social wealth, are decisive. Firstly a uniform control, uniform legislation and land surveying developed in the economy of water and agriculture, but this process, the centralization of the earlier chieftain’s positions into a comprehensive despotism and the development of a form of state which at that time was progressive, is not the only factor.. There also exists a social organization from the base at the mastery of the water-supply and distribution. The systematic usage of the Nile floods and of the resulting opportunity for an agricultural overproduction meant above all also the social collective organization of the people, which formed the main trump of Egypt. Furthermore these factors have consequences in the development of sciences; land surveying, then architecture reach a peak previously not known . The priests of the school of Heliopolis (biblical name: On) are simultaneously the leading mathematicians and astronomers in the society, who develop ambitious projects.
We must make a leap in this place now. There is not enough space to summarize the complete history of Egypt even in the shortest form here. Egypt develops in this way until the rise of the New Kingdom 1400 years later. Twice Egypt has been heavily shaken by social disturbances in the meantime, the social class struggle shows also here, in the bureaucratic Egyptian society. The Kingdom as a united state breaks up, and foreign conquerors seize power. One talks about the two Intermediate Periods. After the first as well as after the second Intermediate Period the royal house of Theben takes the initiative and again achieves from its seat the unification of the Kingdom.
As already explained, Egypt experiences a new, not yet known heyday in the New Kingdom after the second Intermediate Period. In this epoch Egypt appears as an imperial great power, and it is challenged itself by other large empires which compete with Egypt in the area of Palestine. The worldwide connections as well as the wars which Egypt must wage far abroad lead to an expansion of the intellectual horizon. An enormous wealth from other countries flows together in Egypt, aside the wealth from its own production. The Iron Age, which proceeding from Asia Minor already has entered other regions, finally takes hold in Egypt itself. Although the Egyptian society continues to draw from its own dynamism of development, has strong internal driving forces due to its long history, it internationalises and modernizes itself at the same time. This is the combination which makes the extraordinary epoch of the 18th dynasty and finally Ikhnaton possible.
The direction of Ikhnaton, which at first appears as a unique phenomenon, is not at all the result of the personal attitude of a single pharaoh, radical changes have taken place and developed contradictions in the Egyptian society. The school of Heliopolis, which ties to the early phase of the Egyptian history described above (pyramid builders), is regarded as a driving force at the changes which are connected with Ikhnaton’s name. Generally speaking, we must bid the idea farewell that these changes are the product of a small group of potentates ”from above”. History teaches that sometimes such leading members of a royal house pick up the currents, which have developed below the surface, and transform them into their personal initiative, sometimes lend a special character to them, too.
of a powerful international and internal trade, as well as an upswing
of the skilled crafts characterize the New Kingdom of the 18th
dynasty. Next to the old-established officials, to the traditional families,
new rising strata are forming, precursors of the bourgeoisie, if you
want it this way. Already under the father Amenhotep III. this new current
breaks through, he himself leaves also externally the traditions, doesn’t
marry a ”sister spouse” as prescribed to the pharaohs (conservation
of the old blood relationships of the prehistoric times!) but such a
”bourgeois one”, Teje, who herself is bound to belong to the most well-known
female characters of Old Egypt.
the priesthood of Amun as of the 4th year of his power, has
their temples torn down. But it is even more important that a new cult
is being created, which reveals a new approach to the world. The complete
divine world of the hundreds of totemistic deities, often half animal,
half man, is abolished and the exclusive cult around the solar disc
Aton is introduced in its place. It is a kind of naturalistic monotheism
which is introduced for the first time here. The new cult opens the
thinking into the direction of the mastering of nature and of the mastering
of the actual human life. The art suddenly represents the everyday life
of the royal family. Also something quite new: the queen Nofretete is
herself one of the first political advocates of these innovations. She
herself takes part in the political fight actively.
usurper Haremhab finally seizes power and starts to restore the old
power completely. This leads up to the next dynasty. He and his successors
try to radically weed out this complete epoch from the consciousness.
The buildings of this epoch are razed and destroyed. The public chronology
has the beginning of Haremhab’s rule coincide with the end of the rule
of Amenhotep III., that is to say, the state bureaucracy and the priesthood
having come to power again, have the period Ikhnaton-Nofretete declared
non-existing and treat it like that.
The book by Erik Hornung ”Ikhnaton”  is a very well-known more recent publication to this topic. It is an interesting compendium, representing the most different opinions and the development of the discussion about this period of history. But there also is a number of short-circuited verdicts which must be doubted.
This is quite
an improbable representation anyway. How does the author come to know
that, then? It cannot be expected that the later opponents set down
anything about supporters of the new direction in stone documents.
At 300 BC,
one thousand years later, the historian Manetho, a priest, drew up a
chronology of the Egyptian pharaohs, and he describes that leprous people
and Hyksos (foreign conquerors of the second Intermediate Period) had
ruled over Egypt in this epoch. Even at that time still the harsh reaction!
The direction, however, must have counted on tens of thousands of supporters
and activists, where have they gone to? Were all of them murdered or
”turned”, to use a new expression? The events in Egypt must have stirred
the souls of numerous people among the intellectually most developed
ones, the collapse must have led to serious disappointments. It was
possible to destroy the stones and the evidences from buildings, but
not the consequences in the heads. The following 19th dynasty,
the so-called Ramessides, although they embody the reaction, must nevertheless
adopt many of the ideas also in the art, despite going-back to the traditional
style. They deflect in the direction of conquest abroad, a procedure
which isn’t unusual in history either.
We see here at first that already in 1906 there must have been a discussion about the point concerning us. And this reply has been used as a counterargument again and again since then. It overlooks one thing anyway: if these traditions were transferred by an exodus with quite a long migration and a superseding by other groups, then it must be assumed that this influence was able to hold out only in some fundamental elements. One cannot expect the Aton cult, the way it existed in Egypt, to appear again in some Aton solar disc. Already the amalgamation of one or few Egyptians with a trek of several thousand Israelites must lead to considerable concessions. The rites and ways of thinking are subsequently further adapted by the majority of the population in the course of decades and centuries. They must in fact offer essential things in order to remain preserved at all in certain decisive points.
In order to
demonstrate a point of common ground, let us take another very early
work about this topic, the book by Weigall ”Ikhnaton” of 1910, which
just like the epoch-making works by Breasted is often being treated
with hostility today.
Weigall attempts to get hold of common points between Judaism and the
Amarna religion. In strong contrast to the complete previous Egyptian
religion, the ”hereafter” does not actually play a role in the worship
of Aton. In the old Egyptian cult everything aligned to the ”hereafter”.
Not only that everybody with some standing affords a costly equipment
for the ”hereafter”, it plays an important role in the entire thinking.
– And it is a striking feature of Judaism that it does not deal with
the hereafter. So one must ask the question: in which other religion
of the Mideast does it play no-one or only a very minor role so that
this one could be considered to be a forerunner? Another immediately
striking point is the tradition of the circumcision among the Jews.
Here a great agreement exists that it is of Egyptian origin.
The author doesn’t even have knowledge of the argumentation as it has been developed in the religious studies. Can one simply ignore the superseding which after all was developed as a thesis already long ago? This falls back behind what has been developed for one hundred years. About the Midianite Mose, about the combination of several components he has never learned, although he is a specialized scholar? One must assume that he did not want to know anything about it.
If one takes
this hypothesis away, though, if one assumes that this Egyptian connection
did not exist, then a number of basic points remain open in the explanation,
in my opinion. The theses of a connection with the Egyptian culture
and particularly with the revolutionary change in the 18th
dynasty are therefore not at all to be simply dismissed.
And on the
other hand, when Freud published his work, a flood of hate confronted
him just out of Judaism itself. In his book about Freud, the author
Peter Gay 
describes the reactions ,
which went so far that the writer of an anonymous letter expressed his
regret that the Nazis hadn’t acted against Freud. The book polarized
right from the start, in the same way the uncovering of the figure of
Ikhnaton and his direction had already previously polarized the opinions.
The analysis and decoding of Judaism which is grasped here is itself an approach for the cultural revolution, at least everywhere where Judaism or Christianity or Islam played or play an important role, and this is the case in many areas in the world.
- - - - - - - -
By this treatise
I have attempted to give an overview for the first. It delivers a
frame for a number of planned special expositions about
May 11th, 2003
 Champollion, Jean Francois (1790-1832), was the first to completely decipher the Egyptian hieroglpyhs on the Rosette stone , starting from the assumption that the Coptic is a further development of the old Egyptian language. This stone had been found at military construction work of Napoleon’s army in Egypt in 1799. It contained a longer text, parallel in Greek, hieroglyphic and demotic (Egyptian colloquial speech).
 The antisemites had, by the way, no esteem for this research. They needed Judaism as a bogey, a lightning conductor, because in reality they are against the modern society and all the more against the modern sciences. The rational conception of the world is a hostile object for all these directions. It is part of the scientific approach that one includes all sides of a thing as far as it is possible, that one tries to explain a development in its material roots.
 Ilse Grubrich-Simitis, ”Freuds Moses-Studie als Tagtraum. Ein biographischer Essay” Frankfurt/M., S. Fischer-Verlag, 1994 [”Freud’s Moses essay as a daydream. A biographical essay”]
 Egypt rose to be an international power in the 18th dynasty. Under Thutmosis I., it reached the Euphrates for the first time and got to know another very advanced civilization and river culture, which was equal to the Egyptian one.
 The Midianite sources of the Old Testament have been known for a long time, the most detailed representation is in a well-known book by Eduard Meyer (”Die Israeliten und ihre Nachbarstämme”, Halle, 1906)
 Qadesch-Maribat, place in southern Palestine at which a kind of conference of unification with a religious compromise is said to have taken place.
 ”Der Mann Mose und die monotheistische Religion”, Frankfurt/M., S.Fischer-Verlag, 1st edition 1975, since then repeatedly edited. The English translation by Katherine Jones was published under the title "Moses and Monotheism” , Vintage Books, NY, 1967. The quotation is from p. 61/62.
 In the Isaac story ”God orders” Abraham to sacrifice his son; when Abraham expresses his readiness for it, the same God does without. The end of the human sacrifice is decided.
 Arthur Weigall, ”The Life and Times of Ikhnaton, Pharaoh of Egypt”, 1st edition 1910, German translation “Echnaton, König von Ägypten und seine Zeit” 1923, Basel, Switzerland
 Walther Wolf, ”Die Welt der Ägypter”, Stuttgart, Cottasche Buchhandlung, 5th ed. 1962, 1st ed.1954, p. 13
 Erik Hornung, ” Echnaton – Die Religion des Lichts ”, Artemis and Winkler, Zurich 1995 . There is also an English edition, “Akhenaten and the Religion of Light” tr. by D. Lorton, Cornell Univ. Press, 2000
 Eduard Meyer, ”Die Israeliten und ihre Nachbarstämme”, Halle, 1906, p. 449
 Weigall was indeed subject to a mistake in this book because he adhered to the opinion – common at that time - that Ikhnaton’s embalmed body had been found. This proved to be a mistake later. However, this doesn’t put into question other assessments, which are in fact worth mentioning.
 from: Klaus Koch ”Geschichte der ägyptischen Religion: von den Pyramiden bis zu den Mysterien der Isis”, Kohlhammer, Stuttgart, 1993, p. 348 f.
 Peter Gay, ” ’A godless Jew ‘; Freud, Atheism and the Making of Psychoanalysis”, 1987 , Yale University press, New Haven & London. German edition: “’Ein gottloser Jude’ - Sigmund Freuds Atheismus und die Entwicklung der Psychoanalyse”, S. Fischer- Verlag, Frankfurt/M., 1988
 ”The book caused a storm of protest everywhere in Jewish circles. Freud was covered by criticism and a real avalanche of letters, most of them from strangers, who wanted to call him to account for the monstrosity he had committed.” ibidem p.106f. [re-translated from the German tr. by ourselves]