In Time of War
The above words serve as the title of a chapter in a book, The Bible in New York, published in 1948, and authored by David J. Fant. The book’s concern is “the romance of Scripture distribution in a world metropolis from 1809 to 1948” (1). Contained in the aforementioned chapter is a discussion of the distribution of Bibles during the War of 1812, the Civil War, the Spanish War, World War I, and World War II. It is reported, “World War II witnessed an unprecedented emphasis on Bible possession and reading on the part of the troops. The government, the various Bible Societies, and other organizations cooperated to make it possible for the more than twelve millions of men under arms to have a personal copy of the Scriptures” (64).
From one of the military hospitals of World War II came the following:
A short time before I was wounded, I was invited by the officers of the regiment to a supper given in honor of a soldier who had been all through the war and had done many brave deeds but had received no reward for them. After the supper was over, one of the officers said to him, “You have been all through the war and have not told us a single incident in it. Now tell us what you consider the most wonderful thing you have seen in it.”
The soldier paused . . . then rising . . . said, “I was walking near my trench one day, when I saw a young soldier lying on the ground intently reading a book. I . . . said, ‘What book is that you are reading?’ ‘My Bible,’ he answered. I said, ‘Give it up. I read my Bible for years and it never did me any good. Man, give it up!’ . . . He looked at me kind of pityingly, and said, ‘If you knew what the Bible is to me, you would never ask me to give it up,’ and as he spoke, the light on his face became so bright. . . .
Soon afterward a bomb fell near the place where he had been conversing. . . . I thought I would go and see if the young soldier was safe. I found that his head and been completely blown off, but I saw his Bible sticking out of his breast pocket, and here it is (holding it up). I say that the most wonderful thing I have seen during the war was the light on that soldier’s face. . . .” (66-67)
“They looked to Him and were radiant. . . . The entrance of your words gives light” (Ps. 36:5; 119:130). As the clouds of war hover about today, thank God for the Bible‒“. . . a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps. 119:105).
Fant, David J. The Bible in New York. New York: New York Bible Society, 1948.