— Heinrich Heine German poet, journalist, essayist, and literary critic 1797 - 1856
Context: In my latest book, "Komancero," I have explained the transformation that took place within me regarding sacred things. Since its publication many inquiries have been made, with zealous importunity, as to the manner in which the true light dawned upon me. Pious souls, thirsting after a miracle, have desired to know whether, like Saul on the way to Damascus, I had seen a light from heaven; or whether, like Balaam, the son of Beor, I was riding on a restive ass, that suddenly opened its mouth and began to speak as a man? No; ye credulous believers, I never journeyed to Damascus, nor do I know anything about it, save that lately the Jews there were accused of devouring aged monks of St. Francis; and I might never have known even the name of the city had I not read the Song of Solomon, wherein the wise king compares the nose of his beloved to a tower that looketh towards Damascus. Nor have I ever seen an ass, at least any four-footed one, that spake as a man, though I have often enough met men who, whenever they opened their mouths, spake as asses.
In truth, it was neither a vision, nor a seraphic revelation, nor a voice from heaven, nor any strange dream or other mystery that brought me into the way of salvation; and I owe my conversion simply to the reading of a book. A book? Yes, and it is an old, homely-looking book, modest as nature and natural as it; a book that has a work-a-day and unassuming look, like the sun that warms us, like the bread that nourishes us; a book that seems to us as familiar and as full of kindly blessing as the old grandmother who reads daily in it with dear, trembling lips, and with spectacles on her nose. And this book is called quite shortly the Book, the Bible. Rightly do men also call it the Holy Scripture; for he that has lost his God can find Him again in this Book, and towards him that has never known God it sends forth the breath of the Divine Word. The Jews, who appreciate the value of precious things, knew right well what they did when, at the burning of the second temple, they left to their fate the gold and silver implements of sacrifice, the candlesticks and lamps, even the breastplate of the High Priest adorned with great jewels, but saved the Bible. This was the real treasure of the Temple, and, thanks be to God!
Religion and Philosophy in Germany, A fragment https://archive.org/stream/religionandphilo011616mbp#page/n5/mode/2up, p. 14-15