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Harvard University History

Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 6 months ago


Harvard University was founded in 1636 with one instructor and nine students with the goal of establishing a school to train Christian ministers. The school was named after John Harvard, a 31-year-old clergyman from Charlestown, Massachusetts, who died and left his library and half his estate to the fledgling institution. In accordance with its original vision, Harvard adopted a set of “Rules and Precepts” in 1646 that stated the following (spelling has been modernized):


2. Let every student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the main end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life (John 17:3) and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning. And seeing the Lord only gives wisdom, Let every one seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seek it of him (Prov. 2:3).

3. Every one shall so exercise himself in reading the Scriptures twice a day, that he shall be ready to give such an account of his proficiency therein, both in theoretical observations of language and Logic, and in practical and spiritual truths, as his Tutor shall require, according to his ability; seeing the entrance of the word gives light, it gives understanding to the simple (Psalm 119:130). 


In 1692, Harvard adopted the motto Veritas Christo et Ecclesiae—“Truth for Christ and the Church.” The phrase was embedded on a shield and can be found on many buildings around the Harvard campus and various dorms in Harvard Yard.

The books on the shield represent revelation and reason. The top two books that are shown face up represent the Word of God revealed to us in the Old and New Testaments. The book on the bottom of the shield, which faces down, symbolizes the limits of reason and the need for God’s revelation.1


A second and earlier (1650) Harvard motto carried the Latin phrase, In Christi Gloriam, “For the Glory of Christ.” Samuel Eliot Morison, in his history of Harvard,  writes, “Like the Medieval schoolmen, [the founders] believed that all knowledge without Christ was vain. Veritas to them, as to Dante, meant the divine truth. . . .”2 What once was Harvard is no more. Harvard, like so many of our nation’s earliest colleges, has left its “first love” (Rev. 2:4).



1http://hcs.harvard.edu/~gsascf/shield.html2Samuel Eliot Morison, The Founding of Harvard College (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1935), 250.




Gary DeMar @ American Vision P.O. Box 220, Powder Springs, GA 30127, 800-628-9460, www.americanvision.org .


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