Studying the classics is not just for pre-seminarians; classics can be for anyone. The classics department is one of the longest standing departments at Calvin and has stood the test of time because of the uniquely diverse content classics has to offer.
Study of the ancient world through classical languages and literatures, archaeology and ancient history is interesting for just about anybody, but it should be especially important for Christians. The ancient world was the milieu in which Judaism developed and the early Church took root and flourished. Every page of the Bible bears the marks of the earlier civilizations in which the first Christians lived. The classical languages department at Calvin College has taken on the task of teaching and interpreting the ancient world for Christian students and others who wish to understand the ancient context in which the early development of the faith occurred.
History of the classics at Calvin
The classics department is one of the oldest at Calvin, tracing its origins to the literary department of the divinity school from which Calvin originated in 1876. Since Calvin was established by Dutch immigrants for the training of ministers, the classical languages have always been a part of the Calvin curriculum. Even today, ancient languages play a large role in the training of clergy for our parent denomination, the Christian Reformed Church in North America.
However, seminarians no longer constitute the majority of classics students at Calvin. Many students take Latin to fulfill their foreign language requirement; those who take Greek for this purpose often have special interests in ancient history, philosophy or theology, or they simply seek the pleasure of reading ancient texts (including the New Testament) in their original form.
Classics within and without the department
Students who have a more general interest in literature and the liberal arts may be found in our classics-in-translation courses; an increasing number of them choose our classical studies minor, which involves some study of one of the ancient languages along with an interdisciplinary program that may include courses in classics-in-translation, philosophy, history, religion and theology, archaeology, and another ancient language. Students often combine a classical studies minor with a more career-oriented program. Finally, the classics department offers courses in Calvin's minors in archaeology and medieval studies.