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Jan Assmann

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Jan Assmann

Prof. Jan Assmann (2007)

Jan Assmann (originally Johann Christoph Assmann; born July 7, 1938 in Langelsheim) is a German Egyptologist.

Life and Works

Assmann studied Egyptology and classical archaeology in Munich, Heidelberg, Paris, and Göttingen. In 1966-67, he was a fellow of the German Archaeological Institute in Cairo, where he continued as an independent scholar from 1967 to 1971. After completing his habilitation in 1971, he was named a professor of Egyptology at the University of Heidelberg in 1976, where he taught until his retirement in 2003. He was then named an Honorary Professor of Cultural Studies at the University of Constance, where he is today.[1][2]

In the 1990s, Assmann and his wife Aleida Assmann developed a theory of cultural and communicative memory that has received much international attention. He is also known beyond Egyptology circles for his interpretation of the origins of monotheism, which he considers as a break from earlier cosmotheism, first with Atenism and later with the Exodus from Egypt of the Israelites.[3]

Writings on Egyptian and other religions

Assmann suggests that the ancient Egyptian religion had a more significant influence on Judaism than is generally acknowledged. [4] He used the term "normative inversion" to suggest that some aspects of Judaism were formulated in direct reaction to Egyptian practices and theology. He ascribed the principle of normative inversion to a principle established by Manetho which was used by Maimonides in his references to the Sabians. His book The Price of Monotheism received some criticism for his notion of The Mosaic Distinction.[5]



  • Re und Amun: Die Krise des polytheistischen Weltbilds im Ägypten der 18.-20. Dynastie (Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 51). Fribourg and Göttingen 1983.
  • Ägypten: Theologie und Frömmigkeit einer frühen Hochkultur (Urban-Bücherei, vol.366, Stuttgart 1984).
  • The Search for God in Ancient Egypt trans. David Lorton (2001) ISBN 0-8014-8729-3
  • "Maât: l'Égypte pharaonique et l'idée de justice sociale" in: Conférences, essais et leçons du Collège de France. Paris: Julliard, 1989.
German: Ma`at: Gerechtigkeit und Unsterblichkeit im alten Ägypten. Munich 1990 (Arabic Translation 1996).
  • Stein und Zeit: Mensch und Gesellschaft im Alten Ägypten. Munich 1991.
  • Das kulturelle Gedächtnis: Schrift, Erinnerung und politische Identität in frühen Hochkulturen. Munich 1992. ISBN 3-406-36088-2 ASIN B001C84TR4
trans.: Cultural Memory and Early Civilization: Writing, Remembrance, and Political Imagination. Cambridge University Press, 2011. ISBN 0-521-18802-4, ISBN 978-0-521-18802-9
  • Monotheismus und Kosmotheismus (1993) ISBN 3-8253-0026-9
  • Egyptian Solar Religion (Studies in Egyptology) (1995) ISBN 0-7103-0465-X
  • Ägypten: Eine Sinngeschichte (Munich: Hanser 1996; Frankfurt: Fischer, 1999); trans. The Mind of Egypt: History and Meaning in the Time of the Pharaohs (New York : Metropolitan Books, 2002; Harvard University Press, 2003).
  • Moses der Ägypter: Entzifferung einer Gedächtnisspur. Munich 1998.
Moses the Egyptian: The Memory of Egypt in Western Monotheism (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1997; 1998) ISBN 0-674-58739-1
  • Weisheit und Mysterium: Das Bild der Griechen von Ägypten. Munich 2000. ISBN 3-406-45899-8
  • Herrschaft und Heil: Politische Theologie in Altägypten, Israel und Europa. Munich 2000. ISBN 3-596-15339-5
  • Religion und kulturelles Gedächtnis: Zehn Studien (Munich: C.H. Beck, 2000). ISBN 3-406-45915-3
Religion and Cultural Memory: Ten Studies (Cultural Memory in the Present) trans. Rodney Livingstone, SUP (2005) ISBN 0-8047-4523-4
  • Der Tod als Thema der Kulturtheorie (2000) ISBN 3-518-12157-X
  • Tod und Jenseits im Alten Ägypten (Munich 2001). ISBN 3-406-49707-1
Death And Salvation In Ancient Egypt, trans. David Lorton (2006) ISBN 0-8014-4241-9
  • Altägyptische Totenliturgien, Bd.1, Totenliturgien in den Sargtexten (2002) ISBN 3-8253-1199-6
  • Die Mosaische Unterscheidung oder der Preis des Monotheismus. Munich 2003.
trans. Robert Savage: The Mosaic Distinction or The Price of Monotheism (SUP, 2009) ISBN 0-8047-6160-4
  • Ägyptische Geheimnisse (2003) ISBN 3-7705-3687-8
  • Theologie und Weisheit im alten Ägypten (2005) ISBN 3-7705-4069-7
  • Die Zauberflöte (2005) ISBN 3-446-20673-6
  • Thomas Mann und Ägypten: Mythos und Monotheismus in den Josephsromanen (Munich 2006).
  • Monotheismus und die Sprache der Gewalt (2006) ISBN 3-85452-516-8
  • Of God and Gods: Egypt, Israel, and the Rise of Monotheism (University of Wisconsin Press, 2008)
Books in English
  • The Mind of Egypt: History and Meaning in the Time of the Pharaohs, trans. Andrew Jenkins (2003) ISBN 0-674-01211-9
  • Of God and Gods: Egypt, Israel, and the Rise of Monotheism (2008) ISBN 0-299-22554-2


  1. ^ "Unbenanntes Dokument". Retrieved 21 September 2014. 
  2. ^ "Kurzvita Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Jan Assmann". Retrieved 21 September 2014. 
  3. ^ Assmann, Jan. "Monotheism as Anti-Cosmotheism". The Price of Monotheism. 
  4. ^ Jan Assmann, Moses The Egyptian: The Memory of Egypt In Western Monotheism (Harvard University Press, 1997). ISBN 978-0674020306
  5. ^ The God Question: Jan Assmann's 'The Mosaic Distinction' and the Return of the Repressed in the "Post-Secular" Age Hollweck, Thomas. "The God Question: Jan Assmann's 'The Mosaic Distinction' and the Return of the Repressed" (Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Chicago, IL, Sep 2, 2004)

External links

  • Media related to at Wikimedia Commons
  • Short biography at, German Literature Online
  • Jan Assmann at the Internet Movie Database
  • Professor page at the University of Constance
  • Profile at the University of Heidelberg's Institute for Egyptology
  • The Chronicler Review on Assmann: "Biblical Blame Shift: Is the Egyptologist Jan Assmann Fueling Anti-Semitism?"
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