Review of Patterns of Evidence

Over at Biblical Remains, Larry Largent provides a good review of the movie “Patterns of Evidence,” showing tonight only. My hope is that those who trust the Bible will ignore the film completely, but if you’re tempted to go, read Larry’s review first.

Here’s a portion:

This is the problem with the documentary format. It is not the best format to put forth and test supposed “new” ideas and solutions no matter how much they are qualified by “perhaps’s” and “could’s.” Time constraints mean that creditable opposition is never addressed. In “Patterns,”  all scholarship becomes flattened in a “them” vs the revised chronology paradigm. The film lumps together traditional biblical maximilists and secular minimalists in a gang of “archaeological giants” that the revised chronology will take down with nothing but a sling and a prayer.
Apparently, arguing that secular scholars might be right in the date of the exodus but wrong in the details is simply not as provocative as claiming that scholars have everything under the sun about the exodus wrong. This is the problem with the medium Mahoney is using to argue for the historicity of the exodus. When it comes to the box office, the more provocative solution is always the best one, but when it comes to doing good historical, archaeological and biblical research,  a theory’s glitz bears little on its accuracy. Real historical research is pounded out in the dialogue of hundreds of articles and papers, and refined in the open response to accusations of error in hundreds of pages – a 2 hour time limit and audience fatigue is not a problem.
In six hundred theaters tonight, viewers will come away from the film with no idea that they have just picked up a broken arrow. They won’t know that the revised Egyptian chronology is not a new theory and has been shown to create as many problems for biblical chronology as it solves.

Yes and yes. There may be a better way to understand the Bible’s relationship to archaeology, but this movie is not it.


18 thoughts on “Review of Patterns of Evidence

  1. Even after our brief conversation, I did go see the movie…and it was as bad as I thought it was going to be and you predicted.

    Even the little I know as a budding amateur Iron Age enthusiast was enough to call the film for what it was: manipulative.

    I think the term used by the reviewer is appropriate: 'another broken arrow'.

    Thank you, again, for all the hard work you do.

    M. Howard Kehr

  2. I saw this movie last night, and as a layperson I was impressed. I realize that sometimes a documentary isn’t the BEST place to learn about archeology – but for some people (like me) it is the ONLY place to learn. As a Christian, I want some confidence that my faith is well placed. Are there real reasons to doubt the exodus? I hear it all the time from the “internet atheist”. How do I respond to those arguments?
    To me, this movie gave me some great tools to have increased confidence in the Bible and to respond to biblical skeptics. But I am separating two different issues here:
    1) Leaving the dating issue aside, the archeological evidence (the Asiatic settlement, tombs, statue, papyrus of Ipuwer papyrus, evidence from Canan, etc) seems fairly suggestive of the exodus – even if timetables don’t match perfectly. Maybe the Egyptian timetable is off. Maybe the Biblical timetable is off. Maybe both are off.
    2) The timetable issue is the controversial part, right? But so what? Even if we just say “I don’t know” about the timetable shifts, then the archeological evidence still stands –right? One way or the other, the movie seemed to make a compelling case that the exodus really happened. Do you disagree?
    The fact is that laypeople ARE interested in these sorts of things. I was completely unaware of most of these archeological finds until last night. Are you suggesting that all these archeological finds are completely unrelated to the exodus? If so, on what ground?

  3. Howard and Nathan – thank you for your comments. Howard, I'm going to refrain from addressing specifics until I see the movie (which I've read will be released on DVD). If I see other helpful reviews, I will link to them.

  4. Nathan,
    I'm not sure if you are addressing me or Dr. Bolen, but I'd like to respond.

    Depending on someone to do your homework is where I'd ask you to re-evaluate your thinking. The information is at your fingertips, spend the time and dig (in the dirt, as it were)!

    I don't like documentary 'straw men'. His thesis statement was the 'accepted view' of any exodus was a late date, and then spent the entire 2 hours with pet and antagonistic scholars building or beating the 'straw man'.

    Everything I read cites an early date (much of it because the 480 years from the building of the Temple and the 300 year period of the Judges).

    By taking one point in history and massaging it to make the movie did not look at the effect it had on the history before and after the 'adjustment'.

    What we can 'take to the bank' is the historical account of the Hebrew is accurate as it relates to events. Not because we have every fact of the account nailed down academically, but because we have the 'Hebrew' and they came from somewhere! (That sounds simplistic but I'm going to leave it.)

    M. Howard Kehr

  5. "Lone Dingo", thanks for your response! Since you saw the movie, I'm curious what you think of the archeological evidence (leaving the timetable issue aside). The burn lines in Jerico, the papyrus of Ipuwar, the aseatic statue, etc. Are those things supportive/suggestive of the biblical account? Is that "evidence" for the accuracy of the biblical account? If not, what WOULD you use as evidence?

    We all have to admit that the Biblical account is pretty fantastic. If it is true, it seems like there SHOULD be evidence to back it up. If there isn't, then we have to question whether we are really dealing with history or legend. We aren't dealing with a lost goblet or runaway child. We're dealing with a mass migration of a HUGE people group. Destruction of armies, cities, etc. If there is no physical evidence, then where are we? When I saw the documentary, I was amazed at the amount of physical evidence that is suggestive of the exodus. I never knew that sort of archaeological evidence existed – so I'm very grateful for this sort of film. It at least serves as a "starting point" to think about the accuracy of the texts.

  6. Nathan,

    I did not mean to leave the impression that any of the things listed were not 'evidences' of Hebrew migration.

    I, too, believe the Biblical account of what happened, I do not take that lightly.
    What I do object too, is 'documentary' style 'investigation' to make a point that will turn out, as I think Joe Carter said, to be 'another broken arrow' in the quiver of the average Christian (whatever that might be).

    Ultimately, my point was: we need to educate ourselves and not rely on a two hour presentation as our 'Eureka' moment.

    Blogs such as this one, books written from both sides of the academic isle (there are a number of educated Christians involved in research) that will illuminate the seeker.

    May you continue to learn, for yourself, the fullness of God's Word.

    M. Howard Kehr

  7. I also saw the movie. It was showing in a large theater and the place was packed – hardly an empty seat. I just saw online that the movie will be having an encore reshowing on January 29th in select theaters. Everyone I spoke with after the movie was impressed.

    Just a heads up – I believe there will be a sequel. One of the last images in the film caught my eye. It was of a standing stone in front of the MB fortress temple at Shechem. I know this because I have all of David Rohl's books. Rohl believes it is the "stone of the Covenant" erected by Joshua, and isn't accepted as such because of accepted chronology. It seems obvious to me that there will follow another film also titled "Patterns of Evidence" covering from the time of the conquest through Solomon.

    So what about the city of Avaris and the Asiatics that lived there, including the palace structure with twelve tombs – one a pyramid tomb and colossal statue of an Asiatic leader whose body is missing? These are the kind of things that impressed the audience, not necessarily the chronology time shifting.

  8. Yes, Tim Mahoney plans on doing a Pt 2 film — and that film would've been the 1st film but in the process of doing it he was shocked to hear that so many people did not believe that the Hebrews were even in Egypt, so he backed things up and did the 1st Patterns film to show the proof that the Jews WERE in Egypt! In the introductory portion of the film there is a "hint" of what the 2nd film will contain… Tim Mahoney was pictured with Dr. Lennart Moller, the Swedish scientist who has done years of research in the Gulf of Aqaba where coral-covered chariot parts have been located which offers PROOF that this is the location of the Red Sea Crossing — Moller has published 3 editions of his book, THE EXODUS CASE, and the book also contains the evidence that Jebel el Lawz in Saudi Arabia is the real Mt. Sinai! All of this material was originally planned to be in this film, but Mahoney had to back-track because so many people were being so stupid about rejecting the entire Exodus story… but this material is on several websites and you all can see it now without waiting another year or more! Just Google "Lennart Moller/Red Sea Crossing"!

  9. I saw the film and was impressed with the evidence shown. They revealed discoveries in Goshen which show the children of Israel having once lived there, from graves to houses to tombs. They used the Bible as the tool to locate the exact date of the exodus, I Kings 6:1 which places it at 1446 BC. The film is a confirmation of the biblical text, which is difficult to find today. In the 20 minute pre-show at 6:40 pm, they had slides which said their next film will cover the exodus route, including investigating coral covered chariot wheels found in the Gulf of Aqaba. A friend of ours went with their film crew to Jebel el Lawz in Saudi Arabia to document that site as the real Mt. Sinai, which Hershel Shanks has embraced.

  10. This is just getting worse and worse. These ideas are old and long-discredited. Some of them come from the huckster Ron Wyatt, a professional nurse who found in a few visits to the Middle East every important site and artifact that professional archaeologists couldn't find in their entire careers. With the attention this movie is (unfortunately) getting, there needs to be a careful review so interested laypeople can know what to believe and not to believe. I'll either write one (not before the DVD comes out) or link to those written by others. In the meantime, it's fair and accurate to say that no knowledgeable experts in these fields accept the conclusions of this movie, and I am including in that all Bible-believing scholars who teach at seminaries, colleges, and universities. There is a reason for that: when you evaluate ALL of the evidence, the revisionist theories do not work.

  11. Todd, I appreciate your comments. I'm a chemist, and it erks me to no end when young-earth creationists with little knowledge of chemistry "critique" radiometric dating techniques.

    However, I take issue with your post (again). You can't make a blanket statement that the entire film is using "huckster" evidence. The evidence is clearly ACCEPTED by archaeologists (ippuwar papyrus, the asiatic statue, the burn lines in Jericho, etc) Everyone (to my knowledge) believes that these things do exist and date within a couple hundred years of the Biblical description. So I am left unclear about what exactly you are disagreeing about. Are you disagreeing that this evidence is related to the Exodus? Or are you disagreeing about the shift in timeline? Those are two very different things in my mind.

    You seem to be a bible-believing scholar, so I'll ask you (again) directly: What evidence WOULD you use to convince a skeptic that the exodus was not fictional? You are beating up on this movie without offering any alternative. It seems to me that burn lines in Jericho and other cities (even if they are off by 200 years) offer a fairly compelling case for the conquest.

  12. Nathan,

    To repeat, I'm going to wait to comment further on the movie specifically.

    >>You can't make a blanket statement that the entire film is using "huckster" evidence

    I didn't.

    >>You are beating up on this movie without offering any alternative.

    I think it's helpful to warn others. I don't think that a bad proposal is better than no proposal. The fact that what current evangelicals believe is solid but not sensational does not bother me.

    Evidence that is 200 years off is evidence for something else.

    I should have linked previously to Bryant Wood's review of David Rohl's 1995 theory (upon which the conclusions of this movie are largely based). This review is very helpful, especially in noting Rohl's straw men and chronological confusion. It should have ended the discussion back when it was written in 2001.

  13. The point seems to be that you can't fit good scholarship into a "movie" attention span. But, and I'm speaking as someone who loves going on historical rabbit trails and enjoys reading about history…trying to sort out the dating on the exodus is a best frustrating. It has been one of the least enjoyable historical research trecks I've been on. As a non-scholar I have trouble sorting out the non-quack from quack articles. And I'm more knowledgable than the average churchgoer (I'm not saying that as critisism of the average churchgoer…in a churchgoing croud you will find more people interested in near east Archeology and History than in a non-churchgoing one, in most cases, but not everyone has done research on this).

    Since I'm pretty convinced that this blog ISN'T by one of the quacks…can you suggest a good resource on the different theories about Egyptian chronology that is accessable to a lay-person (ie, I'm thinking an online article, not a book). Or, would you care to write one?

  14. If you're looking for an article that discusses the major views for the date of Israel's exodus, I can suggest some.

    Charlie Dyer wrote an article in 1983 that covers the main points. He favors an early date.

    Jonathan Burke wrote a two-part article in 2013 that deals with some more recent material. He favors a late date.

    Bryant Wood responds to some of the alleged problems with the early date in an article here.

    A good book with several articles addressing the issue from an early date approach is Howard and Grisanti, Giving the Sense.

  15. I would have liked to have seen more on the red sea crossing (gulf of Aquaba) and the real Mount Sinai in Saudia Arabia. Hopefully there will be a part 2 that shows all the evidence Mahoney has collected on those subjects. The documentary was well done, but not as good as the original "Exodus Conspiracy Movie" promised to be. Too much time was spent trying to prove Rohl's timeline that I personally believe is wrong. It is obvious the exodus took place in 1453 b.c. and happened at the end of the old kingdom (Dynasty 6) which is confirmed by the book of Jasher. Most Christians understand Egyptian chronology is in conflict with the biblical chronology, but don't care. However, very few Christians know about the true crossing location and real Mt Sinai. Unfortunately, that revelation will now have to wait 2 or 3 more years.

  16. I understand the hesitancy to endorse the film from a strictly archaeological point of view, but I guess I'm just not clear on why a statement is made that those who trust the Bible should ignore the film completely. I just rewatched the film on Netflix and counted 35 evidences/reasons given for an earlier date [listed below].

    I'm just curious, Todd, what your thoughts are now that the film has come out on DVD.

    To me, it just seems that the good far outweighs the bad in the film.. but I'm no archaeologist, and I certainly respect your opinion. Maybe Mahoney made it sound more one-sided than it really is. Maybe a 2 hour documentary isn't the best way to solve all the problems of different timelines. And maybe a better explanation exists to account for all the evidence. But as far as the evidence presented as a support for both the Exodus itself and an early date, it's just hard for me to see that it's all just another 'broken arrow.'

    In the end, for the average viewer, it simply communicates that the predominant view is a later date, where evidence doesn't exist for any Exodus. However, if you look at an earlier time in history, there really is a trail of evidence for the Biblical Exodus. That seems to me like a good message to communicate.

    Especially since Mahoney concluded his film by admitting that he’s not an Egyptologist, that there’s lots of disagreement with this view, that other nations’ histories are dependent on Egypt’s, and that he’s not endorsing any one dating period.


    1. No archaeological evidence exists for Semitic settlements during the New Kingdom era.
    2. Genesis 47:11 shows that Exodus 1:11 is likely also an anachronism.
    3. Avaris, just south of Ramses [in Goshen], has much evidence for Semites living there during Middle Kingdom.
    4. Bietak believes a group of shepherds from Canaan came and lived there with the Pharaoh’s blessing.
    5. A house was uncovered in Avaris with architecture from North Syria (Ur & Haran), where Abraham came from.
    6. This house was flattened and an Egyptian palace was built in its place.
    7. 12 graves were found behind it, with one of them being a pyramid tomb which only pharaohs and queens had.
    8. The tomb had no bones, which indicates they were removed by one who respected the person buried there.
    9. Inside the the tomb is a statue, fitting the description of Joseph (throw stick, hair color, many-colored coat, etc)
    10. There’s an ancient canal coming out of the Nile River with a name that translates to ‘waterway of Joseph’.
    11. The canal leads to a basin which is perfect for growing crops and dates to the time of the city of Avaris.
    12. At this time in history, suddenly all the power and wealth shifts to the Pharaoh.
    13. Amenemhat III ruled as Pharaoh during this time and his statue shows worried eyes, turned-out ears, etc.
    14. The city of Avaris becomes one of the largest cities at that time. Bietak puts it at 25-30,000.
    15. Tombs found there do not fit Egypt’s burial practices, but rather those from the land of Canaan.
    16. Many more locations of settlements like Avaris [about 20] are found in the area of Goshen, but not yet excavated.
    17. The graves of the Hebrews show bones of people who were impoverished, and died at a young age [early 30s]
    18. A striking increase in infant burials are found as well. 50% of the graves were babies 3 months and younger.
    19. Also, the later adult graves found revealed that 60% of them were females and only 40% male.
    20. An Egyptian papyrus from the time records 100 slaves and about 70% are Semitic names, including Israelite names.
    21. Ipuwer Papyrus describes: Nile becoming blood, loss of crops, death of firstborn, wailing, slaves w/ gold, etc.
    22. Merenptah Stela – The nation of Israel is mentioned as already a nation soon after the death of Ramesses II.
    23. Berlin Pedestal – Pharaoh brags that he defeated the Israelites that dates to around 1360bc.
    24. No indication from Egyptian record that there was any loss of power or instability during the reign of Ramesses II.
    25. I Kings 6:1 says it was 480 yrs from Exodus to the building of Solomon’s Temple in 970 – that would be 1450bc.
    26. During the excavation of Avaris, there appears to be people quickly buried and the place abandoned.
    27. Manetho records that ‘God smote the Egyptians’ and then foreigners conquer the land ‘without a fight’.
    28. Kenyon found that the walls of Jericho fell down, and in such a way to form a ramp up into the city.
    29. There’s clear evidence of the city being burned severely.
    30. Many jars of grain were found. [indicating: a short siege, during Spring, everything devoted to destruction, etc.]
    31. A short stretch of the wall was found on the north side with houses right up against it and still intact.
    32. Bryant Wood believes the pottery was misdated by Kenyon, and dates Jericho’s destruction to around 1400bc.
    33. Hazor shows a massive burn layer in its remains from the same time as the burning of Jericho.
    34. They also found tablets at Hazor belonging to a king named Jabin.
    35. There appear to be gaps in the other nation’s histories in order to line up with Egypt’s.

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