You can’t keep a Good Book down, and even the Soviet Union may be coming to terms with the Bible.

On August 11, the atheistic government released a 456-page compendium of Old Testament stories from the Creation to the Apocrypha. Observers say it’s the first time since the Bolshevik Revolution that Bible material has been available to the public without anti-religious commentary.

Long lines of people waited to buy the book, and the press run of 100,000 copies was sold out “within a few minutes,” reported Henry Shapiro, Moscow correspondent for United Press International. The volume, which he said will become a “collector’s item,” was handsomely illustrated with religious paintings and sculpture by such Renaissance masters as Raphael, Michelangelo, Botticelli, and Rembrandt.

Red-watchers are not sure why the book was published by Politizdat, the government house specializing in political-sociological material for a high caliber audience. But a U. S. government expert on Soviet publishing said one thing is sure: a Politizdat book has the “official O.K.”

The Soviet government may be trying to counter the influx of foreign Bibles caused by grass-roots demand behind the Iron Curtain.

Another explanation could be growing sophistication and luxury. Shapiro reports on a talk between Indian Ambassador Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (now president of India) and Josef Stalin near the end of the Soviet strongman’s life. The Indian asked Stalin why he did not permit publication of the Bible, which all humanity—religious or atheistic—regards as a great literary and historic masterpiece.

Stalin replied that he had to build a “solid material foundation for this country before such luxuries as Bible-reading” were encouraged.

The volume may be part of ...

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