Johann Christoph "Jan" Assmann (born 7 July 1938) is a German Egyptologist.

Jan Assmann
MJK62894 Jan Assmann.jpg
Assmann in 2018
Johann Christoph Assmann

(1938-07-07) 7 July 1938 (age 84)
Langelsheim, Germany
SpouseAleida Assmann
Academic background
Alma mater
Academic work

Life and worksEdit

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 religionsEdit

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] He too no longer holds this theory, at least not in its original form (specifically, the mosaic aspect).[6]



  • 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
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)
  • From Akhenaten to Moses. Ancient Egypt and religious change (The American University in Cairo Press 2014).
  • Exodus: Die Revolution der Alten Welt (Munich 2015) ISBN 978-3-406-67430-3
Books in English
  • Egyptian Solar Religion in the New Kingdom, trans. Anthony Alcock (1994) ISBN 0-7103-0465-X
  • Moses the Egyptian: The Memory of Egypt in Western Monotheism (Harvard University 1997)
  • 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
  • Cultural Memory and Early Civilization: Writing, Remembrance, and Political Imagination (Mũnchen 1992; Cambridge University 2011)
  • From Akhenaten to Moses: Ancient Egypt and Religious Change (American University in Cairo 2016)
  • The Invention of Religion: Faith and Covenant in the Book of Exodus. Princeton University Press. 2018. ISBN 9780691157085.


  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, 2 September 2004)
  6. ^ Assmann, Jan (2015). "Exodus and Memory" (PDF). Israel's Exodus in Transdisciplinary Perspective: Text, Archaeology, Culture, and Geoscience. Quantitative Methods in the Humanities and Social Sciences: 3–15. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-04768-3_1. ISBN 978-3-319-04767-6. In my book Moses the Egyptian, which I wrote in California 20 years ago, I tried to define the conceptual core of the Exodus narrative as the "Mosaic distinction" between true and false religion or true and false Gods (Assmann 1997; see also Assmann 2007, 2010). This theory has met with much criticism and I would not hold it any longer. The distinction as such, and as a defining feature of monotheism, still seems to me irrefutable, but I would no longer call it "mosaic." It is true that the distinction between true and false in religion seems somehow implied in the prohibition of the worship of other gods and images, but it becomes a question of truth only later in antiquity with a certain concept of revelation... Ifthere is any "Mosaic distinction," it is the distinction between matrimonial faithfulness and adultery, political loyalty and apostasy, filial love and rebellion, and, in this sense, between friend and foe, love and wrath.
  7. ^ "Assmanns aufgenommen". Süddeutsche Zeitung (in German). Munich. dpa. 23 October 2020. Retrieved 25 October 2020.

External linksEdit