On the sandy shores of the Red Sea, visitors still flock to hear a long-ago legend that inspired at least two of the world’s greatest religions: the tale of Moses and God’s deliverance of the Israelite people from slavery in Egypt.
But on these shores, where all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots were supposedly swallowed by the sea, modern-day archeologists have concluded the biblical legend never even happened, little more than a religious fairy tale.
Now, the 12-year-journey of filmmaker Timothy Mahoney and a team of researchers is not only culminating in a new film poised to rewrite the annals of history, but is also unveiling discoveries that may confirm the tale of Exodus – including a fascinating statue that may be that of the Bible’s Joseph, king of dreams.
Mahoney told WND in an exclusive interview how and why he made the film, “Patterns of Evidence: Exodus”, which is being shown at hundreds of theaters around the U.S. in a special, one-night-only appearance through Fathom Events on Monday, Jan. 19.
“Twelve years ago, I started an adventure, a search for the route of the Exodus,” Mahoney told WND. “People were talking, ‘Where is Mt. Sinai, or what sea did they cross?’ I wanted to go on that type of adventure. But when I headed off to Egypt to talk to Egyptologists and scholars, one of them said, ‘What’s the point? Don’t you know the Exodus never happened? There’s no evidence for it.’
“That was news to me,” Mahoney said. “So I went to the location in Egypt where the Israelites were supposed to have settled and I talked to an Egyptologist there, and he told me the same thing: There was no evidence to suggest this story had happened. That led me on this crisis of faith.”
Mahoney told WND he returned to the U.S. with a “seed of doubt” growing in his mind about the Bible’s stories, until he spoke to yet another Egyptologist who explained modern archaeology has been looking for Moses in all the wrong places – or more accurately, all the wrong times.
“This other Egyptologist said if you dig deeper, below the surface of where people think the Exodus is and you go deeper in time, you will find the story of the Exodus,” Mahoney said. “And that’s what ‘Patterns of Evidence’ has done: It looked for the story and its key events wherever – and whenever – it may be in Egyptian history … and found that there are patterns of evidence, but they’re not showing up where people thought they would be.”
Mahoney explained: “Mainstream archaeologists would say that if the Exodus ever happened, it happened at the time of Rameses, because of the biblical text that said the Israelites were building the city of Rameses. Yet when people understood Rameses lived around 1250 B.C., they didn’t find evidence for this type of story in that time period.
“But other archaeologists said to look deeper,” he continued. “Beneath the city of Rameses, was another city, much older, called Avaris. And that city was filled with Semitic people. It started very small, just as the Bible says, and over time it grew into one of the largest cities of that time. And that is where we find, I think, the early Israelites. That’s the pattern that matches the story of the Bible. It’s not at the time of Rameses, but it’s at the location of Rameses.”
Mahoney also told WND about one of the biggest surprises revealed by “Patterns of Evidence: Exodus” – a statue of a Semitic leader in Egypt, a man who may be none other than the Bible’s Joseph.
“The story of Joseph tells of how he was sold as a slave and came into Egypt and then he rose to become this leader, second in command in Egypt,” Mahoney told WND. “Well, in Avaris, the archaeology shows a small group of Semitic-type people came in, and then there’s this house that matches the area where they would have come from. On top of that house a palace was built. They had tombs behind this palace. And this palace had a statue, and it was the tomb of a Semitic leader.
“The interesting thing is this statue found in the remainder of this tomb, a pyramid tomb – which was only given to royalty types – why did a Semitic character have this?” Mahoney asked. “What some people are saying is that this matches the story, maybe that prestige that Joseph would have received.”
The research team also discovered another biblical parallel.
“In the biblical story, Joseph said his bones should be removed when they left Egypt,” Mahoney recalled. “When the archaeologists uncovered this [Semitic leader’s tomb], a very unusual thing was discovered: There were no bones in this tomb. The bones were gone. Grave robbers never take the bones; they just take the goods, the bones have no value.”
Could the missing bones be yet another confirmation the Semitic leader was Joseph?
Watch the trailer for “Patters of Evidence: Exodus” below:
Despite Mahoney’s discoveries, however, the filmmaker told WND it’s important to understand “Patterns of Evidence: Exodus” isn’t a Christian or Jewish apologetic, so much as an effort to encourage archaeologists to examine the evidence anew.
“I didn’t go with a preconceived conclusion, but I was willing to give the Bible the benefit of the doubt as we searched for the truth,” Mahoney said. “I went to the top people in the world and said, ‘Tell me what you know about this story and what does the archaeology tell you.’ I talked with both sides – people who can’t see any evidence for Exodus and people who see the evidence. It became a balanced approach.”
The result, he explained, is not only a movie that is winning awards for its quality of filmmaking, but also a project that is impressing the experts.
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised,” Mahoney said of the reaction to his film. “When I showed it to scholars, I’ve had Dr. Walt Keiser, formerly president of Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, who has endorsed the project and worked on Zondervan’s NIV Archaeological Study Bible, say he thought this film was important and very well done. Norm Geisler and Joseph Holden, who together wrote ‘The Popular Handbook of Archeology and the Bible,’ say this is a game-changer that helps to spell out where these patterns are. These scholars have really embraced it.”
Even secular scholars, Mahoney said, have said the film was “one of the best they’ve seen” on this topic: “They don’t necessarily agree with everything. They won’t like potential conclusions of the film, but I think they’ll appreciate the investigation.”
For Mahoney, the film is about an honest search for truth and letting believers know that it’s OK to ask the tough questions about their faith.
“It’s important that [Exodus] has a historical grounding to it,” Mahoney told WND. “If this history isn’t true, if it’s just an allegory, it’s a house of cards. The rest of the stories in Bible are built on these stories. Even Jesus talks about Moses, the apostle Paul, they reference it. If you don’t have a historical Exodus, then what happens to a historical Jesus? It’s all connected.
“What we’re having right now is people who are aggressively saying these are fairy tales,” Mahoney said. “The question I raise is, ‘Are they really? How do we know? Why are you saying that?’ When I went and investigated for the last 12 years with my team, we found, wait a minute – there is evidence for this story. So don’t just say this little narrow window of time is all we can look at. There are patterns of archaeological evidence that fit this story of Exodus like a hand in a glove.”
Immediately following the film on Jan. 19, Gretchen Carlson, host of Fox News Channel’s “The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson,” will moderate an expert panel Q&A, which includes author and AnGeL Ministries founder Anne Graham Lotz, best-selling author and TV host Eric Metaxas, New York Archdiocese Father Jonathan Morris and speaker and radio show host Dennis Prager.