Junior Karl Berg, a history major, has shown interest in biblical archeology for most of his life, working actively on history projects since he was in middle school. For the first time, Berg is traveling to the Jezreel Valley in Israel for hands-on experience in the archeology and history that has held his passion for so long.
“For me, exploring archeology and exploring the past makes the faith come alive in different ways than you might expect,” Berg said. “If Christianity is true, then it will be grounded in and backed up by archeology.”
In July, with the Tel Shimron Excavations, Berg will learn from and work alongside archeology experts from Ivy-League colleges, including Harvard University and Dartmouth College. The team of excavators will be the first to break ground on Tel Shimron in the Jezreel Valley.
“The most amazing thing is that I’ve always pictured all these biblical events taking place in certain scenery and none of my expectations differed from what I saw,” Berg said. “It looked exactly how I expected it to, fitting in place with the Scripture that always lives out in my mind. It was almost a homecoming.”
Since he was 11 years old, Berg has been working on a Christian apologetics project focusing on ancient culture. He said his vision is to peel back the layers of time between the modern world and the first century to encourage people to explore the ancient world with first-century eyes.
“We skim over at 30,000 feet and don’t get the details,” Berg said.
When economy and wealth — common causes for war and conflict through history — are applied to biblical narrative, the familiar stories become more believable.
Berg said in the ancient world, the two wealthiest places were Egypt and Mesopotamia. The only way to travel between them without the brutal deserts destroying the caravan was to follow a trade route that hugs the Mediterranean and takes the traveler north and east into Israel through various mountain passes which converge into the valley. As a result, the Jezreel Valley was one of the most fought-over and developed places. Having control of this trade and military center meant controlling all the wealth pouring in from Egypt and Mesopotamia. Solomon gained his wealth after he grasped power over the valley. He fortified the ancient city of Tel Megiddo, and the gates he built on the nearby mound remain to this day.
“Reading through the Bible, we don’t always recognize economic motives,” Berg said. “When we read about the Philistines attacking, we think they’re just the bad guys. But they were actually trying to control this trade spot. Saul and his sons died in the Jezreel Valley fighting to control the trade route.”
Kenneth Calvert, history professor and headmaster of Hillsdale Academy, said archeology cannot be excluded from ancient history.
“This is a great experience for any student to understand how archeology is done, and to understand what truly amazing things are to be found,” Calvert said. “Inscriptions, texts, and pieces of ancient lives are to be found.”
Berg said his greatest goal is to look into the lives of the ancients as a way of understanding and experiencing the Christian faith.
Professor of Classics Joseph Garnjobst spent four seasons excavating in Athens, Greece, and said standing in the famous locations one reads about makes the history real.
“To be in those places and see how the actual place operated according to our reconstruction gives it a little more life than one gets from the page,” Garnjobst said.
In June 2016, after his 10 years of research, Berg launched a website: fightfinishkeep.org. Berg said his anticipated trip to Tel Shimron will add tangible experience to his vision, allowing him to show the accuracy of biblical narrative through the lens of historical discoveries.
“There are a lot of historical finds that back up the Scriptures,” Berg said. “It’s uncanny, and there’s a lot that brings out the reality.You get the little details that really don’t matter in the large scheme of things, but they just add to the full picture.”