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History of Harvard

History of Harvard – Puritan Foundation
The history of Harvard University begins in 1630, when the Puritans settled Boston and immediately made plans for the establishment of a college to train ministers of the gospel. Harvard was officially born in 1636 and took up John 17:3 as its first goal: “And this is life eternal, that they know Thee to be the only very God and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent” (The Geneva Bible).

Even to this day, the true goal and history of Harvard is etched in stone: “[One] of the next things we longed for and looked after was to advance learning and perpetuate it to posterity; dreading to leave an illiterate ministry to the churches, when our present ministers shall lie in the dust.”1

History of Harvard – Teaching Truth
The history of Harvard is grounded in one of its earliest supporters, Rev. John Harvard. Harvard donated books and money for the founding of the new Puritan college in the Boston area, but died young of tuberculosis. Even today, there is a large statue in the school’s quad of Rev. Harvard seated with a gigantic book open on his lap. It is, of course, the Bible. The original motto of Harvard was (in Latin): “Truth for Christ and the Church.” In the twentieth century, when Harvard became more secularized, they cut the last part of the phrase, so the motto is only “Truth” (Veritas). Of course, it was not secularism that produced Harvard, but Christianity.

History of Harvard – The Point of Higher Education
The history of Harvard continues with the “Harvard College Laws” of 1642 (from “New England’s First Fruits”). They quote a few Scriptures to show what the point of all their study is: to know God better. For example:

    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 seeing the Lord only gives wisdom, let everyone seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seek it of Him (Proverbs 2:3).

    3. Everyone 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 the language and the logic, and in practical and spiritual truths, as his tutor shall require, according to his ability; seeing the entrance of the word giveth light, it giveth understanding, to the simple (Psalm 119:130).2

History of Harvard – Christian Roots, Secular Future
The true history of Harvard University is Christian. In fact, Harvard was essentially Christian longer than it has been secular. There is still some Christianity present, but it is not the dominant force by any means. But again, secularism did not produce this great institution, the religion of Jesus did.

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Rendered with permission from The Book that Made America Great: How the Bible Formed Our Nation,Jerry Newcombe (Nordskog Publishing, 2009). Compliments of Jerry Newcomb. All rights reserved in the original.

  1. Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7,700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times(Rockville, MD: Assurance Publishers, 1984), 158.
  2. “New England’s First Fruits,” 1642, in The Annals of America (Chicago et al.: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1976), 1:176.

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