Harvard University was founded in 1636 with the intention of establishing a school to train Christian ministers. In accordance with that vision, Harvard’s “Rules and Precepts,” adopted in 1646, stated (original spelling and Scriptural references retained):
“2. Let every Student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the maine 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 bottome, as the only foundation of all soundknowledge and Learning. And seeing the Lord only giveth wisedome, Let every one seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seeke it of him (Prov. 2:3).
3. Every one shall so exercise himselfe in reading the Scriptures twice a day, that he shall be ready to give such an account of his proficiency therein, both in Theoreticall observations of Language and Logick, 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).”
The motto of the University adopted in 1692 was “Veritas Christo et Ecclesiae” which translated from Latin means “Truth for Christ and the Church.” This phrase was embedded on a shield as shown to the right, and can be found on many buildings around campus including the Widener library, Memorial Church, and various dorms in Harvard Yard. Interestingly, the top two books on the shield are face up while the bottom book is face down. This symbolizes the limits of reason, and the need for God’s revelation. With the secularization of the school, the current shield now contains only the word “Veritas” with three open books.