Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 13, 1968
NUMBER 7, PAGE 2b-3a

School Textbooks Plant Error

William E. Wallace

I believe in our great American school system in spite of all its problems and shortcomings. But I know the public school system is certain to be caught up in the philosophical trends of modern society. Thus I tend to be on the watch for teachings to which my daughter is subjected, teachings damaging to the concepts we hold in our conservative regard for the Bible.

In the "The Record of Mankind," third edition, a Social Studies textbook published by D. C. Heath and Company, 1965, we ran across this bit of information slanted toward the modernistic and liberal theological outlook:

"Ikhnaton may thus be called the world's first monotheist."

Ikhnaton, Also Known As Pharoah Amenhotop VI. And Akhenaton, Was An Egyptian Ruler Who Was On The Throne Around 1360 B. C. He Lived Several Hundred Years After The Days Of Abraham, And Could Hardly Hold The Distinction Of Being The First Monotheist. But The Textbook Authored By A. Wesley Roehm, Morris P. Buske, Holton Webster And Edgar B. Wesley, Plants The Idea That Ikhnaton Was The First To Believe In One God And Suggests Further, "Ikhnaton's Ideas Did Not Die Out Completely, And May Have Influenced The Hebrews, Who Were The First People To Adopt The Belief In One God."

A footnote in the teacher's edition of the textbook suggests that "The class may wish to speculate on the similarity between Ikhnaton's 'Hymns to The Sun' and some of the Biblical psalms."

Liberal theology creeping into textbooks in just this way, makes the Bible suspect in the minds of youth from homes where a conservative understanding of the Bible is held. Perhaps most liberal minded authors of such textbooks are either prejudiced against conservative views or unfamiliar with conservative scholarship regarding such matters as Ikhnaton's monotheism.

It should be noted first of all that Ikhnaton's "solar monotheism" was "far removed from the faith of Israel's prophetic spokesmen who insisted that the true God could not be represented by things in heaven, on earth, or under the earth (Exodus 20:4)." (Wycliffe Historical Geography of Bible Lands, Moody Press, Chicago, 1967, by Charles F. Pfeiffer, Howard F. Vos, pg. 76).

As to similarities between the Hymn to Aton and the Psalms, like Psalms 104 for an example, the following observation is appropriate: "While many of the similarities between Psalms 104 and Akhenaton's Hymn could arise from independent contemplation of the movements of the sun on the part of people with no contact whatever, the numerous contacts between Israel and Egypt at least suggest that devotional language as well as proverbs (Cf. I Kings 4:30) were common knowledge among the two peoples." (Charles F. Pfeiffer in "Tell El Amarna and The Bible," Baker Book House Co., 1963, pg. 43). The similarities between Egyptian devotional literature of Akhenaton' s time and the Psalms of later Jewish history do not in anyway reflect on the claim that "all scripture" (including the psalms) "is inspired of God."

It is only natural that in the movements of people, armies, and traders in the "Fertile Crescent" from Mesopotamia to Egypt that social, cultural and religious similarities appear in the various nations.

However, to assume that such similarities in Hebrew life and sacred literature disprove positive and direct divine authority in the formation of the Hebrew nation and the Bible, is to pass off the weight of the differences and to conclude with bias.

Abraham A Monotheist As to the beginnings of the monotheistic concept it can be traced at least to Abraham, and if one accepts the Bible as authoritative, monotheism can be traced back through the genealogy to Adam who knew but one God.

If one accepts the historicity of Abraham, he will be forced to go at least this far back to find the origins of monotheism.

The textbook ignores Abraham as a possible "source" of monotheism, and thus betrays either a lack of information or a prejudice against the conservative view.

Genesis represents Abraham turning his back on homeland and setting out for a destination unknown, prompted by a call from the one God, Yahweh. Here is monotheism.

E. A. Speiser in Genesis, of the Anchor Bible Set, (Vol. I, pgs. XJ_V-SLIV) argues that "The genesis of the biblical way is bound up with the beginnings of the monotheist concept; both converge in the age, and presumably also the person of Abraham." (XLIV).

Speiser approaches the matter in the reason for Abraham's break with his homeland. He assumes that Abraham found the polytheism of Mesopotamia wanting and that the biblical process of monotheism began with Abraham as a protest against the failure of polytheism. Speiser offers a convincing line of argument and emphasizes repeatedly that "all signs so far have pointed to Abraham as the pioneer "of monotheism and thus became the father of the `biblical process' and the monotheistic Hebrew nation."

The Speiser approach, if not giving due credit to direct divine influence, at least presents a source of monotheism prior to Akhenaton by several hundred years. This is our point.

Some authors seemingly seek to slant their textbooks in favor of liberal theology. At least they do not give credit to more conservative approaches or to the view of biblicists who in this case hold Abraham, if not Adam, to be the first monotheist and who believe that the monotheism of the Hebrews came from the heritage outlined in Genesis, and from direct divine revelation.

In our age of the ascendancy of liberalism on the American scene, we can expect to find many such things in textbooks and classrooms, things such as that which gives rise to this article, things which are calculated to weaken the faith of the uninformed or unprepared student.