Wikipedia suggests that Akhenaten (who died perhaps in 1336 BC or 1334 BC) was "The first claims of global supremacy of a specific god".

Monotheism - Origin and development says,

In the cities of the Ancient Near East, each city had a local patron deity, such as Shamash at Larsa or Sin at Ur. The first claims of global supremacy of a specific god date to the Late Bronze Age, with Akhenaten's Great Hymn to the Aten (speculatively connected to Judaism by Sigmund Freud in his Moses and Monotheism).

I've heard many times that the Jews were the first.

Has it been conclusively established who were the first to believe in monotheism? What historical evidence is available?

  • 3
    This might get a better answer at history.stackexchange.com
    – user5582
    Jan 3, 2014 at 20:06
  • 3
    This is better asked on History.SE. There's no falsifyable claim here since "monotheism" isn't defined strictly enough in the question.
    – user5341
    Jan 4, 2014 at 0:18
  • 1
    @DVK IMO it's falsifiable by finding evidence of an earlier belief; and something like jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaism.html might count as a 'reference to a notable claim', and referenced claims don't need to be perfectly defined in order to be questionable.
    – ChrisW
    Jan 4, 2014 at 0:46
  • 2
    @EbenezerSklivvze - we still need to define "global supremacy" and "monotheism". Odin could be claimed to have global supremacy. Or Zeus. Seriously, it should be edited to "what was the history of development of religions with monotheistic tendencies" and plomped right smack into History.SE, where it can be answered in a holistic way.
    – user5341
    Jan 4, 2014 at 1:20
  • 2
    @DVK the OP doesn't need to define any of that in order to answer the question: if there is uncertainty (for the historians!) on how to determine if a religion is monotheistic, or significant debate, then that's a possible answer.
    – Sklivvz
    Jan 4, 2014 at 1:29

2 Answers 2


Are there any conclusive facts to determine who were the first to believe in monotheism?

There are some elements of monotheism in the Rig Vedas:

Even the earlier Mandalas of Rig Veda (books 1 and 9), which contain hymns dedicated to devas, are thought to have a tendency toward monotheism.[6] Often quoted isolated pada 1.164.46 of the Rig Veda states (trans. Griffith):

Indraṃ mitraṃ varuṇamaghnimāhuratho divyaḥ sa suparṇo gharutmān,
ekaṃ sad viprā bahudhā vadantyaghniṃ yamaṃ mātariśvānamāhuḥ
"They call him Indra, Mitra, Varuṇa, Agni, and he is heavenly nobly-winged Garutmān. To what is One, sages give many a title they call it Agni, Yama, Mātariśvan."(trans. Griffith)

One of the terms used to describe Hindu monotheism is Brahman.

The Rigveda is old:

It is one of the oldest extant texts in any Indo-European language. Philological and linguistic evidence indicate that the Rigveda was composed in the north-western region of the Indian subcontinent, roughly between 1700–1100 BC[5] (the early Vedic period). There are strong linguistic and cultural similarities with the early Iranian Avesta, deriving from the Proto-Indo-Iranian times, often associated with the early Andronovo and Sintashta-Petrovka cultures of c. 2200 – 1600 BC.

I take this as evidence that people have been thinking and writing about monism, pantheism, monotheism, etc., since the dawn of recorded history.

Furthermore, the following quote describing the origins in Judaism describes Zoroastrianism as "dualist", in spite of the quote in the other answer which defines it as "monotheist".

Second Temple Judaism - Babylonian captivity

The Babylonian captivity had a number of consequences for Judaism and the Jewish culture, including changes to the Hebrew alphabet and changes in the fundamental practices and customs of the Jewish religion. Many[who?] suggest the people of Israel were henotheists during the First Temple period, believing each nation had its own god but that theirs was superior.[3][4] Others suggest the people of Israel and Judah were polytheists,[5] citing for example the presence of an asherah in the Temple.[6] Some suggest that strict monotheism developed during the Babylonian Exile, perhaps in reaction to Zoroastrian dualism.[7]

I take from that that there are different degrees/understandings/explanations of "monotheism", and therefore that "who were the first to believe in monotheism?" might be debatable or unclear. For example someone might say "Zoroastrians" or "Hindus" to which someone else might reply, "no that wasn't true monotheism".

  • 1
    Sorry Chris I've slightly altered the question and you may want to update your answer.
    – Sklivvz
    Jan 4, 2014 at 1:15

I have always read and been told Zoroastrianism was the first monotheistic religion.

Here's an extract from its Wikipedia entry, but there is some good stuff on youtube as well.


Zoroastrianism arose in the eastern region of the ancient Persian Empire, when the religious philosopher Zoroaster simplified the pantheon of early Iranian gods[2] into two opposing forces: Ahura Mazda (Illuminating Wisdom) and Angra Mainyu (Destructive Spirit) in the 7th century BCE.

Zoroastrians believe that there is one universal, transcendent, supreme god, Ahura Mazda, or the 'Wise Lord'.(Ahura means 'Being' and Mazda means 'Mind' in Avestan language).[9]

I was also told that here aren't any surviving religious scriptures from before Zoroastrianism except Hindu, and that Hinduism is not at all monotheistic; but some people say that that some sects of Hinduism may be monotheistic too (see Hindu views on monotheism).

  • A particarly pertinent answer as it doesn't just mention an earlier monotheistic faith, but the faith that existed before judaism in the very place where judaism emerged and is in fact judaism's direct, immediate ancestor. Jan 5, 2014 at 10:04
  • 1
    Judaism has existed for at least 700 years before that. Mar 31, 2016 at 7:03

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .