Movie review: Patterns of Evidence: The Moses Controversy

New Patterns of Evidence film tackles tough questions

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Published: 4 March 2019 (GMT+10)
Moses-controversy

Tim Mahoney’s first film, Patterns of Evidence: The Exodus (see CMI’s review), examined the evidence for the historical Exodus. Did the historical records outside the Bible and the archaeological evidence bear witness to events that the Bible describes? The film took us on an eye-opening and fascinating journey that ultimately ended in satisfying, Bible-affirming answers. So, we were excited to review the next film in the series, Patterns of Evidence: The Moses Controversy.

The first five books of the Bible, known collectively as the Torah or Pentateuch, explicitly claim to be written by Moses—a claim which is affirmed by later biblical authors and even Christ Himself when He said “For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me” (John 5:46). But most mainstream Bible scholars do not believe that Moses—or any one person—ultimately wrote the Torah. Instead, they claim that various groups of people accumulated oral traditions that eventually were compiled into the final versions of the five books during the time of the Exile. This is known as the documentary hypothesis, and it is mentioned unfavorably in the documentary, but in our opinion the film would have been a bit stronger had they spent more time on refuting the arguments often put forward for this view.

The documentary hypothesis would mean that the Bible is wrong—and even Jesus would be wrong, because they believed Moses wrote about the sojourn in Egypt and the Exodus as an eyewitness. This is not a ‘side issue’—as he noted, among the scholars he consulted, those who rejected Mosaic authorship became much less likely to believe in God at all. This is made all the more poignant because these scholars for the most part came from conservative homes where they were taught to believe the Bible. It’s a sad but logical consequence. If the Bible is not real history, as we’ve pointed out with the origins issue, then what is Christianity ultimately based upon?

Click to view the trailer

A hot topic

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The issue of the origin of the Hebrew language, and its implications for Mosaic authorship, is not widely known to the average Christian, but it is very controversial in scholarly circles. One argument against Moses being the author of Genesis is that the original language of the Torah—Hebrew—is thought by most scholars to have been developed from Phoenician in the tenth century BC, far too late for Moses to have used it to write the Torah around 500 years earlier. So, Mahoney breaks down the problem to ask: was there a language that existed in Moses’ time that was available to him to use, that had an alphabetic script, that could even be called a very early form of the Hebrew language?

Some experts note that there is a very early language known as proto-Sinaitic, or proto-Canaanite, that seems to have modified some hieroglyphic symbols to represent consonant sounds. In other words, it represents a leap to alphabetic language. The inscriptions can be read as a very early form of proto-Hebrew, and one can even trace how the symbols might have changed over time to become paleo-Hebrew, Phoenician, and other early ancient forms of written language.

interview

Mahoney leads us on an investigation of possibilities and interviews experts from different camps, unbelieving and believing, with a range of views on the issue. Some believe that the account of the Exodus in Scripture has almost nothing to do with a historical event, while others believe that it is historical and was written by Moses himself. He asks one expert, “Is the Bible a literal story of God acting in history?” The scholar answers, “It purports to be, but whether it is or not is a question of belief, it’s not something that can be proven.” Even as Mahoney weaves together a possible explanation for Mosaic authorship of the book of Exodus, he includes the opinions of unbelieving scholars who disagree with him in the strongest terms. This gives the documentary balance and makes it apparent that Mahoney has done his homework.

Yet in other areas he seems to take huge leaps of logic, then runs with them in a way that seems less than fully thought-out. For instance, the idea that God literally inspired the alphabetic writing system seems both unnecessary and unsupported by Scripture itself. This also seemed to be a contradiction given he had just shown compelling evidence as to the origin of this proto language coming from Egypt and then spreading to all ancient Semitic languages.

Concerningly, the documentary also includes images of the debunked 'chariot wheels' in a certain location said to be the true location of the Red Sea crossing. This was not explicitly endorsed or refuted, but it is important to note that this is not sound evidence, as these are only coral formations that look superficially like wheels and/or axles, but have not been proven to be real chariot wheels. Please read the linked article for more details.

interview-expert

Faulty Egyptian chronology is linked to secular views about Scripture

One strength of the documentary is that he highlights the assumptions secular scholars are making. For instance, they assume that the standard method of dating the Egyptian Pharaohs is correct, meaning they don’t consider certain things as evidence for the Bible, which changes if the standard dating needs to be adjusted. And their assumptions about how languages are related to each other leads them to reject other possible lines of evidence. (See our Egyptian chronology article cautioning accepting secular dates and why).

digging

Ultimately, this is a documentary that gives very viable options, but not final answers. It will be helpful in allowing people to see the evidence, which we suspect most will not be aware of, and the range of opinions that will allow people to come to their own conclusion. However, while we recommend this documentary as worthwhile viewing, we caution about dogmatically accepting some of the conclusions. This is a documentary that has a wide range of potential audiences, including teens, non-Christians, Christians who want a deeper grasp on their faith, and anyone interested in ancient history or archaeology. The overall quality of the film is excellent and is highly recommended to add to the already overwhelming weight of evidence we have in support of the Bible’s history.

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Readers’ comments

Alex T.
Great! How do we Aussies get to see this? Cinema showings are in US only. Can we buy DVD?
Gary Bates
I'm sure that a DVD version will be available not long after, and when it is, it will be made available in all of our CMI offices. I'm currently talking to the producers. If you are subscribed to our Infobytes or Daily Email you will be one of the first to hear about it.
Revd W.
There are a lot of folk in the churches who are unsure of whether or not the Old Testament part of the Bible is reliable and authentic history, mainly due to the doubts brought in about it, in the 19th century, from unbelieving Higher Critics; and what they have picked up from the media. The Ministers do not seem to be teaching the facts that show its authenticity. Time tends to wash everything away. Will there be any evidence of my existence in a 1,000 years time, or even a 100, apart from a skeleton or a few ashes, if that; and that could be quibbled about because it may not be labelled or marked by then. We should not worry too much, therefore, about the need for corroboration of the Bible from outside of the Bible, if we can take the Bible as an otherwise reliable witness - which it is, in our lives - then it can equally be so on the past (and the future too). The words of Christ as recorded by the Apostles are especially helpful for the Christian. But there is one pile of evidence which the Hebrew Bible refers to, which is here for all of us to see: and that is the evidence for a world-wide flood. If the Old Testament part of the Bible is right about that, and it is, then it is highly likely that it is right on everything else, that it tells us about the time slot before Christ came.
John F.
Check out Prof Robert dick Wilson and his research into the language used in the OT. His work in the1930s shows that the Bible is what it claims.
Bill P.
How many times does The Lord have to prove Himself ?
This world accepts a person who is full of pride w/the ability to tell tall tales about the things they have done to make the world a better place. Even when it is found out that they are liars the world makes excuses for their actions and still holds them in high esteem. They do this because he or she is one of them.
On the other hand The True and living God has left evidence in creation, history, and in the dust of the earth. He has even given us proof by telling us about things that would happen in the future, and has done this by giving small specific details as well as big specific details of these future events. He has done this in His Word as well as in deed where there is no denying that He Is God and there is no other. One of many examples would be The Psalms which are known to be writings from "the days of old" by giving the world details about His death on The Cross as well as the small details that would take place during that event.
Then today we have Israel and their history. How many nations in history were so destroyed by another nation and yet came back to be a powerful nation thousands of yrs. later, how many nations were turned into dust and yet today that land has come back to life to be a prosperous world player. These are things The Lord God said He would do in "the last days" before His return. There are many, many more examples that prove He is "The Great I Am".
The Living God of Israel has proven Himself in WORD and DEED. The world is without excuse. "Those who wait upon The Lord will not be ashamed".
TY guys for the work you do.
Ulf N.
It goes without saying, if we subtract something from the Bible as questionable or even not believable, we make ourself the Judge, replacing the righteous Judge, Who via His servants wrote It.

In todays world where miracles and other occurrences in the Bible among many, have to be explained rather than believed, it is harder and harder for well-educated men and women to have faith like a child. But Jesus said: “ ... Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein” (Mark. 10:15).

Does this mean that you have to "check you brain” when you read the Bible? No, we are welcome to poke and probe It as much as we want, as a matter of fact, the Lord encourages it, but we must always remember that God said His Word is perfect, and we are not, so when we can’t figure something out in the Bible, our faith should not for a minute be shaken. Reading a wonderful webb-sight like this one, will always help.
Herb M.
I would love to buy the DVD for this. Will there be one?
Gary Bates
Please see the first comment under the article by/to Alex T.
Daniel M.
After studying the biblical languages (Hebrew and Greek) in Seminary, I was amazed at the complexity of their grammar and could see that they are a testimony to the division of languages at Babel. There is simply no way that human beings would have come up with such grammars on their own, even before they had developed written scripts to represent those grammatical structures.

In my view, even though Moses did not write in the Hebrew of the Masoric text (which dates to a few centuries after Christ), and may not have even written in Paleo Hebrew, he and the Israelites certainly spoke a language from which Hebrew is descended. Hebrew, Phoenician, Canaanite, and other Semetic languages descended from the same mother tongue whose origin was by God at Babel. I have no doubt that since he was well educated, Moses wrote in some language that the Israelites could understand, which eventually became Paleo Hebrew, and then Hebrew.

The creation of languages at Babel was not a curse, though it certainly was a punishment from God for a) not obeying his command to fill the earth and b) for trying to make a "name for themselves" instead of glorifying God's name. But God's command to fill the earth, subdue it, and rule over it was also a command to create culture and language. Undoubtedly, languages would have diversified if humans had followed his command, although probably not to the extent of what happened at Babel. But amazingly, God's judgment, while causing people to have to separate, brings a blessing: cultural diversity which will return to him in praise and worship in heaven (Revelation 21:24). At Pentecost the Holy Spirit started this process, not by unifying languages, but by bringing the Gospel into many languages. Language is a gift and blessing from God.
Tommy S.
"For instance, the idea that God literally inspired the alphabetic writing system seems both unnecessary and unsupported by Scripture itself." Actually, there's no reason whatsoever to think that man invented any written language. God created man fully able to communicate, reason, and have knowledge of how to do everything he needed to do. Why would we assume that man had to invent a written form of the language he already knew upon his creation? This becomes even more obvious when we consider Babel. God created all those languages instantly and gave them to different people groups. Why would he not also give them the ability to write those languages? There is actually no scriptural evidence for the development of the written languages by man.
Gary Bates
To say there is no Scriptural evidence for the development of the languages by man is an argument from silence. That is, arguing for something divinely inspired when the Scriptures are silent about such things. We think you are reading too much into our comment and overreaching as a result. For example, we know that God is the originator of languages and would argue that all languages on the earth have derived from a few original language roots at Babel. This was a divine act and recorded in Scripture. You wrote "Actually, there's no reason whatsoever to think that man invented any written language." But this is simply incorrect. We have good evidences how many current languages have developed, changed, and how their written forms have developed throughout history. Language even changes within our own lifetimes. We believe that God is the originator of language, but all we were saying is to be careful of sweeping statements in the movie. It's a little disappointing that you seemed to focus on this one small caveat when we were extremely positive in our overall review. II should also point out that Tim Mahoney himself was extremely pleased with our review and had no concerns with our caveat. I recommend a good presentation on the subject called The Bible: languages and evolution. It's available cheaply as a video download via the link.
Tommy S.
@Gary Bates, I suppose I should have stated that I was speaking about "root" languages when I made the statement regarding no evidence for man developing any written language. Of course I am aware that languages develop over time. I don't believe that my statements are an argument from silence any more than yours are. I believe from what we do know in scripture that it is more logical to conclude that written languages were given by God rather than developed by man whereas your argument assumes they were developed by man. That's why I pointed out the incident at Babel because it makes no sense scriptural or otherwise to think that people who are instantly given a new language would then have to sit down by committee and say "Now let's figure out how we're going to write this new language we just instantly learned." These people probably didn't even realize their language had even changed. It would be like they knew it all their life. How else would they reconcile their past when they formerly knew another language? Would they remember everything in the past in that other language, but just could no longer speak or write it? Think about it.

The article was otherwise very good and I love when movies like this affirm Biblical history.
Gary Bates
We normally do not engage in debates as this is a comments section, but I will reply to this because of an incorrect assumption being made about what was written. Being a comments section if you meant root languages then that would have been helpful in the original comment to avoid misunderstanding. However, you have once again made a hurling assumption that we did not state in the article. You wrote: "I believe from what we do know in scripture that it is more logical to conclude that written languages were given by God rather than developed by man whereas your argument assumes they were developed by man." When did we say we didn't Once again, your statement implies that ALL written languages were inspired. This is simply not the case. so, presumably you meant root languages again (we hope). However, all we actually said that is on this one specific occasion one needed to be careful about assuming that the proto-Hebrew language and specifically, actually, the proto-Hebrew alphabet (which is not the same as the common Hebrew of today, for example), was somehow divinely inspired. Very complex languages were already in operation in Egypt at the time, including Demotic and HIeroglyphics. Please read Egypt chronology; framing the issues for more background on all things Egyptian.
Peter W.
As with evolution, much of what the so-called higher critics say is based upon assumptions. These assumptions can not be corroborated with any hard evidence. The unbelieving scholars admit, even in the interviews above, that it comes down to their belief, based in my opinion on their world view rather than any evidence. I personally,found the book by Dr. Bill Cooper, "The Authenticity of the Book of Genesis", very illuminating and helpful. The back of the cover states " He argues from hard evidence that the Bible is historically accurate throughout - in everything, prophetical,geographical, linguistic and doctrinal. It is well researched, and he documents all the sources of his evidence, from sources mostly kept shielded from the general public, because it does not synchronize with their views. Also very helpful in this connection is, a book by Kenneth Kitchen of Liverpool University relating to the Exodus. Similarly. the book by David Rohl "A Test of Time", has much to tell us about the archaeological evidence relating to this period . In it he shows the reliability of much of what the Bible has recorded.
Gary Bates
Kenneth Kitchen is most certainly a good scholar but he is a 'late Exodus' advocate which is not sustainable Scripturally. We know the date of the Exodus from Scripture (please read Egyptian Chronology for more on this). I appreciate Rohl's work on challenging the status quo on biblical chronology but not all views are equal. Even well-intentioned and serious evangelical scholars come up with a variety of opinions which only goes to show how extremely difficult reconciling Egyptian chronology is.
North N.
How are we to regard those who say that Moses and the time of the Patriarchs were actually incorrect and 1 Kings 6:1 actually had a typo which makes it 1,000 years later than we thought? Those who believe in another 1,000 years added to the age of the earth and the Exodus pushed back 1,000 years? Former staff from ICR Dr. Gerald E. Aardsma imposes this idea. There are many other things like Jericho which is off topic, but are dated at 1,000 years before the time they were said to take place. What are we to do about this other than doing what some say and moving the Exodus a whole 1,000 years back? Are we to not believe in the C-14 dating methods which Dr. Gerald are said to be 100% proven? This would be of much help to get a secure answer to some of this. God bless you all CMI, keep up the researching!
Gary Bates
You've raised a whole bunch of topics here but the answer is quite simple. Does one believe God's Word or not? These are typical of the arguments of those who defer to secular interpretations of the natural world and also archaeology. You have raised nothing new. Just like different interpretations of the alleged scientific facts to support evolution, archaeology and particularly Egyptian history is interpreted in similar ways. Please use the search engine on this site to research things like how carbon 14 actually refutes long ages and also in the comments below you would have seen an article reference on how to interpret Egyptian data; See Egyptian chronology: framing the issues.. Just this weekend someone challenged me about Jericho being dated at 12,000 ago. Really? That would make the ruins we have today pre-Flood (the Flood was c.2,450 BC). So, I'm sure you can see the problem. Many like to get a few extra hundred years to reconcile Egyptian dates but in my experience they know little about where the conventional dates come from, and the nature of Egyptian culture at the time. Reading the link I provided about Egypt will be useful to you.
North N.
I read the chronology article, I was wondering is there any archeological proof of Israelites in Egypt at the time said to be the Exodus? I am super confused on this, the article noted pretty well how Egyptians did not talk much about their enemies, but there must be something the Israelites left behind to signify they were in Egypt, remains of something significant or so.
Lita Cosner
The first Patterns of Evidence does a good job explaining this. Basically, people don't see evidence for the Exodus because their chronology is wrong. When you get the chronology right, you see exactly the evidence you would expect.
John W.
I can't wait to see this! I was impressed with Mahoney's Exodus presentation, especially regarding dating. I believe in the Divine Inspiration of Scripture (and the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch) but have many unanswered questions regarding seeming contra statements and standards throughout the Exodus. And not least of all is the 'problem' of the logistics of moving 2mill. people plus livestock for 40yrs in not so verdant countryside...
Therese M.
To the atheist and agnostics Professors who are adding their disbelief to our major seminaries, I would add this: Moses was raised in Pharaohs household along with his cousins, It is a safe bet, that The wealth of the Egyptian empire expanded due to the knowledge of Joseph working for them in previous generations would give rise that the pharaoh’s children and Moses had the best Tutors money could by, and he would have learned the major languages of the day, and been able to communicate in writing many. And we also have history of writing in Asia within 500 years of Noah’s landing, Thank you for the review.
Elizabeth M.
I am not an academic by any means, but need to write this as a Spirit filled Christian. Many things have happened to me over the years and this I do know from experience God is faithful and true. Has any of you ever read the Book of Enoch, found in Ethiopia and still used by several Christian Churches in the World. Little is known about this book and Enoch, but God taught Enoch to read and write. I did not know either, but God spoke one word to me one night and he knew I would follow it up. The result was I found out that The Book of Enoch was translated by a Scholar of languages into English 300 plus years ago. It gives a complete understanding of what happened in Genesis, of the Messiah coming and the end times. Ignorance causes many mistakes and is the enemy of unbelief. There are still things in this world that we do not know and will not know, there must have been language and writing that was passed down through the generations. God always kept a light alive however small it was so it was never lost completely, to be given to His chosen ones. Thank you Creation Ministries for keeping the light alive.
Gary Bates
Elizabeth, I hesitated whether or not to even publish your article or not. Presumably you wanted it published or you would not have sent it. My reason is that it is extremely difficult to respond to anyone who claims to have experiences, whether from God or not. How can one validate them or otherwise? I have quite a bit of experience dealing with this matter in my research into UFOlogy and particularly the alien abduction phenomenon. Experiences can definitely be real but are they always truthful? There is a difference. Just because an experience can be real it does not mean it is always truthful. As such, they must always line up with the Scriptures, and the Book of Enoch is not Scripture. One needs to be very careful in trying to give it equal credence as the inspired books that make up the Bible. I have read Enoch and it does give an indication of what people may have believed at the time, but there are also places where it was demonstrably wrong. If it was completely inspired it would not be incorrect in places. There is a good reason that it is not included in the Canon of Scripture. With regard to experiences I recommend you read the book Alien Intrusion, and I also wrote about the Book of Enoch in the appendix section. Last year a movie was released based upon the book and it is also now available as DVD or video download. It is called Alien Intrusion: Unmasking a Deception.
Norman P.
Reading the comments, I have some sympathy with all of them. To me, what's intriguing is that there are always counter-arguments to biblical faith, which has its own divine imprimatur, namely, the witness of the Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14). This enables us to 'see' with the eyes of godly faith, that "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Tim 3:16-17).
What is so remarkable is that God contrived to be a God who hides himself (Isaiah 45:15; 1 Corinthians 1:17ff), whilst at the same time, providing the believer with sufficient evidence to see that His word is true. Am I undermining CMI's good apologetic work? By no means: because, in an age such as this, God has mercifully provided us with a reasoned and sufficient rebuttal to the huge welter of apparent contradictions, just enough to encourage the saints to have peace that the 'mystery of the faith' (1 Timothy 3:9) is also eminently reasonable, factually based and indeed, is very truth. Concerning the book of Enoch, my hunch is that there were fragments that were genuine, that have been subsumed into the canon of scripture, but much of the rest is dubious and probably added at a much later date - certainly not worthy of inclusion in God's inspired word, being too caught up in the activities of fallen angels, and needlessly pandering to our fleshly minds.

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