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January 3, 2022 - The Inscription

One of the most prestigious universities in the world, and certainly in the United States, is Harvard, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Established in 1636, long before the American Revolution, Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. It is also one of the leading and most prestigious scientific and intellectual centers anywhere, whose alumni include John F. Kennedy, Henry Kissinger, Barak Obama, T. S. Eliot, and (though dropping out) Bill Gates.

One of the many edifices on the campus is Emerson Hall, named for Ralph Waldo Emerson, poet and Harvard alumnus. When the building was completed, in 1900, it was to house the Philosophy Department, whose faculty wanted a quote from an ancient Greek philosopher, Protagoras (481-411 BC), inscribed on the wall. The quote read, “Man is the measure of all things.”

However, it one looks at the inscription that is there, that is not what it says. Instead, the president of the college at that time, Charles William Eliot, decided to put up this Bible text instead, "What is man that Thou art mindful of him?" (Psalm 8:4).

Talk about a different worldview! A difference that, indeed, makes all the difference in the world. The first one makes humanity, humans, us—the source of all knowledge, or truth, all wisdom. It makes us, the measure of all things, even morality. That’s a scary thought, is it not?

The other, the quote from the Bible, presents a whole different picture. It not only points to God, but it points to His transcendence, and to the fact—the astonishing fact, actually (If you really think about it)—that He is mindful of us at all. So mindful that Jesus came in the flesh to save us.

Man, the measure of all things? Heaven forbid! Instead, God, the Creator of all things is also the measure of all things, and He measured us as valuable enough to die for us at the cross.

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