Powerful documentaries take on the case for the history of Scripture

By Jonathon Van Maren

For decades, the world of documentaries has been dominated by secular giants such as National Geographic and the BBC. Gone are the days when the BBC gave Christian apologists such as Malcolm Muggeridge a free hand to create films such as A Third Testament or Something Beautiful for God; now, the beautiful nature documentaries of Sir David Attenborough take the secular assumptions of our age for granted. Bible documentaries are, almost exclusively, dedicated to debunking the historical narrative of Scripture and detailing why the events once accepted as universal fact simply didn’t occur.

Of course, if the events of Scripture did not occur, then the Christian faith loses its foundation. Without a foundation, the house falls. Beautifully-produced documentaries have done much to sow skepticism and erode faith in Christianity, and there has been very little in the way of a Christian response to this challenge—especially documentaries of a quality equal to those debunking Scripture’s stories.

Recently, that has begun to change. In response to the BBC’s magnificent Planet Earth series, we have N.D. Wilson’s Riot and the Dance films, presenting Creation in the light of the Creator with stunning wildlife footage and powerful narration. And to counter the scores of documentaries utilizing Scriptural criticism as their framework, we have Timothy Mahoney’s ongoing Patterns of Evidence series.

Mahoney travels around the Middle East and across Europe and America, interviewing archaeologists, scholars, and experts on evidence for the biblical Exodus, the authorship of the Pentateuch, and the location of the Red Sea crossing. These films are not just homeschooling curriculum videos designed to convey information—they are deeply investigative, featuring interviews with scholars who disagree on everything from the location of key places to whether or not certain events actually occurred. Mahoney does the heavy lifting, and the resulting films are extremely educational and very eye-opening.

Especially fascinating is the evidence Mahoney uncovers for the biblical narrative that I’d never come across before—such as his investigation into Hebrew sojourn in Egypt, for example:

A settlement of people was found under the ancient city of Rameses that matched the story of Joseph and his family arriving in Egypt. This evidence had previously not been linked to the Bible because it was from a level that was lower (or older) than what was expected for the Israelites. The settlement started as a few houses of foreigners from the north that were allowed by Egypt to live there – just as Pharaoh allowed Joseph’s family to come in and settle in Egypt. In the middle of this settlement was a Syrian-style house, which was the type of house used in the area of Haran where Joseph’s father Jacob, and his great grandfather Abraham came from. After a while, this house was flattened and on top of it was built a royal palace, however the occupant was not an Egyptian but a high official from the Canaan/Syria area who wore a multi-colored coat. Behind the palace was a cemetery with a pyramid tomb (something usually reserved for Egyptian royals) and 11 other major tombs. All of these discoveries matched the biblical account of Pharaoh rewarding Joseph for saving Egypt and Joseph and his 11 brothers dying and being buried in the land of Egypt. And this is just one of many pieces of evidence I’ve learned about that match the history recorded in the Bible.

Mahoney’s documentaries are packed with such stories, and combined with his BBC-quality on-site footage, his films are beautiful as well as educational.

Most recently, Mahoney released the documentary The 7 Churches of Revelation: Times of Fire by director Christophe Hanauer. Hanauer investigates the backdrop of the Book of Revelation, visiting the sites of the churches mentioned in Scripture. Having recently traveled to Turkey to visit Ephesus, Smyrna, and other Christian sites, the phenomenal footage Hanauer includes makes the documentary well worth the watch. To discuss this latest project, Tim Mahoney joined me to answer a few questions.

How did you embark on the path of becoming a documentarian of biblical history and archaeology?

I have always been interested in true stories. It was while I was a junior in High School that I found myself reading ahead in the history book and that was when I realized I enjoyed learning about the past. Somehow, I knew that the past was linked to the present. It was a key to why the world is the way it is.

Later, I took a Strengths Finders test and here were some of my results as it relates to my present work concerning the biblical history and archaeology. I believe that I was created to pursue this type of work.

Strengths Insight and Action-Planning Guide – Gallup Online:

It’s very likely that you examine the past. You discover why things happened. This permits you to foresee the future. You study humankind’s story to identify subtle nuances, recurring sequences of events, and predictable human behavior. Generating clever, resourceful, inventive, and original alternatives, you can offer solutions to age-old problems.

Instinctively, you derive much pleasure from conversing with people who value history. You are intrigued by the varied philosophical views these experts have concerning the causes of events and the behavior of historic figures. Driven by your talents, you create a vision of the future by unraveling what happened in the past. You strive to understand the what, when, who, where, how, and why of events.   Your passion for reading about humankind’s ever-unfolding story allows you to feel quite comfortable in the presence of knowledgeable historians.

Ephesians 2:10 is a guide: “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

Originally, I began by making a documentary about family members and then I proceeded to get into making TV commercials which help me to create a higher quality production. Eventually, I was able to start to make longer documentaries that made it to television. One was called, The Bible Code which dealt with equal distant letter sequences in the Torah that foretold of future events. The other TV Special was a response to the DaVinci Code, it played on TBN and was called Jesus, Divine of DaVinci.

I had a sense that there was more for me to do in making films about the Bible and the very first film took 12 years to complete. It is called Patterns of Evidence: The Exodus, it was my personal journey that led to my own “crisis of faith” when I confronted scholars who stated that there wasn’t evidence for the early events of the Bible. This endeavor brought about a technique where I look at multiple viewpoints and compare them to the scripture looking for a “pattern of evidence” that would match the text.

Since this time, we have created four feature films: Patterns of Evidence: The Exodus, Patterns of Evidence: The Moses Controversy, Patterns of Evidence: The Red Sea Miracle, and Patterns of Evidence: The Red Sea Miracle II. Currently, we are working on two more films, Patterns of Evidence: Journey to Mt Sinai 1 & 2.

How did you connect with Christophe Hanauer?

I met Christophe Hanauer, a French Christian filmmaker and the founder of Millenium Productions in the last year. He was inspired by our Patterns of Evidence films which led him to produce a film series in French called The 7 Churches of Revelation.

Christophe asked me if my company, Thinking Man Films, would help him bring this topic to the world.  After much thought and prayer, I said yes, even though I wasn’t sure how we would pay for the marketing and advertising required. I also knew that we would need to make his 9-part series into a trilogy of films. And so that is what we did. The first is called, The 7 Churches of Revelation: Times of Fire.

Will you be working on more projects together? What do you have in mind?

I am very interested in working on future projects with Christophe. In fact, he has more several more films in the 7 Churches series to complete. The next film will hope will be coming out in 2022. But Christophe has a list of films, and we will be talking and planning for these other films in the near future.

Why are these projects important?

These projects testify to the historical truth of the Bible. And they also are using the currency of the culture with is film and video. People don’t read as much as they use to do and so making films is an important strategy if we are going to have a “dialogue with the world”.

How do you manage to produce films that are BBC-level in documentary quality?

I have grown up in a family where quality was always the standard. Everything had to be done with as much excellence as possible. And much of my character and that of my own staff has been condition to make productions at the highest level possible. Often, it meant working at the writing, filming, and editing until it was at a world-class level. This takes both the gift of creativity and the discipline and hard work of quality. But there does come a time when you have to say. “It is finished” and move on to the next project.

Can you share some upcoming projects with our readers?

We have slated more patterns of evidence films for the future. The next in the series is a two-part film, Patterns of Evidence: Journey to Mt Sinai. Fortunately, we have most of the footage already filmed and now it is a matter of writing and editing.

What is the most surprising fact about the Bible that you’ve learned since you started?

For me, the connection to the alphabet and the word of God is one of the most important pieces of evidence I have seen. This was uncovered in our film The Moses Controversy. I was investigating the question of whether Moses could have written the first books of the Bible and would ultimately learn about the beginning of the phonetic alphabet called, Proto Sinaitic. Many believe that this earliest form of the alphabet is Hebrew, the language of the Israelites.

Without an alphabet, it would have been difficult for people to know the commands of God and teach them to their children which was commanded in Deut. 6:6-8 NIV

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.

What has been uncovered and continues to be discovered is the amazing archaeological connection to the Israelites and the Bible. This is breakthrough material, and we are just learning more about it. And if you look at the connections to the word of God and what the apostle John writes in the Gospel of John versus 1-5:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it.

So this connection to the archaeological evidence, the alphabet and the fact that knowing God is connected to know his Word is one of the most powerful revelations I have had in making these films.

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