Harvard University, ranked number one in the world, was founded in 1636 by John Harvard, a Christian minister. Harvard was the first university established in America, and it was originally a seminary (a college focused on training spiritual ministers or pastors). This history is reflected in the many chapels on campus for reading the Bible and prayer. For example, Harvard Yard has a Christian church at its center.
John Harvard was one of several Puritans, an early Christian group, who founded Harvard to train students in the Bible. These words from the founders remain etched in stone on a gate leading into Harvard: “After God had carried us safe to New England, and we had builded [sic] our houses, provided necessaries for our livelihood, reared convenient places for God’s worship, and settled the civil government, 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 church when our present ministers shall lie in the dust.”
Harvard’s original crest includes Latin words that mean “Truth for Christ and the Church.” The crest shows the Latin word for truth, “Veritas,” spread across three Bibles. These Bibles represent God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit. The Latin words “Christo Et Ecclesiae” (for Christ and the Church) unravel in a scroll surrounding this crest.
In its early days, students at Harvard had to agree to “Rules and Precepts,” which included: “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.”
Harvard has shaped and informed our definition of a university. Its graduates include presidents, world leaders, and innovators in science and health. Harvard has the largest academic and private library in the world. All because a group of faithful Christians gave their lives and fortunes to establish Harvard as a Bible-training university.