His father was a butcher and owner of Queen's Head Inn and Tavern.
John Harvard was born in London and baptized on November 29, 1607, in the old St. Savior's Parish near the London Bridge (present-day Southwark Cathedral).
Most of his family died when a plague swept England in 1625.
The same year, Muslim Corsair pirates sailed up the Thames River and raided England.
Giles Milton wrote White Gold: The Extraordinary Story of Thomas Pellow and North Africa's One Million European Slaves (UK: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd, 2004), that the Islamist pirates attacked the coast of Cornwall, captured 60 villagers at Mount's Bay and 80 at Looe.
The attacked Lundy Island in Bristol Channel and raised the standard of Islam.
By the end of 1625, over 1,000 English subjects were sent to the slave markets of Sale, Morocco.
Pilgrim Governor William Bradford wrote that in 1625, the Pilgrims sent back to London two ships of filled with dried fish and beaver skins to trade, and one was captured by the Turks:
"Two fishing ships ... with corfish ... and ... 800 lbs. of beaver, as well as other furs, to a good value from the plantation ... went joyfully home ... till they were well within the England channel ...
But even there she was unhapply taken by a Turkish man-of-war and carried off to Saller [Morocco], where the captain and crew were made slaves ...
Thus all their hopes were dashed and the joyful news they meant to carry home was turned to heavy tidings ...
In the big ship Captain Myles Standish ... arrived at a very bad time ... a plague very deadly in London ... and now by the ship taken by the Turks ... that all trade was dead."
John Harvard's motherand surviving brother died not long after the plague, leaving John the entire family estate.
John is believed to have attended the grammar school at St. Savior's, where the rector, Nicholas Morton, would have diligently prepared him for acceptance into Cambridge, a amazing achievement for someone of the commoner class.
John Harvard entered Cambridge's Emmanuel College, known for its Puritan views, the same school where Connecticut founder Rev. Thomas Hooker attended.
John Harvard received his bachelor's degree in 1632 and his master's degree in 1635.
He was later memorialized by a stained glass window in Emmanuel College chapel.
A classmate of John Harvard at Emmanuel College was John Sadler.
Sadler became London's town clerk, a Member of Parliament, and private secretary to Oliver Cromwell.
John Sadler was a contemporary of other notable figures, such as:
Samuel Hartlib, and
John Sadler's sister was Ann, with whom John Harvard fell in love.
Harvard married Ann Sadler at St. Michael the Archangel Church in 1636, the same year the College at Cambridge was founded in Massachusetts.
John Sadler was a Puritan who was also a student of Hebrew, called a "Christian Hebraist."
In 1649, Sadler wrote The Rights of the Kingdom, which examined ancient Israel's influence on the British Commonwealth, particularly the separation of powers.
During this time after the Renaissance and Reformation, there was a "Hebrew Revival" among Protestant and Catholic scholars.
They studied the ancient Israel, especially the first 400 year period in the Promised Land before Israel got its first king--Saul.
Christian Hebraists studied:
the self-governing ancient Hebrew republic;
the Hebrew language;
Jewish historian Josephus (37–100);
the Jerusalem Talmud (2nd century AD);
the Babylonian Talmud (4th century AD);
Jewish philosopher Maimonides (1135–1204); and
Christian Hebraists included:
Thomas Erastus (1524–1583);
Bonaventure Vulcanius (1535–1614);
Joseph Scaliger (1540–1609);
Johannes van den Driesche (1550–1616);
Isaac Casaubon (1559–1614);
Johannes Buxtorf (1564–1629);
Daniel Heinsius (1580–1655);
Hugo Grotius (1583–1645);
John Selden (1584–1654);
Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679);
James Harrington (1611–1677);
Carlo Sigonio (1524-1584) who published De Republica Hebraeorum(The Republic Hebrew) in 1582;
Petrus Cunaeus (1586–1638), who published De Republica Hebraeorum (The Hebrew Republic) in 1617;
Jesuit Giovanni Stefano Menochio (1575-1655) who published De republica Hebraeorum (The Republic Hebrew) in 1648.
Claude Fleury wrote in The Manners of the Ancient Israelites (1681):
"The Israelites were perfectly free. They enjoyed the liberty cherished by Greece and Rome. Such was the purpose of God."
E.C. Wines wrote in Commentaries on the Laws of the Ancient Hebrews (NY: Geo. P. Putnam & Co., 1853):
"Of those great ideas, which constituted the basis of the Hebrew state, was liberty ...
The Hebrew people enjoyed as great a degree of personal liberty, as can ever be combined with an efficient and stable government."
In England,the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge taught Hebrew.
In America, Harvard students were required to study Hebrew. In 1685, Harvard had a commencement address delivered in the Hebrew language.
Yale, Dartmouth, Columbia, and other early American colleges had requirements for students to learn Hebrew.
Yale has Hebrew letters on its Coat-of-Arms.
In 1722, Harvard hired Judah Monis, its first full-time Hebrew instructor, who published A Grammar of the Hebrew Tongue (1735) - the first Hebrew textbook published in North America.
Jefferson stated in his Second Inaugural, March 4, 1805:
"I shall need, too, the favor of that Being in whose hands we are, who led our forefathers, as ISRAEL of old."
Harvard President Samuel Langdon state June 5, 1788:
"The ISRAELITES may be considered as a pattern to the world in all ages ... (of) government ... on republican principles."
David Ben Gurion stated:
"No city in the world, not even Athens or Rome, ever played as a great a role in the life of a nation for so long a time, as Jerusalem has done in the life of the Jewish people."
Columnist Don Feder gave an address to the Friends of Israel, titled "America & Israel–Two Nations Joined At the Heart" (Grand Rapids, MI, May 15, 2014):
"More than Athens ... more than Roman Law, and English Common Law – Israel shaped America."
In 2011, Eric Nelson published The Hebrew Republic--Jewish Sources and the Transformation of European Political Thought(Harvard University Press) in which he provides evidence that political thought in early-modern Europe was the Christian encounter with Hebrew sources that provoked this radical transformation.
The book description reads:
"During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Christian scholars began to regard the Hebrew Bible as a political constitution designed by God for the children of Israel. Newly available rabbinic materials became authoritative guides to the institutions and practices of the perfect republic ...
Nelson identifies three transformative claims introduced into European political theory by the Hebrew revival:
the argument that republics are the only legitimate regimes;
the idea that the state should coercively maintain an egalitarian distribution of property; and
the belief that a godly republic would tolerate religious diversity.
... One major consequence of Nelson’s work is that the revolutionary politics of John Milton, James Harrington, and Thomas Hobbes appear in a brand-new light.
Nelson demonstrates that central features of modern political thought emerged from an attempt to emulate a constitution designed by God.
This paradox, a reminder that while we may live in a secular age, we owe our politics to an age of religious fervor, in turn illuminates fault lines in contemporary political discourse."
Geert Wilders stated in address titled "America the Last Man Standing," New York, September 25, 2008:
"There is a danger greater danger than terrorist attacks, the scenario of America as the last man standing ... With an Islamic Europe, it would be up to AMERICA alone to preserve the heritage of ROME, ATHENS and JERUSALEM."
In 1637, John and Ann Harvard sailed for Massachusetts where he took "the freeman's oath."
He served as a teaching elder and an assistant pastor at the First Church of Charlestown, under Rev. Zechariah Symmes.
Charlestown, at that time, had about 150 families.
At age 31, Rev. John Harvard contracted tuberculosis and died on September 14, 1638.
The record of where his grave was located was lost during the Revolutionary War.
Having no male heir, John left half of his 1,600 pound estate to the College at Cambridge, along with a library of over 400 volumes.
John Harvard's library included
Bible commentaries,volumes in Hebrew and Greek,
an Aramaic lexicon of the Talmud, and
books by Homer, Plutarch, Aquinas, Bacon, Calvin, and Luther.
After his library was used by colonial scholars for over a century, a fire in 1764 destroyed all John Harvard's books, except one.
The one book that survived the fire was The Christian Warfare Against the Devil, World and Flesh And Means to Obtain Victory, by John Downame, published in 1634.
The General Court of Massachusetts Bay voted in 1639 to rename the College at Cambridge after John Harvard.
It is the oldest institution of higher learning in America.
On the wall by the old iron gate at Harvard University's main campus entrance, and also noted in Harvard Divinity School's catalog, is the statement of Harvard's founders:
"After God had carried us safe to New England, and wee had builded our houses, provided necessaries for our livelihood, rear'd 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 to perpetuate it to Posterity; dreading to leave an illiterate Ministry to the Churches, when our present Ministers shall lie in the Dust ...
... And as we were thinking and consulting how to effect this great work, it pleased God to stir up the heart of one Mr. Harvard, a godly gentleman and a lover of learning there living amongst us, to give the one half of his estate ... towards the erecting of a college and all his Library."
Harvard's declared purpose was: "To train a literate clergy."
This was consistent with 106 of the first 108 schools in America, which were founded on Christianity.
Ten of the twelve presidents of Harvard prior to the Revolutionary War were ministers.
Fifty percent of the 17th-century Harvard graduates became ministers.
Harvard College was founded in "In Christi Gloriam" as its founders believed: "All knowledge without Christ was vain."
In 1692, the motto of Harvard was: "Veritas Christo et Ecclesiae" ("Truth for Christ and the Church").
The word "Veritas" on the college seal referenced divine truth, and was embedded on a shield, which can be found on Memorial Church, Widener Library, and numerous Harvard Yard dorms.
The shield has on top two books facing up and on the bottom a book facing down, symbolizing the limits of reason and the need for God's revelation.
Harvard's Rules & Precepts, September 26, 1642, stated:
"1. When any Scholar ... is able to make and speak true Latine in Verse and Prose ... And decline perfectly the paradigims of Nounes and Verbes in the Greek tongue ... (he is allowed) admission into the college.
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 eternall life, John 17:3
and therefore to lay Christ in the bottome, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge 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 practicall and spirituall 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.
4. That they eshewing (avoiding) all profanation of God's name, Attributes, Word, Ordinances, and times of Worship, do studie with good conscience carefully to retaine God, and the love of his truth in their mindes,
else let them know, that (notwithstanding their Learning) God may give them up to strong delusions, and in the end to a reprobate minde, 2Thes. 2:11, 12. Rom. 1:28.
5. That they studiously redeeme the time; observe the generall houres ... diligently attend the Lectures, without any disturbance by word or gesture ...
6. None shall ... frequent the company and society of such men as lead an unfit, and dissolute life. Nor shall any without his Tutors leave, or without the call of Parents or Guardians, goe abroad to other Townes.
7. Every Scholar shall be present in his Tutors chamber at the 7th houre in the morning, immediately after the sound of the Bell, at his opening the Scripture and prayer, so also at the 5th houre at night, and then give account of his owne private reading ...
But if any ... shall absent himself from prayer or Lectures, he shall bee lyable to Admonition, if he offend above once a weeke.
8. If any Scholar shall be found to transgresse any of the Lawes of God, or the Schoole ... he may bee admonished at the publick monethly Act."
In 1790, the requirements for Harvard stated:
"All persons of what degree forever residing at the College, and all undergraduates ... shall constantly and seasonably attend the worship of God in the chapel, morning and evening ...
All the scholars shall, at sunset in the evening preceding the Lord's Day, lay aside all their diversions and ... it is enjoined upon every scholar carefully at apply himself to the duties of religion on said day."
In 2021, Harvardbroke from its historical faith in God by hiring an atheist as its head chaplain.
FoxNews ran the headline (8/27/21):
"Harvard appoints 'atheist' as president of university chaplains - not everyone is happy"