The Exodus is one of the best-known narratives in the Bible. It details the Israelites' escape from Egypt after centuries of slavery, Moses' rise to leadership, the devastating plagues on Egypt, and the miraculous Red Sea crossing. Yet many, maybe even the majority, of archaeologists and historians insist there is no evidence that the biblical Exodus ever occurred. This debate is the subject of the award-winning documentary Patterns of Evidence: Exodus that has an encore presentation this Thursday.1
"Absence of evidence," however, does not necessarily indicate "evidence of absence." Past historians who charged the Bible with error, because extra-biblical evidence for something described in the Bible was not yet in hand, have been shown to be wrong when evidence corroborating that specific Bible history was eventually uncovered. The numerous references to the Hittites in the Old Testament is a classic example: Critics thought the Hittites didn't exist, but were shown to be wrong once archaeological evidence for the existence of this people group was eventually found.2
That being said, however, it would be genuinely surprising if at least some corroborating evidence for events as monumental as the Exodus and the conquest of Canaan did not remain intact, even after thousands of years. Hence, biblical critics claim that the supposed "absence of evidence" for the Exodus is evidence that the Exodus never actually happened.
If the critics were right, the implications for the Christian faith would be devastating. It would mean that the books of Exodus and Joshua which describe the Israelites' departure from Egypt and the conquest of Canaan, respectively, are works of fiction. It would also mean, hypothetically, that the Lord Jesus was clearly wrong when he treated Moses and the Exodus as real history (Mark 12:26, Luke 20:37, John 6:32). And what would this imply about Jesus' claims to deity?
Conservative scholars have long argued that abundant corroborating historical evidence for the Exodus and conquest of Canaan does exist, but that skeptical historians and archaeologists do not recognize it because this evidence is found earlier in Egyptian history than they expect. Perhaps significant revisions in the "standard" Egyptian chronology are in order.3
Filmmaker Timothy Mahoney's award-winning documentary Patterns of Evidence: Exodus does an excellent job presenting this evidence to a wide audience. While Mahoney allows viewers to render their own verdicts, the evidence he presents is so strong that it's difficult to avoid the conclusion that biblical critics simply are not being objective in their evaluation of the historical data. Mahoney presents jaw-dropping corroboration for the historical Joseph, the sojourn of the Israelites in Egypt, their descent into slavery, the plagues on Egypt, and the destruction of Jericho. Two of our sister creation ministries have already endorsed the movie, with minor caveats.4,5
It is not known at this point whether the documentary will see a wide release, but an encore presentation at select theaters is scheduled for this Thursday, January 29th—a DVD and book are also available for online pre-ordering.6 While ICR cannot unreservedly endorse the book (not having yet reviewed it), if it is anything like the movie, it is likely a helpful apologetics resource.
Finally, it should be noted that this is not the only instance in which a flawed chronology has been used to attack the veracity of Scripture. Just as secular historians insist that there is no evidence for the Exodus (despite a clear "pattern of evidence" that fits the Bible's description of these events), so do secular geologists insist that there is no evidence for the worldwide Flood as described in Genesis. Yet even they acknowledge the evidence for immense flooding on at least a regional scale, complete with the remains of literally billions of plants and animals catastrophically buried in water-deposited rock layers all over the Earth.7,8 Yet they dismiss this evidence because of a fictitious history of "millions of years" that has been imposed upon the data.
Hopefully, Mr. Mahoney's documentary will encourage Christians to be less willing to uncritically accept the claims of biblical critics. We can implicitly trust the Bible, even its earliest chapters.
- Fathom Events Encore Presentation of 'Patterns of Evidence: The Exodus' Confirmed for Thursday, January 29. CNBC. Posted on www.cnbc.com January 22, 2015, accessed January 23, 2015.
- Wilson, C.A. 1977. Rocks, Relics and Biblical Reliability. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 41.
- Bates, G. 2014. Egyptian Chronology and the Bible – framing the issues. Posted on www.creation.com September 2, 2014, accessed January 15, 2015.
- Bates, G. 2015. Patterns of evidence: Exodus. A review. Posted on www.creation.com on January 15, 2015,accessed January 20, 2015.
- Mitchell, E. 2015. Movie Review: Patterns of Evidence: The Exodus. Posted on www.answersingenesis.org January 17, 2015, accessed January 20, 2015.
- The film's website: www.patternsofevidence.com/en/, accessed January 20, 2015.
- Thomas, B. 2012. Flood Explains 'Worldwide Pattern' in Ancient Rock. Creation Science Update. Posted April 11, 2012, accessed January 20, 2015.
- Morris, J. D. 1989. When Did the Fossils Die? Acts & Facts. 18 (10).
*Dr. Hebert is Research Associate at the Institute for Creation Research and received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Texas at Dallas.
Article posted January 26, 2015.