Bob Dylan plays Toronto’s Massey Hall during his Gospel Tour. (Photo: Jean-Luc Ourlin/CC BY-SA 2.0)

A decades-old letter from Bob Dylan to a friend has recently gone on auction, providing a rare glimpse into the devout beliefs the famed singer preached during his brief, but intense Christian phase of the late 1970s - early 1980s.

Put up for sale by RR Auctions, a Boston seller of rare historical manuscripts and artifacts, the letter was written by Dylan in April of 1980 to someone simply identified on the envelope as “Steve,” a friend who had seemingly just joined the army. Written on stationery from Toronto’s Park Plaza Hotel, the letter is in part an update on the “Bob Dylan Gospel Tour” that the singer was undertaking at the time, and also a peek into Dylan’s own bible study.

The letter begins by talking about Toronto, calling it a “clean and beautiful city,” but remarking that the majority of the people would rather go to see “Apocalypse Now than to be baptized and filled with the Holy Ghost.” From there, Dylan talks about a bible he’d been given, remarking on the number of passages that had helped him understand and preach his faith. The rest of the letter sees Dylan praising the unknown Steve’s strength for joining the military, sounding every bit the apoplectic preacher. “You will be strong in the Lord and seeing that looks are deceiving, you will work miracles that way,” the letter reads. “He has called you to be a saint and your responsibility is to him and him alone.” The letter ends with the similarly devout sign-off, “Always in the name of Jesus Christ Son of God, Manifest in the flesh.” A far cry from the image of the tramp who wrote Blood On The Tracks.

Dylan would release three explicitly Christian albums before moving on to other subjects in his music, but such direct peeks into his thinking at the time are few and far between. RR Auctions predicts that the letter will fetch upwards of $20,000 by the time bidding ends on May 19th. Pray this unique glimpse into Dylan’s personal life ends up good hands.