Patterns of Evidence: Exodus (2014)
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The documentary "Patterns of Evidence" seeks to prove whether the Exodus of the Bible is a true event, since the Bible must be taken literally, or so the central figure/narrator claims. (The reading of biblical texts as factual accounts is a gross misunderstanding of the texts.) At the beginning of the documentary, devout Christian filmmaker Tim Mahoney decides to find out if there is evidence to prove the historicity of the Exodus. In the first few minutes, Mahoney travels to the Eastern Mediterranean and meets Manfred Beitak, an Austrian Egyptologist and archaeologist who is excavating an ancient Semite town, Avaris. Mahoney, upon examining the excavation hypothesizes this could be the Israelite settlement given the Pharaoh's blessing in passages relating the life of the Patriarch Joseph of the "Coat of Many Colors". Mahoney makes this suggestion to Beitak, and the archaeologist responds that to connect this village with the biblical account is a "very weak affair". In other words, Beitak cannot conclude the town is the same one as depicted in the Bible. Mahoney becomes disappointed, and the whole experience puts into question his faith, because, as he sees it, the Bible must be true history otherwise his own faith might be based on a "lie".
He returns to the United States and then decides to take up the quest again at a more involved level. He begins by finding historians who have alternative theories which match his own beliefs. This is the first major problem with the documentary. Certainly, anyone can find "historians" and/or "scholars" who have views which contradict mainstream scholarship. While certainly there is nothing wrong with interviewing people who disagree with the larger academic and scholarly community and who voice their disagreements with a different rationale, I felt the documentary was completely unbalanced after Beitak's skepticism. Mahoney only seems to be interested with those scholars on the outside of modern scholarship who wish to make the case that current Egyptian scholarship is "flawed" and that the Bible and Egyptian chronology do in fact match but requires a complete rethinking Egyptian history, known as the "New Chronology".
Shortly thereafter, Mahoney interviews David Rohl, a highly controversial figure in Ancient Egyptian studies. Rohl has proposed a so-called "New Chronology", an alternative view of the chronological events and dates of Ancient Egypt. He claims the town of Avaris is called "The Land of Ramses" in the Bible, and the confusion comes because a biblical editor at some time used the term "Land of Ramses" to depict Avaris. He believes mainstream scholarship is completely incorrect in terms of Egyptian Chronology. While, I have no problem with hearing Rohl's rationale (which would at face value put into question the idea of the Bible as unerring history), there is no counter figure who explains the mainstream view. The only words we get from Beitak at the beginning is that the hypothesis is a "weak affair", but we don't hear the rest of the interview as to why he questions Rohl and others who work on the "outside".
At Avaris, there has been found the remains of a large statue inside a small pyramid structure of a prominent person, probably a great leader. Now, I do agree, the evidence does suggest the prominent person is a Semite and not an Egyptian because of the hairstyle. However, the documentary wants to prove that this may be in fact Joseph of "The Coat of Many Colours" fame from the Bible. They point to some faded paint on the remains of the statue's shoulder which they claim are remains of a depiction of a colored coat! This is really reaching. Some flecks of paint are not enough to jump to the conclusion this is the Coat of Many Colours and therefore Joseph! It could simply be the remains of the depiction of royal robes, since red as a royal color goes back millennium. Also, the documentary says that 12 graves were found near the statue, which could be the 12 tribes of Israel. Yes, it could be, but again, to conclude the existence of twelve graves means that these represent the Twelve Tribes of Israel as fact is a huge leap. If there were Hebrew inscriptions attesting to such, then that would be compelling evidence. As it stands, what we have are the remains of a statue and the remains of twelve graves, which would not be enough to compel academia to concur with Mahoney's hypotheses.
The statue remains at Avaris and the conclusions drawn are just a few of the problems with how this documentary is making its claims. It takes some evidence, then looks at the Bible, sees if they match, and then draws conclusions. There was no evidence outside of interpretation Avaris was an Israelite town once having been led by the Biblical Joseph. What they needed were other scholars to explain why some of the conclusions drawn were not accepted by mainstream historians. I am sure people who believe the world is flat could also find a few convincing "scholars" who make very convincing arguments about their views. Much of what is presented as "fact" is really simply "opinion" disguised as fact.
About a decade later, Tim Mahoney's Patterns of Evidence (2014) is released. The documentary attempts to counter Finkelstein and Silberman's arguments. However, it neither presents any new evidence nor proposes an alternative framework that would allow us to view the existing evidence through new lenses. Instead, it follows a quite common but utterly unscientific method: it refuses to hear what a large body of literature almost unanimously tells us, and tries to confirm the Biblical narratives by putting together bits and pieces of evidence that is circumstantial at best.
In the end, we are left with a production that is a typical example of dogmatic thinking. Scientific thinking is simple: "I want an answer to my question. Let's see what the evidence indicates." In contrast, dogmatic thinking puts the cart before the horse: "I already have the answer, and now I must find some evidence that supports it." Sadly, many people are not sufficiently equipped to notice the invalidity of the latter way of thinking, and conclude that this an ongoing debate. Some others are happy, as such apologetic works reaffirm their beliefs - if not by the "evidence" they put together, then by underlining the possibility that some new findings in the future may prove the Biblical account correct.
Nothing new here... "If you hold a belief because you think you should, over time you'll convince yourself it's true." (Peter Boghossian)
The scientific method - formulate a hypothesis and attempt to disprove it. Falsifiabilty is a cornerstone of the scientific method, and always beware of anybody who claims to have 'proved' something.
The non-scientific method (used here) formulate a hypothesis and attempt to prove it.
If you tried hard enough you could 'prove' that werewolves are real, or that Barak Obama is a Muslim.
The Biblical account MAY be true, but this contributes nothing to the story of Exodus.
The movie visits an archaeological dig on Avaris Egypt. They interview a European Professor that has worked this dig for 20 years. The Professor says that there is absolutely no evidence for the Bible history at this site. Then the movie shows computer graphics of overwhelming evidence of not just Isrealites, but Joseph of Egypt himself. There is no live video or pictures when they do this. It is all HD computer graphics, meaning that it is artwork, not evidence. I was shocked that he had done this.
The only thing credible in this movie is Jericho. They show live video, and quote the British Kenyon findings. Jericho does appear to have happened as described in the Bible, but centuries earlier than described in the Bible.
The final statement of the movie is that the Egyptian calendar needs to be shifted to match the Bible Calendar. This is not going to happen because the Egyptian calendar is based on scientific findings. So nothing new is said in this movie.
The lies presented as archaeological evidence are new. This isn't the first time a Christian has provided fabricated evidence of Bible History, and he will make money and fame for awhile. Shame on him.
Experts from all related fields, especially opposing views, are given their full time and respect. I was personally impressed with the no-expense-spared feel of the film. For example, Tim (the filmmaker) travels all over the world, speaks to an enormous number of experts, and shows more than enough evidence for all points made. In many documentaries I have watched I have been left with feelings of disappointment because the topic, or a specific point, was not explored thoroughly enough. I was not left with that feeling to any degree here.
This subject is so critical to ancient history and religion with much contemporary relevance. This film should be viewed by everyone, highly recommended.
The only criticism I have of the movie is that so much is left out. It cries out for a sequel, showing the evidence found for the Red Sea crossing, the Hyksos, the Amarna period during the Kingdoms of Saul and David, King Solomon and his Egyptian princess... and showing the breathtaking correlations with the ancient Hittites, Babylonians, Syrians, Assyrians... even the later Persians, Greeks, and Romans. It all lines up once you get the chronology right! This ought to stun the world and get everyone started on re-writing the history books!
The "documentary" presents itself as a serious attempt to study the Exodus in an historical way; but suddenly you realize what is happening.
The serious testimonies from archaeologists and historians that deny the historicity of the biblical narration presented first are contrasted against nut jobs who "can prove" that the exodus really happened.
Historic revisionism trying to justify myths.
Another piece of evangelical propaganda, don't waste your time watching it.
If you have, you will have a hard time sitting through this. To not make this review too long, I'll concentrate on the problems I was offended by the most.
First off, the filmmaker and the scientists he interviews and bases his views on are highly biased. They want to find evidence of the exodus in the first place and then find it by ignoring context. This is not only openly admitted by the filmmaker speaking off screen, it is also very sloppy scientific work - if you can call it scientific at all.
An example: They find Semitic ruins in Egypt and say it cannot be proved that these were inhabited by Hebrews, only that these people seem to come from Syria and Canaan. But this was irrelevant, because we couldn't distinguish them from the Egyptians culturally anyway. So, by ignoring the fact you can't say they were Hebrews they spin it to "it might be Hebrews", which is scientifically very sloppy.
I also literally face-palmed when David Rohl explains why there was no corpse in the supposed tomb of Joseph. The biblical answer would be that the Jews took the mummy/corpse and brought it to the "Holy Land" - as it was written in the bible. So, this must be it, Rohl says. When the filmmaker asks what about grave robbers, Rohl answers no grave robber would be interested in mummies at all. They would take the jewelry, but not the bones as those would be worth nothing.
This is just wrong. Mummies and their bones were used as medicine during European medieval times, f.e. which is part of why we don't have the mummies of many famous Pharaoes despite having found their tombs. Grave robbers could have made good money with the corpse and this might be the reason it is not there. Sadly, nothing else is said about this in the documentary: Were there signs of grave robbers at all? If so, do we know when they broke into the tomb? This would be interesting.
But sadly, no real other views than those of the defenders of this "theory" are given much room in this film... And why should the? To falsify the weak statements made in this film?
My opinion on this film is: Just watch the beginning, when Manfred Beitak says: "It's a very weak affair." Because that basically sums up this film.
4 stars for good editing and the overall interesting topic. Only watch it if you've made up your mind about it anyway and believe in this. Or watch it while being highly critical and do some additional research as hobby detective work to debunk it. Everything else is a waste of time.
My advice for the filmmakers: read the bible as what it was supposed to be: a religious text. Not a historical one. (And no, Moses was not the first historian as proposed in this film.)
For myself, the movie renewed my faith in the Bible.
There's nothing wrong with Christians wanting to dig into the past to discover ancient truths confirmed in the Bible. As falsehoods have been maintained for so long now, it's uncomfortable for the secular establishment to even consider the real Mt. Sinai spoken of in the Bible isn't the tourist attraction mountain they set up as a decoy, but has been located in Saudi Arabia that has it under lock and key. A few brave souls have ventured there and brought back photos of the evidence of Exodus including the split rock and evidence of water erosion at the base.
Director Tim Mahoney navigates the ensuing web well, keeping the viewer anchored with excellent visuals and a concise yet intelligent description off the correlation of events, and how they may fit from an archaeological standpoint.
It's not perfect, some of the dramatization is unnecessary and the narration uneven, yet the questions poignant, and the execution striking.
Don't listen to the other people here that are giving bad reviews, they say that there is no evidence when in reality, there is plenty of evidence that is in the video. It's almost as if they watched the video and picked out bits and pieces without listening to the whole movie which would have answered the questions they had. One person complained that *spoiler alert* the statue of Joseph was just a 3d version made on the computer. However, they showed the 3d version of what it would have looked like back when it was made and then they showed the actual statue.
My advice is to go into it with an open mind and let the evidence speak for itself. Then go out and research yourself if you want.
I really enjoyed this movie and would watch it again.
The existence of Joseph: -A canal which bears his name to this day which was a major achievement of agricultural planning and engineering; -A palatial residence in Goshen, belonging to a high ranking Egyptian official, built over a large Syrian-style home, in a district inhabited by Asiatic/Semitic people; -Joseph's tomb: adjacent to the palatial home, topped with a pyramid, surrounded by 11 other tombs in the same complex. The "Joseph tomb" features architecture reserved for pharaohs, queens, and other extremely high ranking Egyptian officials, contains no Egyptian religious objects, but does have a larger-than-life statue of a man who is portrayed as a northerner/Semitic man with distinct hairstyle and clothing, including the painted remnants of a "coat of many colors."
The existence of a large population of Semitic persons in Egypt, populating the Delta region as the Bible specifies, apparently authorized directly by the pharaoh and/or his administration, comprising a distinct Semitic material culture, presence of herd animals in abundance (shepherd culture), which multiplied rapidly and was initially characterized by prosperity.
Descent of Semitic population into poverty, impoverishment and short life expectancy, consistent with forced servitude.
The occurrence of the Biblical plagues in Egypt, characterized by the sudden decline in Egypt's ability to defend itself, culminating in an effortless takeover by the "Hyksos" or "shepherd kings." An Egyptian document named the Ipuwer Papyrus details, with starting convergence to the Biblical account, a time in which Egypt suffered terrible plagues at the hands of "God" (singular), including thirst due to the Nile becoming "as blood," hunger and destitution in every social class in Egypt, death in every home, lamentation throughout the entire land, AND slaves plundering their former masters, with gold and jewels being worn around the necks of female slaves.
Mahoney then cites archaeological evidence for the conquest of Canaan, in which all the cities claimed to have been destroyed in the book of Joshua, were in fact destroyed in the same exact manner. One striking piece of evidence is a tablet recovered from the ruins of Hazor, which references a king named Jabin--the exact name attributed to the king of Hazor (Jaban) by the book of Exodus! Other amazing correlations are found in the details of the destruction of the city of Jericho.
All of this evidence taken in sum adds up to an exhaustively evidenced and coherent picture of major events described in Genesis, Exodus and the book of Joshua. The evidence is extremely compelling.
The biggest impediment to a complete corroboration of the Biblical accounts is the discrepancies in dating that have plagued modern archaeological attempts to harmonize these events. These issues are complex and knotty, and well over the heads of most viewers, not to mention, very time-consuming to survey. In a rather understated way, Mahoney suggests that his own position is to agree with researchers like David Rohl that what is needed is a radical reassessment of Egyptian chronology. In my own reading and that of my husband, this view is well founded.
Mahoney's goal at the end, it seems to me, is not to champion his own view of the harmonization of biblical accounts, history, and chronology, but to reveal the depth of archaeological evidence for the Exodus, give a brief introduction to varying views on how and where to place this event chronologically, and hope that his film will stimulate further interest, awareness and scholarship on the issue.
I personally support, to my current knowledge on the subject, the redating route. To read more on this, I would recommend the works of Emmanuel Velikovsky: Ramses II and His Time (brilliantly illustrates a lot of the absurdities of conventional Egyptian chronology and dating) and Peoples of the Sea, in which he probes the question of who the Hyksos were. Another great work on the subject of chronological reassessment is Centuries of Darkness by Peter James.
To conclude, I was highly impressed with this film and I can only hope Mahoney will direct a follow-up or even a series of films further probing issues of dating and other side issues of the Exodus. The end of the film was a bit disappointing just because of the lingering uncertainty as to dating with which Mahoney concluded, but I believe this was a very careful and reasonable tone to take with the subject matter. His main points were that there is a plethora of evidence archaeologically for these events occurring as described and that there are many and strong reasons to reassess conventional scholarship in terms of dating these events and even the wider chronologies of Egypt and the Near East. The first point was illustrated very brilliantly and persuasively; the second, I felt, a little less so, mostly due, I believe, to the heady nature of the evidence there and the lack of time to adequately cover such a subject. If this intrigues you, do your own reading!
I also highly recommend the online articles of scholar Alan Montgomery, who has done absolutely brilliant work on Biblical, Egyptian and Near Eastern chronology. His view is that Kenyon's Jericho date of 1550 is indeed valid and that that is when the Conquest occurred, following a 1590 Exodus.
I am thrilled that this documentary was produced and fervently hope that it will spark further debate, scholarship, and confidence on the part of believers of the Biblical accounts!