Ephemeral differences notwithstanding, both literature and the Bible are stirred by a common passion for words, all of which are on an equal footing in staging an at once intimate and ultimate passion of the word. Of language and its quest for truth of which each and every word of a dictionary is entrusted, so long as no word per se can lord it over all the other words. Keepers of the word, words cannot keep a secret, bound as they are both to reveal and conceal it at one and the same time. Except for a parrot, language has no mother tongue: it inherits only that which it can translate: the everlasting into the ephemeral, the temporal into the eternal, speaking into writing - into that which happens once and for all. Language is iconic and iconoclastic. It is propitious to God and would-be gods and, conversely, it is equally allergic to idols. Hence the title of this book, borrowed from a line of W.H. Auden's Christmas Oratorio. No sooner is God worshipped than God is turned into an idol. Biblical or not, religious or secular, literature is iconoclastic. ]Promethean iconoclasm quarrels with God. Ironically less theistic, the paradox of Abrahamic iconoclasm lies in laying bare the duplicity, not so much of God, as of all human all too human conceptions of a God which, falling short of God, becomes an idol that can only be rebuked even by God if not by Abraham, the father of faith. No wonder, Western literature has dealt with the death of God rather than with the living God: its task has consisted in wording a world shaped and left to go adrift by Christian tradition itself gone irrelevant and locked up in a mother tongue no one speaks instead of time and again unleashing and worlding the Word. Gabriel Vahanian, Professor emeritus at the University of Strasbourg, was educated in Paris and Princeton. In 1958 he founded and directed the graduate program in religion at Syracuse University. He was a founding member of the first board of directors of the American Academy of religion. In 1981-82 he served on the President's Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine and Biomedical and Behavioral Research. His latest book is Praise of the Secular.