Transformations in Achaemenid Imperial Theologies and the Rise of Judean Monotheism

Recorded: July 5, 2023
Event: Achaemenid Workshop 2
Citation: Markl, Dominik. "Transformations in Achaemenid Imperial Theologies and the Rise of Judean Monotheism." Pourdavoud Institute: Achaemenid Workshop 2 (July 5, 2023).

by Dominik Markl (University of Innsbruck)

The short century from Nebuchadnezzar II to Darius I was marked by multiple transformations of imperial theologies. While Nebuchadnezzar II strengthened the traditional Marduk cult in Babylonia by rebuilding Esagila and Etemenanki, and Nabonidus attempted to de-emphasize Marduk theology by promoting the moon god Sîn as head of the Babylonian pantheon, Cyrus the Great reinstalled Marduk worship in Babylon and even imported Marduk symbolism to the Persian mainland. Under Darius I, in contrast, monumental propaganda inscriptions presented Ahuramazda as the unrivalled protector deity of the empire. These developments form the backdrop of the emergence of Judean monotheism in the strict sense of the term as seen, especially, in the biblical texts of Deuteronomy and Deutero-Isaiah. It will be argued that Judean theologians closely observed the transformations in imperial theologies who adopted some of their motifs and rejected others to elevate their own deity as the sole God of the universe. Judean theology thus provides indirect evidence for a critical discourse fuelled by broader imperial transformations that formed the context for the emergence of monotheism and, subsequently, three world religions.

About the Speaker

Dominik Markl, S.J., is professor of Old Testament studies at the University of Innsbruck. He previously taught at Georgetown University (Washington, DC), the Pontifical Biblical Institute (Rome), the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley (Santa Clara University, California), Hekima College (Catholic University of Eastern Africa, Nairobi) and Heythrop College (University of London). His research interests include the emergence of monotheism and the history of political ideas such as nationalism and imperialism and related history and discourses of mass violence. He is Old Testament editor of the journal Biblica and co-editor of Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für Altorientalische und Biblische Rechtsgeschichte.