A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend the Fathom Event showing of “Patterns of Evidence: The Exodus”, a documentary by Timothy Mahoney 12 years in the making. The central question was why archeologists are not finding evidence for the biblical Exodus. Although I knew the general answer, the evidence presented blew my mind!
The general answer to the issue is that researchers are looking in the wrong time period. Most investigators look for evidence of the Exodus during the reign of Ramses II around 1250 BC since the Bible does mention his town in the account. Mahoney explains how the Bible often uses names of locations during their most popular time instead of their time at the moment. In the movie, Mahoney shows another city excavated underneath the city of Ramses, from a few hundred years earlier that does contain evidence!
Mahoney organized the search for the Exodus into six stages according to the biblical account:
- Arrival of Joseph & Jacob’s family in Egypt
- Multiplication of Hebrews into a nation in Egypt
- Hebrew Enslavement in Egypt
- Ten Plagues on Egypt
- Exodus from Egypt
- Conquest of Canaan by the Israelites
In the ancient city archeologists find remnants of a town of homes with Hebrew traditions as well as a special palace of a prominent Hebrew with 12 special graves outside of it. One tomb is a pyramid tomb (not traditional of Hebrews). Inside the special tomb, a statue of a Hebrew man in a multi-colored coat. The filmmaker believes this to be the tomb of Joseph (a man of Hebrew origin, but also prominent in Egypt) and the other 11 graves, his brothers. Further evidenced by the bones of Joseph missing (the Bible says Moses took them to the promised land). In these parts grave robbers would not normally take bones, but the treasures contained within.
At this point we see great growth in the Hebrew city. The “Brooklyn Papyrus” contains a list of slaves from the earlier time period, with 70% having Hebrew names – some straight out of the Bible. The papyrus called the “Admonition of an Egyptian Sage” is a poem describing many calamities in Egypt that greatly resembles the ten plagues. Excavations at Jericho provide evidence after evidence that matches the Biblical record including burn marks (the city was torched after the walls fell), and a piece of the wall not collapsed where Rahab would have lived and been spared as promised. The Berlin Pedestal provides further evidence of Israelites in Canaan 100 years before Ramses.
This is just an overview of a few of the more memorable evidences, but in no way a complete chronicle of the movie. Mahoney presents evidence after evidence for two straight hours. I figured the movie would make a good appeal to have the traditional chronology revised, but I never imagined the amount of evidence that would appear once the chronology was revised. The movie is aptly titled Patters on Evidence since that is exactly what the filmmaker does. He creates not just one, not two, three, or four, but dozens of evidences that create an undeniable pattern. Mahoney himself sums it up towards the end of the movie:
“It’s startling to think how significant this could be because chronology, the dates assigned to these events, is the thing being used to convince the world that the Bible is just a fairy tale. But look at the pattern! Evidence matching Joseph and the early Israelites’ arrival in Egypt, their tremendous multiplication, their descent into slavery, the judgment and collapse of Egypt, the deliverance and Exodus of the Semitic population, and, finally, in Canaan, evidence matching the conquest of the Promised Land. I know there’s a lot of disagreement over the dating but what strikes me is that if you put all the dates to the side for a moment what emerges from the archaeology is this pattern that matches the Bible every step of the way and doesn’t that deserve to be taken seriously? But for now, those who hold to established conventions will not allow these connections to be made.”
The documentary is also incredible because it doesn’t force a conclusion on the audience. It presents the perspectives of plenty of experts who disagree with the chronology revision, but their perspectives come off sounding traditionalist and anti-evidence. They seem to want the Exodus to be where they want it, and if it’s not there – then there’s one more reason to doubt the Bible. It seems to make more sense to simply look for the evidence no matter our starting assumptions about how/where we find it.
Find more info on the movie here: http://www.patternsofevidence.com