Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal
If you ve been following my reviews over the last few years, I don t see any reason why I should have to put a caution into this, but here it is if you re not interested in speculative fiction, open to the reinterpretation of the life of Jesus, speculation on the gaps in the gospels and the possibility of pan religious values having been vital to the formation of Christianity, then you should probably not read this book Nor should you really be using the internet there s just too much nasty Free Thinking out there Take your hands off the keyboard and back away slowly.Okay, that ll weed out the wusses Although, as I think about it, perhaps those are exactly the people who should be reading this book I m sorry for all the nasty stuff I said come on back Each time I read this, I love it For one thing it s Moore s best work, without question Not only is is blindingly funny, which is a hallmark of Moore s style, but it s also thoughtful, philosophical, and is supported by obvious research Because he s dealing with real places and real people, Moore has made sure that his depiction of first century Israel is as accurate as he can make it It s all there in the details about the lives of the characters, the struggles they go through and the understandings they come to Without hours of research as its foundation, the book would have failed almost instantly Moore didn t have to do it, but it is a great sign of his character as an author that he did.This is also by far my favorite interpretation of the life of Jesus It is the Gospel According to Biff, the best friend of Joshua bar Joseph, the man who would one day be called Jesus Christ Of course, when Biff met him, the young Son of God was occupying himself by resurrecting lizards after his brother smashed their heads in But they grew to be fast friends, and everywhere that young Joshua went, so went his buddy Biff.The best way to describe Biff would be Jesus Sidekick He s a troublemaker, sarcastic, and far too prone to succumb to temptations of the flesh But he s clever and resourceful, and mindful of his friend s mission on this earth He s young Joshua s best friend in every way, so when Josh goes searching for the three Magi who attended his birth, Biff knows he has to go with him The way to finding Joshua s destiny will be long and hard, and Biff knows that his friend needs him.The main part of the book has to do with Biff and Josh s search for the Magi, to learn from them how Josh can be the Messiah On their way they face demons, death and certain temptation, but also wisdom and experience from the wisest men in Asia From Balthazar in the rugged mountains of Afghanistan, Joshua learns of the Tao, contemplating its Three Jewels compassion, moderation, and humility He learns about suffering and mercy and kindness and the effects they bring.Biff, on the other hand, learns about the ways in which eight Chinese concubines can make life a wonderful place, night after night He learns how to make potions and explosives, how to cast metal and read Chinese He learns vital skills that the Messiah cannot or must not know.From there they go to China, to a monastery high in the cold mountains to study with Gaspar, a monk of the Zen school From Gaspar, Josh learns stillness and mindful breath, compassion for all things and, oddly enough, how to turn invisible He discovers the divine spark that exists in all things, a holiness that no one can claim or take from you He also learns what it s like to be the only one of his kind, and foreshadows the tragic end that can bring.Biff, of course, is learning kung fu and how to break bricks with his head.Finally, they go to India to seek out Melchior, an ascetic yogi and the last of the wise men Joshua here learns about sacrifice and blood, and the horrors that are perpetrated in the name of religion He discovers the injustice of denying the Kingdom of God to anyone, Jew or Gentile, and the futility of trying to teach yoga to an elephant.Biff, for his part, manages to put together a truly spectacular version of the Kama Sutra.Don t get me wrong while Biff is certainly earthly than his friend, he is also devoted to both Joshua and his mission He is Josh s anchor to the real world, always reminding him f his mission and making sure he doesn t take himself too seriously Biff, in this rendition of Jesus story, is a necessary element in the ultimate teachings of Christ As he admits in his afterward, Moore has tackled a very tough subject here, one that he knows is likely to rile people up Jesus is one of those characters that is very set in peoples minds he is the tall, beatific figure with a gentle voice and blue eyes who glides around in robes followed by insightful and worshipful men.He certainly never ate Chinese food on his birthday, nor did he get hopped up on coffee or learn kung fu He s never had a sarcastic best friend who was willing to risk damnation to describe what sex was like to the young Messiah, who was pretty sure that he wasn t allowed to Know women We haven s seen Jesus get frustrated and yell at his disciples because they didn t get the message he was trying to send, or be torn between what he has to do and what he wants to do The Jesus in this book is an excellent meld of the human and the divine He has the miracles and the powers, but his mind is human He knows that he s the son of god, but he feels like just a regular guy who s been tapped to save humanity from itself It s a very difficult situation to be in, and Moore does a really good job of getting us to understand that.More importantly, the life of Jesus hasn t been this funny before This is the kind of book that will piss off your family or co workers, because you ll want to read out passages from the book every five minutes, but you won t get it out right because you ll be laughing too hard The way the book is set up, Biff has been resurrected by the angel Raziel in order to write a new gospel Unfortunately, he s been resurrected in the modern age, about two thousand years too late to help his friend avoid the awful, horrible sacrifice that he knows he has to undergo So he writes in the modern American vernacular, assuring us that while the words may not be a direct translation of first century Hebrew, Latin, Aramaic, Chinese or any of the other languages they encounter, the tone is accurate And the tone is comedy, all the way through.Of course, the comedy kind of drops off as the book races towards its unpleasant end, which is where my troubles with Moore as a writer usually lie He tends to write endings that are abrupt and unfulfilling, as though he just wants to finish writing the book so he can, perhaps, get on with the next one Even though we know how this story ends, it still feels rushed Biff s attempts to save his friend from horrible death make sense, but I would like to have seen them drawn out a bit I have a feeling that Moore could have added another hundred pages without breaking a sweat and I wish he had.The best thing, though, is that Moore treats his characters with the utmost respect Nothing that Jesus does in the book is out of character for him, insofar as we know his character And Biff is than just a goofy friend of the Messiah he is the reminder and the anchor of Jesus humanity I m not a Christian I don t claim any religion, in fact but this version of Jesus would be one that I might be willing to give some time to It s a brilliant book, in my top ten. This book is funny as HELL Though funny and most definitely irreverent, Lamb is a story about the Son of God and his times here on Earth amongst people, told from the perspective of Biff, Joshua s Jesus childhood pal and Moore fills up the lost thirty some odd years from the gospels Biff is the Jewish lothario Forrest Gump of Biblical stories and Moore uses Biff s narrative as a vehicle to explore the ancient world, often with laugh out loud results.Religion There are plenty of people who will never read this book but will nonetheless be very offended by it However, though it is an absurd comedy, it is like The Shack Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity and The Lost Years of Jesus Documentary Evidence of Jesus 17 Year Journey to the East in that it treats Jesus as a miraculous and gentle though powerful superhuman, and somewhat ironically, like the Kevin Smith film Dogma, affirmatively casts him as the Son of God Though Moore makes up the earlier parts, he tells the last months of Jesus life fairly straight from the gospels, though from Biff s perspective Moore states at the end of the book in a well crafted and sincere sounding address to his readers that although he did thoroughly research his book, especially as to historical accuracies of the time and place of Christ s time, it is a work of fiction, maybe not even rising to the level of the historical fiction genre Simply stated, he made up the story, and he was never attempting to influence or change anyone s faith He also makes the astute comment that if one s faith can be shaken by stories in a humorous novel, then one may have a bit praying to do Certainly, there will be many who would not read this, and still some others that may get started and cannot finish for reasons of reverence and guilty ideas about blasphemy I remember years ago when The Last Temptation of Christ came out and everyone made such a big deal about it Truth be said, it was the publicity that drew me to go see it and I was a little thrilled to walk through a picket line A Presbyterian minister and two younger people with him stopped me and asked me some questions about why I wanted to go see the film They were not fire and brimstoners, but seemed like nice folks who were sincerely offended by what they understood as an attack on their faith I asked them one question Have you seen the film Of course, they had not I also remember that during the film, there seemed a slow but somewhat steady exodus of people from the theater, until about halfway through, when only the stolid and curious were left In that film and this book, I guess I can see why some would be offended, but I am not, my faith is not at all shaken by a liberal, interpretive, and in this sense, irreverent and humorous artistic license.In the end, this is an entertaining, well written book, funny and yes, irreverent, but also without any overt attacks on faith Told with warmth, Moore also focuses on parts of the faith and teachings that could draw a believer closer. What I remember from CCD It was Tuesday nights and that meant that I missed Who s the Boss All the really obnoxious cheerleaders went to my church Our Lady of Perpetual Help OLPH I had to go to CCD so I could get confirmed or I couldn t get married in a church so I was told every time I tried to feign an illness or a menstrual cramp We would be ushered into the school rectory thing where we had to choose 3 colored rings which represented 3 different classes we would attend things like Sacrifice and Abstaining during Lent 101 and Abstinence Just Do It and I would pick my colors hoping that I would get the class that the Michael J Fox look alike was teaching Sometimes we were given juiceThings I didn t learn from CCD What CCD actually stood for How to get married in a church How to be cool Anything about ChristSo, forgive me if I m enad by this book You can all roll your eyes as much as you want and call it cutesy and a Tom Robbins rip off never read him, probably never will and say that the jokes grew old fast and that you were bored and yadda yadda yadda My real teachings of Christ came from a college Western Civ course, taught in one of the oldest churches in Boston by a professor who kicked Genesis s ass up and down the pews at 8am every Monday and Wednesday morning Thank you, Professor Coffee, I you and numerous viewings of Scorsese s The Last Temptation of Christ where I had to badger my husband with Now, who is that again and Willem Defoe is a pretty hot looking Jesus Thank you, Maurice now Judas will always be Harvey Keitel who will always be The Bad Lieutenant to me Here this book, this work of fiction, will probably replace all of that well, almost all never you, Professor Coffee, never you because it brought a sense of humanity and some laugh out loud scenes that I probably would have never associated with the whole Christian teachings and what have you Apparently, I missed that class Biff and Josh s friendship rivaled any literary friendships that I ve encountered and while I was expecting to LMAO, I wasn t expecting to want to scoop both of them up and hug them And then hug them some I mean, I know how this story ends, okay I m not that daft and yet I was still sniffling and trying to swallow past the lump in my throat Many seem to have lost interest with Biff and Josh s journey searching for the Magus, I can see this, though it wasn t the case with me I loved how they grew from each stay learning about the Tao and Confucius and Buddha and how I had to struggle along with Josh as he tries to figure out this whole Messiah bit that he has to live up to I especially love the scene with the Yeti Wow The mountain people They killed the yeti because they couldn t understand a creature who wasn t as evil as they were The mountain people were evil All men are evil, that s what I was talking to my father about What did he say Fuck em Really Yeah At least he answered you I got the feeling that he thinks it s my problem now Makes you wonder why he didn t burn that on one of the tablets HERE, MOSES, HERE S THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, AND HERE S AN EXTRA ONE THAT SAYS FUCK EM He doesn t sound like that If you ve already started guffawing and or rolling your eyes, this probably isn t for you I knew some of the mainstays of the story when Josh raises Lazarus Simon, get your leprous ass out here, Joshua commanded But, I m I m all icky Or when he foretells of his betrayal and death to his disciples Someone will have to carry on the church when I m gone, and I m going to be gone soon In the spring we ll go to Jerusalem for the Passover, and there I will be judged by the scribes and the priests and there I will be tortured and put to death But three days from the day of my death, I shall rise and be with you again We looked not at each other, and neither at the ground, but at a place in space a few feet from out faces, where I suppose one looks for a clear answer to appear out of undefined shock Well, that sucks, someone said And the scene with the moneychangers in the Temple Almost as powerful as Willem kicking ass almost.Alrighty then this isn t supposed to be anything but a story and I really have to thank Mr Moore for making my day And if any of you doubters want to debate this Look Is that a seagull Christopher Moore image from SFGate Jesus, the missing years, as told by his best buddy, Biff This a very entertaining, laugh out loud funny book, at times It is clear that there is real content under the yucks Where did JC go between the time he dazzled the intellectuals at the temple at twelve and when he returned at thirty to do his messiah thing Asia figures prominently, Buddhism, an Asian aesthetic You might want to dust off your Lao Tzu, Kama Sutra, Bhagavad Gita, and sundry others It is actually quite interesting, as is the author s characterization of Mary Magdalene Maggie , John the Baptist and the disciples I found at times that I was getting bored, but stuck with it Recommended EXTRA STUFFLinks to the author s personal, Twitter and FB pages Christopher Moore is a sick, sick fuck And I mean that in a good way.I found a copy of this wonderfully hilarious novel at the Champaign Public Library Book Sale and decided that I ought to own a copy It holds up well on a second read and served to fill a nostalgia for Kurt Vonnegut, whose death I may not ever get over This book is very reminiscent of Vonnegut in its plotting and style and wisecracks and it certainly filled a hole I ve read everything Vonnegut ever wrote and I was than a little depressed that my days of reading new works by one of my favorite authors had come to a close This book alone marks Christopher Moore as the leading contender for that particular throne If not Vonnegut, then Douglas Adams Lamb tells the story of Jesus Christ, chronicling the missing years from 12 through 30 that the Bible itself fails to enlighten us on It s very funny and than a little blasphemous, but it s also firmly grounded in theology Moore doesn t make any shit up here He merely expounds on the details the Bible has left out.Basically, Levi who is called Biff is resurrected by an angel of the Lord centuries after his death so that he can write a new gospel we later come to find out that Mary Magdalene has been resurrected to write one, too Holed up in a seedy motel with the angel Raziel, himself addicted to professional wrestling and soap operas, Biff writes his side of the story on hotel stationery Biff was Christ s only companion during the missing eighteen years, so he s pretty much the authority on this subject Through Biff s writings, we learn that he and Jesus here named Joshua, due to Hebrew translation spent many years traveling the world in search of the three wisemen, hoping that they can help Joshua understand exactly what it is Joshua is supposed to be doing They battle a vicious demon with Balthazar They encounter a Yeti with Gaspar They study Buddhism with Melchior And through all of this, Joshua creates a new ministry that seems to totally contradict the one started by his father.Along the way, we learn how all of the apostles came to stand at Jesus s side We learn what bunnies and chocolates have to do with Easter We discover how to tell the difference between a legitimate vision of The Virgin Mary and just a face in a pile of cow dung We meet some ninjas We stand face to face with the blood thirsty goddess Kali And we also get treated to a rough draft of The Sermon on the Mount apparently Jesus really wanted to bless all the dumbshits, but got vetoed This book is highly recommended. Lamb is the story of the missing years of Jesus, as told by his best pal Biff That s all you need in the way of summary.I was subjected to 12 years of Catholic school and mass every sunday for even longer than that so when I heard of the existence of a humorous book about Jesus missing years, I jumped for it with all the lapsed Catholic enthusiasm I could muster Was I disappointed Most definitely not In fact, I was the opposite of disappointed Appointed Anyway, this was my first Christopher Moore book and the measuring stick against which his others are measured Biff s a great character, the regular guy accompanying Joshua aka Jesus on his adventures Jesus, of course, plays the ultimate straightman to Biff s jokes From when Biff told Jesus he was going to marry his mother when they were little tykes all the way to the end, Biff makes what could be a fairly boring religious story into an odyssey of the hilarious.While Moore tells the story in a humorous way, it s not as absurd as, say, a Douglas Adams book Jesus visiting the Three Wise Men and actually learning from them was a good way to fill those missing years In fact, Jesus traveling to the Far East makes a lot sense than a lot of stuff in the bible Just sayin.The characters other than Jesus and Biff were pretty memorable Mary Magdalene played a huge part in the story and the three wise men were all given a lot to do than the Gospel writers originally gave them Catch, the demon from Practical Demonkeeping, makes an appearance Raziel, the title character from The Stupidest Angel, makes his first appearance here and is the catalyst of the plot, resurrecting Biff and Mary M to help him fill in the gaps.I ve owned four copies of this book, each destroyed or lost under suspicious circumstances People I ve loaned the book over the years still quote parts of it to me when we run into each other It s just that damn good.I can t put the hilarity of Lamb into words It s easier if you just read it yourself Five of the easiest star I ve ever awarded, with the caveate that if you are humorless about religion, you might be extremely offended. I m considering taking down this review, as I m not happy that my most liked review is a negative one It s too easy to earn praise by casting stones A book recommendation that I suffered through not for charges of blasphemy, but for style I can t stand this type of comedic writing with its obvious set ups and zingers and formulaic irreverence Douglas Adams wanna be This type of humor gets enough time between news items on NPR s All Things Considered Bah Witness the last lines paraphrased here The H in Jesus H Christ stands for Hallowed you know, Hallowed be thy name Oh I thought it stood for Harvey He saved that gem for the end of the book. The birth of Jesus has been well chronicled, as have his glorious teachings, acts, and divine sacrifice after his thirtieth birthday But no one knows about the early life of the Son of God, the missing years except Biff, the Messiah s best bud, who has been resurrected to tell the story in the divinely hilarious yet heartfelt work reminiscent of Vonnegut and Douglas Adams Philadelphia Inquirer.Verily, the story Biff has to tell is a miraculous one, filled with remarkable journeys, magic, healings, kung fu, corpse reanimations, demons, and hot babes Even the considerable wiles and devotion of the Savior s pal may not be enough to divert Joshua from his tragic destiny But there s no one who loves Joshexcept maybe Maggie, Mary of Magdala and Biff isn t about to let his extraordinary pal suffer and ascend without a fight. some spoilers Lamb starts with one of my favourite quotes, which sets the scene very aptly God is a comedian playing to an audience that is afraid to laugh Voltaire A deceptively slim looking book but one that is absolutely heavenly to hold no pun intended with it s glossy floppy cover and delicate leaves , Lamb is, as the title says, the fictional story of Christ s childhood as told by his best friend Levi who is called Biff.Now, Moore doesn t mention Monty Python anywhere, but I d wager he s seen Life of Brian Whether he liked it, got it or appreciated it, I couldn t say, but it s a possible inspiration It doesn t have the clever wit or irony, or the sheer genius of Brian, but it does have the irreverant humour That aside, Lamb is a great story, made up but oddly plausible Keeping to the known facts and not interested in questioning your faith in any grand or cynical way, Lamb is told by Biff, resurrected today by an angel so he can write down his version of events Given the gift of tongues, Biff writes it in contemporary American idiom, which saves the story from being dry and boring He claims to have invented sarcasm, and encourages Joshua later Jesus to have a sense of humour The best bit about this book, though, are the adventures the two friends have.At about 13, they set off to find the three Wise Men who had been there at Joshua s birth, in order for Joshua to learn how to be the Messiah They spend years in a cave like fortress in Afghanistan with Balthasar, years at a Budhist temple in the mountains with Gaspar, and yet time in India in nooks in a cliff with the seagulls learning from Melchior They learn Confuscius from Balthasar, Biff learns about poisons and alchemy from Balthasar s Chinese concubines, and they encounter a very hungry demon They meditate and study Budhism from Gaspar as well as kung fu and Jew do because Joshua doesn t want to hurt anyone and encounter the last Yeti and rescue children from the Hindu god of destruction, Kali, before finding Melchior, who teaches Joshua how to fit himself inside a wine bottle and multiply food which comes in handy later, that s for sure while Biff learns the Kama Sutra.Biff is the perfect counter point to the serious, naive and well meaning Joshua, whose mother brought him up from birth to believe his father is God, not her husband Joseph Although Moore admits it s hard to write a story set in this time and place because of the lack of knowledge of the period, he does an admirable job and it s entirely believable I did find it a slow read at times, but I definitely found myself laughing as well It also gave the best explanation of the Holy Ghost, or Holy Spirit, that I ve ever heard, and suddenly it makes sense More to the point, though, it makes Joshua Jesus human, and thus sympathetic That matters to me, though it might not to other people.It got so that I found myself really caring for this character, and the others especially Maggie the Mary Magdelene , their friend from childhood The final scenes, when you re suddenly reminded of how the story ends, creep up on you and settles like a lump in your throat, and I totally felt for Biff and understand why he did what he did at the end though interestingly enough, despite all he d seen Joshua do, and despite the fact that he had always believed in him, he did not believe Joshua could really bring himself back from the dead And so, in the end, he did not have faith A slight irony.Despite Biff s silly humour and the occasional fart joke, Lamb is written with maturity, compassion and skill The setting, landscape and supporting characters immerse you in the story, the period and the upheavels More to the point, it s a nice comforting thought that Jesus might have had as good and loyal and silly a friend as Levi who is called Biff. Mel Brooks and Monty Python have been there, done that Christopher Moore retraces the steps of those comedy greats of the past in his Lamb The Gospel According to Biff, Christ s Childhood Pal, a lighthearted take on what Christians call the greatest story ever told Sure, it s a good story, but it s also rife with parody potential and humorists have been squeezing it for laughs probably since it was first told That being the case, Moore s book travels a well trodden path and so the laughs just didn t come for this reader Certainly it was an enjoyable enough read It wasn t until the end that I had to push myself to finish what was becoming an increasingly dry, straight up retelling of Jesus crucifixion Prior to that, Moore takes a few popshots at other religions during the son of god s trek through self discovery and sometimes his aim is true Lamb is quite a good book, and yet I may seem to be down on it I blame hype When you hear and read a great deal of praise for a writer, as I did for Moore, your expectations rise to an unreasonable height I m afraid mine were higher than he could reasonably obtain.