Beyond Today host Darris McNeely sits down with filmmaker Tim Mahoney, the writer and director behind the “Patterns of Evidence” series and the new film "Journey to Mount Sinai Part 2." Mr. Mahoney discusses how archaeology can positively impact your faith and belief in Scripture.
[Darris] Welcome to part two of "Beyond Today" interviews. Once again, we have Tim Mahoney, the film producer with Thinking Man Films on our set here today. And we're discussing his latest film, "Journey to Mount Sinai II," which is coming out in mid-May of 2023, where he takes us on a journey and a quest through the area of the Exodus to what he feels is the actual location of the Biblical Mount Sinai.
Man 1: It is the only mountain that has this very ancient Jewish tradition that says, "This is the real Mount Sinai."
Man 2: The characteristics of Mount Sinai described in the Bible match the characteristics of a volcano exactly.
Woman: There's about 40,000 rock inscriptions, and there's about 1,300 archeological sites.
Man 3: There was so much evidence, it felt like I walked into something that was 3,500 years old, undisturbed.
[Darris] You know, since we had you here a few years ago and talked, there's been a tremendous change in our world. We've gone through a pandemic. We are in the midst of a cultural, technological, political, new sexual revolution with transgender. And the last two years have seen things unveiled, if you will, that were unspoken before and what is happening to our culture.
And many astute observers are looking at this and asking some very penetrating questions about what is happening. And they see an abandonment of God, they see an abandonment of law, Biblical law, the commandments. And again, this gets right down to what you were talking about here with this. These matters are having a huge impact on our age.
And as you look at...as I look at what you're doing, and you bring people to Mount Sinai in your view, and we look at what was done on Mount Sinai, how do you view what was actually given in the commandments of God on Mount Sinai and the implication of that to the world we're living in, and the implication of that? Because when you talk about plagues, Exodus has a parallel in the Book of Revelation regarding plagues that God says will come down in a time of judgment upon all the nations. So, how does that drive what you're doing? How do you see that, and the implications?
[Tim] Well, I think that for me, and as I've been looking at it, is that I have to understand that God wants to have...wants me to make a covenant with Him. I mean, to really trust Him with my life and to follow His commands. And I think that the issue of the Israelites at that mountain, they were also called, and what I learned from this film is that one of the reasons we were created is to worship God.
And they were called, the very thing that Moses was told, he says, "You know, who should I say is sending me?" He says, "I AM that I AM." He gives the name of God. And I think for all of us, whatever century we're born in, we have to know that there is an I AM that I AM, and that He is calling us to Himself. And I was profoundly, after all the detail of the journey and all of this stuff...
You know, when you travel, there's all sorts of details. When you get to the destination, God wants to meet the people. He tells 'em to wash their clothes and prepare to meet Him. And they're gonna worship Him, and He's gonna speak to them. And when He does speak to them, His voice is so terrifying that they can't take it anymore.
And so, in this particular location, they know who their God is. And I think where we're at right now is it's easy to hear other voices and other things in this culture, and we don't hear the voice of the Lord. And we have to know that He is the God. He is the only one that we need to pay attention to. And I think that there'll be pressures on all of us to accept the way... In fact, the Israelites had those pressures in Egypt, right, to worship the Egyptian gods and to...
[Darris] And the first thing they did was to make a golden calf.
[Tim] Yeah. Yeah. Here they make this agreement that they're gonna serve only God, the first commandment, right? They're, you know, to love the Lord your God, and they turn away. Not all of them, once again. It was about 3000 that turned away from God immediately. I mean, it didn't take long. And I think that where we're at today is that...what I'm coming away from this film, making this film, what I've learned is that God is calling us in order to basically endure what we're gonna be dealing with in the future, we need to spend time worshiping Him.
[Darris] Would you say that... Which is more important, getting the location right or getting right what was given on top of that mountain?
[Tim] I think that for a long time, people, it's more important to get what's right on that mountain.
[Darris] What was given.
[Tim] What was given. I think that that is really, really key because a lot of people didn't know for sure, but I think there's another reason why it's important to get their location right. And that has to do with the people who says it didn't happen and the people that say there's no evidence for this.
I was at a meeting with a businessman 20 years ago, and I was talking to him about this. And the Holy Spirit can use archeological evidence in a unique way. And I don't know that he was a believer, but I showed him pictures and I showed him evidence, and he looked at me and said, "If this is true, it changes everything."
There's a lot of prodigals out there. There's a lot of people who have basically found reasons to dismiss the truth of God's word. And it's very possible, and I've seen it happen many, many times, that God uses, the Holy Spirit uses evidence like this to convict someone to the point where they say, "I can't run from this anymore." And so, I think that there's a reason now...for some reason, there's a reason that this will testify. And there's Exodus explorers that have come from all over the world that have started looking for this. What compelled them? In fact, Jim...
[Darris] What compelled the explorers you're talking about?
[Tim] Right. What compelled them? Very interesting, Dr. Lennart Möller, who's passed away, and Jim Caldwell, both were compelled from different parts of the world. Now, very funny, unique situation is Jim basically climbed that mountain, just felt like he had to photograph it, he had to document it. He and his wife, Penny, went there searching for the location. And he got to that mountain on his birthday, he climbed it.
And Dr. Möller said, "Well, when was your birthday?" And it turned out that they both were born the same day, the same year. Two men from different parts of the world both had this passion and calling to search for Mount Sinai. There's people from Australia, there's people from Korea, there's people from France, there's people all over the world that feel this compulsion to search for evidence and then to testify to the world that this is true, for whatever reason.
And it might have to do with the nation of Israel, whatever reason, is gonna happen because we know, and the prophets tell us that in the future, Jerusalem will be like a stone. You know, the nations will injure themselves trying to deal with it. And we're facing stuff that I don't think a lot of us quite grasp. And I think that going back to understanding these earlier ideas and principles and narratives of the Bible, and knowing that they're true, I think God is giving us this opportunity to really hang onto it so that we can share it with our family and say, "This is what truth is."
[Darris] How would you describe, in your interaction with archeologists, whether it's, let's say Israeli or even American archeologists who go to those lands, what's the state of archeology today with what they are finding? Anyone, even an armchair archeologist who follows these studies recognizes that there's continual finds that are being brought out. How's that having an impact upon the field and personally with those whom you know who are working in that field connecting their ideas to the Bible?
[Tim] Well, let's just take Dr. Scott Stripling. He believes that there's Gerizim and...
[Darris] Mount Gerizim.
[Tim] ...Mount Ebal. I was on Gerizim years ago filming. And he went to Mount Ebal.
[Darris] Now, just for our audience, we're moving into the time of the conquest under Joshua.
[Darris] We're beyond Moses at this point.
[Tim] That's right. It's a very difficult location to deal with because it's in the...I believe it's in the Palestinian...
[Darris] Palestinian area.
[Tim] Area, yep. And so, they went to the place. And they have got new techniques where they use water.
[Darris] Water sifting.
[Tim] And they sift with water. And it just so happened that a person who is very trained in this recognized something very small, and it turned into becoming one of the greatest finds of the century, which is a curse tablet. And Dr. Peter van der Veer also was able to look at it. And that's the reason why I think making the Moses controversy for me was important because it's about the connection between the alphabet and the early Israelites. And this has to go back to, Darris, the issue of chronology. If people don't think the Israelites lived when the Bible says they lived, but much later, they're not gonna find any evidence. They're not seeing all those connections.
[Darris] Because they're more than 200 years off.
[Tim] Yeah. Right. And so, this then goes to, you know, dealing with interpretation. And many archeologists have been biased against the Bible, and they've been interpreting the Bible, you know, having to be... They basically have reinterpreted when the events should be, and it's not when the Bible says they were supposed to be. And so, as a filmmaker, what I'm doing, is I'm just shedding a light on that, and I'm showing, "Well, look at this pattern here, look at the pattern for the alphabet." And we're gonna be, in the future, moving forward to looking at this curse tablet as well when we get to the conquest.
[Darris] So, with your work, you mentioned Scott Stripling and his curse tablet on Mount Ebal. And he's done some other work at Shiloh.
[Darris] That is quite interesting. And others who are working in this field verifying the biblical record. They're working in a political environment, first of all, in the state of Israel that is quite unique with their challenges, but also, they're facing, let's say, the academic environment that is biased against the Bible, God. How's all this working out? Who's winning? The minimalists or the literalists, as you view it from your perspective, the knowledge of those that are working in this field with all that's taking place right now?
[Tim] Well, there's different schools. And even in Israel, there's the Tel Aviv School, which is more minimalist, and then there's the Jerusalem archeologists that are more Bible, you know, supportive. And as far as who's winning, I'm not sure in the sense that... But I believe that having an argument that there's no evidence for something is a weak argument compared to one that says, "We see a connection here."
And I think that's the reason why the professionalism that Dr. Scott Stripling does at his sites and his team, it's in excellence. He's one of the top archeologists. Randall Price also at the Dead Seas Scrolls at Qumran. Those are two fantastic archeologists who I think are greatly respected and they are doing amazing work in this area. And they just need to get more support, you know? But I think that they...because of the professionalism and because of how they're communicating it, they're not overreaching, they're actually showing a great amount of support for the Biblical narrative
[Darris] Then I would add the work that's being done at Tell el-Hammam to redefine the Biblical Sodom that is unearthing quite a bit of information, and again, creating a great deal of interest, controversy, discussion within those fields as well. What keeps people from going beyond the academic and embracing the Bible and a personal faith in God, what's keeping that...would keep that from happening in some of these areas, some of these people?
[Tim] Well, I think that what I've heard in some of my interviews is that if an archeologist sees evidence for the Bible and he were to promote it, it would cost him his job. And so, there's political pressure with archeologists not to do anything biblical and not to do anything that's supportive. And Professor Juris Zarins, who I filmed, he was...he did the survey of Northwest Saudi Arabia. He said that, you know, archeologists talk about biblical stuff all the time. He goes, "Oh, yeah. But we can't talk about this, we can't talk about this." And he said, "But you know what? I'm getting close to retirement. I don't care anymore because I see these evidences here."
And I think that... So, they're the ones that I just want 'em to be truthful and be courageous, you know? They will tell us what's going on here. And so, there are a number of archeologists that are supportive of the archeology of the Bible. And I think that there's more fines and it's more exciting, the things that are coming out. And that's why I'm... I think my goal and my role as a filmmaker is to take you to those locations, to meet those scholars, and to give them a voice in the world of media. And that's why we're making these Patterns Of Evidence films.
Voiceover: Join me as I conclude my 20-year search for which mountain best matches the biblical event in "Patterns of Evidence: Journey to Mount Sinai II," a nationwide theatrical fathom event, May 15th and 17th. Get tickets now.
[Darris] What do you want the average person viewing your films to learn, to walk away with?
[Tim] God's word is true.
[Darris] God's word is true.
[Tim] And I think that... Now, there are some locations that actually have similar artifacts, and are we looking at these locations? Well, you know, the Israelites didn't stay in one place. They wandered in the wilderness. And it's possible that they were at more than one location and they're wandering. And I think that that's a possible answer for why there are interests in more than one mountain, that as the Israelites moved around, they might have repeated some of the things that they were doing. And there's more...I should tell you that there's more coming that is very fascinating.
[Darris] In your Mount Sinai II, or future work?
[Tim] After joining the Mount Sinai, we're gonna go to the covenant and the conquest, and we're gonna be going into the...what happened. And yeah, there's more archeology that hasn't been seen, and that I think connects the... And the story keeps getting stronger and stronger. And for people of faith, I think these are... Our films have been sharable. We're trying to make them so that others can share 'em with their family, share 'em with their children or their uncle that is not sure, you know, and have a discussion about 'em, and basically see that there's a pattern of evidence. And I trust that the Holy Spirit will work within all that.
[Darris] There's a compelling quote that I know you're familiar with given several years ago by the journalist, Ted Koppel. He gave a commencement speech at Duke University. And in that, he interjected a remarkable statement. He said what Moses brought down from Mount Sinai were not the 10 suggestions, they are commandments. "Are," he said, not were.
The brilliance of the commandments is that they codify, in a handful of words, acceptable human behavior, not just for then or now, but for all time. And, of course, the Bible chronicles the difficulty the Israelites had in obeying that. That's essentially their whole Old Testament history. They could not... They kept going back into idolatry. And as I brought out earlier, we're in an age now where, and you mentioned, the idol of self is rearing itself in some insidious ways in our culture. Are the 10 commandments and the actual spirit of that law the solution that can remove these problems that we're facing today in our world?
[Tim] Well, absolutely. I mean, I think that... But how does that happen? In other words, I think we have two questions. Is there a God, or am I my own God? And the culture really wants to basically give everyone the opportunity that they're their own god.
[Darris] That's right.
[Tim] And they can rule the world they want. They can imagine...
[Darris] That's probably the biggest golden calf of history, is self.
[Tim] Right. Right. You know, if you look at right from the beginning, Cain and Abel, right? Cain wanted to do things his way, and Abel wanted to do things God's way. And right from the start, there's two different approaches. And I think that for whatever reason, some people yield to God's demands and other people resist it. And I believe that we have to be careful. And that's why it's important, I think, that we pray that the Holy Spirit would soften people's hearts.
[Darris] Jesus spoke to a woman at a well in Samaria, and He talked about a mountain upon where people worship God. And He said that time is coming when those who worship God will worship Him in spirit and in truth. What discovery, is it Mount Sinai, is it some...is it a curse tablet? Is it something else? Some people think maybe the ark of the covenant, or even the ark itself, the ark of Noah. What is it that would yet be discovered or could be discovered, some physical relic that would change the heart of men? Is there anything, in your opinion?
[Tim] I actually think that for some people, it will. For me, I remember when I saw straw in mud bricks, the Lord caused me to have great joy, because I realized that the Israelites were making mud bricks with mud and straw. Just seeing the straw being there in Egypt and looking at that, I just...my heart leaped and said, "Lord, Your word is true."
For others, I had a man who was gonna commit suicide during the COVID time, and he decided he would watch a movie before he took his life. And he went on Amazon and he ended up finding "Patterns Of Evidence: The Moses Controversy." And he watched it, and he goes, "Wow. This is true. God's word is true." And then he watched another one, "The Exodus," and he sent an email and said, "I decided... Tell Tim Mahoney that he saved my life." He says, "I didn't believe that God existed and that there was any hope, and then I watched these films."
You see, we don't know what it will be, but we do know that, at that moment, the Holy Spirit has to enter into that situation and convict, or enlighten, or whatever. And so, as much as I might make a film, and for some person, it might...it's like the Bible says, the seed is, you know, thrown on good ground, and it's thrown on rocky ground, and thorny ground, and hard ground.
And I often wondered when, you know, Jesus came, and here, the Son of God is here and He's healing people and He's speaking to people, and even then, many didn't see it. They couldn't see it. And I go, "Well, it doesn't get any better than that, you know?" So, each one of us have been given projects or things to do. And for me, it's been to make these films, and I just want to be faithful making them so that whatever part of that film testifies, or encourages, or helps to bring clarity to the truth of God's word, then I've been obedient to that. And some people will have great faith, and sometimes it's hard to know where that will happen.
[Darris] Ultimately, it comes down to God is calling, and everyone's response to that. Tim, we do appreciate the work that you are doing and have done in your "Patterns Of Evidence" to tackle these questions and to bring some clarity. I encourage all of us that are watching "Beyond Today" in our audience to check out these films that Tim Mahoney has done, the Thinking Man Films, the latest one, "Mount Sinai II," coming out in mid-May of 2023, and on his site Thinking Man Films and "Patterns Of Evidence." You can find all the work that he has done. And I think that they...a study of those will help in understanding the topic and also showing evidence that God's word is true. That's "Beyond Today" interviews. Thanks for watching.