WASHINGTON, D.C. — The 8-month-old Museum of the Bible doesn’t just boast ancient scrolls and 2,000-year-old pottery shards. Among its many displays and exhibits are commentaries on the intersection of the Bible and higher education, and the modern lack there of.
The Bible used to be the most assigned “textbook” at early American universities.
“Many of today’s elite universities were originally established to train Protestant leaders, especially clergymen,” states one display. “In 1636, the founders of Harvard, the first colonial college to open its doors, stated their purpose: ‘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.'”
“Colonial governments established nine colleges,” the display continued. “Influential clergymen presided over all of these fledgling institutions, which considered knowledge of the Bible as basic to education. Each college offered a robust curriculum in classical languages, theology, science, law, and other subjects.”
But that legacy is long forgotten, with a museum display noting these institutions have “evolved into secular universities.”
One example cited is Yale: “Congregationalist ministers founded Yale; its early curriculum focused on theology, sacred languages and the Bible.”
Georgetown University is also mentioned: “The first U.S. Catholic university followed the Jesuit principle that instruction in all subjects should reflect the Bible’s message of redemption.”
A “hidden in plain sight” display notes how university seals are steeped in Biblical tradition as well.
Take Columbia University’s seal: “God’s name in Hebrew radiates above an enthroned lady holding an open Bible on which is written, in Greek, ‘the words of life’ (Acts 7:38). The school’s motto, In Lumine Tuo Videbimus Lumen, ‘In thy light we shall see light’ (Psalm 36:9), arcs across the top. The woman says, in Hebrew, ‘God is my light,’ an adaption of Psalm 27:1.”
And here’s a fun but forgotten fact: UC Berkeley “is named for the philosopher and Church of Ireland bishop George Berkeley. Its seal features the verse from Genesis 1:3, ‘Let there be light.'”
Today’s universities have long since abandoned — and even rejected — their Biblical roots.
IMAGES: Photos taken at Museum of the Bible