Book Review: Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore

"Lamb" The Gospel According to Biff. Christ's Childhood Pal" by Christopher Moore is a look at the missing years of the life of Jesus Christ told through the eyes of his best friend Biff. Biff, along with most of the story, is a construct of Moore's imagination. What we know of Jesus and his actions through the Bible are maintained, for the most part. However, to fill in the years that were skipped in the Bible -- most of Jesus' life -- Christopher Moore had to fill in a very big blank. What he did with that blank was entertaining in many ways. He managed to paint Jesus in a good light while poking a little fun at Jesus, his friend Biff and some aspects of religion, particularly religion as it was before Christ's sacrifice.

Many readers are likely to find the contents of "Lamb" offensive. There is some offensive language, some offensive concepts and some fun at the expense of the man who saved humanity, according to the Bible. However, Moore makes it absolutely clear that what he writes is fiction. He is not trying to present any of the lost years as fact. He also points out the changes he made to the original story to suit his at the end of the novel. The story operates on the premise that Jesus lived and was the son of god. There is no denial of Christ. That should appease some devout readers. Believers and nonbelievers alike can enjoy the "Lamb" with just a little application of open-mindedness.

Among all of the laughs that "Lamb" offers is a sentimental undertone that is at once unexpected and fitting. Biff and Jesus -- known as Joshua for accuracy's sake, the only Jesus in the novel is a hotel worker -- have numerous conversations about the nature of sin and what it feels like. Yes, Christ is curious about sin in "Lamb," particularly intercourse, since he cannot have it. They joke with one another and about others. They journey into China and India while Biff acts as both comic relief and unwavering supporter.

Somewhere along this journey, the novel becomes less about fart and sex jokes and more about the nature of life, love, compassion and faith. The move is subtle and brilliant. The reader starts the novel either laughing or fuming and ends the novel feeling pity for the son of god and the pain he endured, not to mention the pain Biff endured. As mentioned above, respect is paid to those aspects of Jesus' life -- Biff being the obvious exception. There are no jokes while either suffers. Christopher Moore has few boundaries, but apparently making fun of a dying Christ is beyond one of them.

My humble opinion (you see what I did there?) is that "Lamb" is the greatest of all Christopher Moore novels. His use of the Bible to create this novel is ingenious. The dialogues between Biff and Joshua are brilliant. I somehow believe that people who have faith in Christ and a great sense of humor may actually feel closer to their Messiah after having read "Lamb." I could just be deluded, though. Either way, enjoy.

Shelly Barclay

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