Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore
Published by William Morrow & Company on May 25, 2004
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Historical, Historical Fiction, Humor
Length: 444 pages Source: Libby
Goodreads • Amazon • Barnes & Noble • Book Depository • IndieBound
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 Josh more—except maybe "Maggie," Mary of Magdala—and Biff isn't about to let his extraordinary pal suffer and ascend without a fight.
This book is hilarious. It is also immensely sacrilegious. Lamb looks at the story of Christ and acknowledges that there’s not a lot of conversation about the time between infancy and adulthood. Have you ever noticed that nobody talks about that part of Jesus’s life? Levi-who-is-called-Biff takes the task into his own hands. There’s swearing, a lot of sexual references, nods to other active religions from the time, and a lot of times that things surprised me into laughter.
Anyway. The thing to know about Lamb is that… if the idea of reading a humorous, crude, retelling of Jesus’s teenage-hood through the eyes of his best friend feels blasphemous, you shouldn’t read it. You won’t like it, you’ll be insulted. Christianity is one of those topics that fiction writers won’t touch with a ten foot pole. I did a bit of Google searching about the temperature around this book and came up with threads on Absolute Write and Reddit where people were asking the same question, and there were interesting conversations you can definitely check out. Christopher Moore was interviewed on Christianity Today about Lamb and it seems like most people don’t find this offensive, BUT everyone’s faith is a personal thing, so if this makes you uncomfortable, do not read this book.
Okay. All that aside, lets actually talk about Lamb. The first 75% of this books is about Jesus’s (called Joshua) childhood. The last 25% is the familiar story. While there’s a bit of swearing and a lot of sinning going on, I do want to point out that Jesus/Joshua himself seemed more or less true to character. Christopher Moore took very few liberties with Jesus/Joshua, and I think that’s a large reason why this book isn’t widely considered as blasphemous. The story is told through Biff’s eyes, with his own opinions. The boys take a journey to seek out the wise men who were present at Jesus/Joshua’s birth. In doing so, Jesus/Joshua (let’s just call him Joshua, since that’s what Moore calls him) learns about aspects of Taoism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. I though the integrations of these ancient, eastern practices was fascinating, and it addresses many of the similarities between Christianity and those faiths.
The humor? The humor’s really crude. Think thirteen-year-old-boy crude. I’m not always the most mature person myself, so I still found myself chuckling. And I recommended it to my husband, who I thought would get a kick out of it. This isn’t intelligent humor or word play humor by any means. In addition to a copious amount of … phallic humor … there’s scenes in the present in which an angel (who has resurrected Biff to write this book) is getting very involved with soap operas and wrestling on TV and pretty much all of the modern scenes are wicked funny without any primitive humor.
Don’t get me wrong. I think that the whole book is funny, but my sense of humor isn’t very dignified.
Storywise, there’s a lot of opportunity for theological discussion. One on hand, we have Joshua who is very pious (especially as he gets older) and on the other had, you have Biff learning out of the Kama Sutra. There’s a balance to the ridiculousness of it, and there’s underlying philosophy. I actually think that this would be a great book to use to introduce someone to Christianity in a gentle, good-humored way. Obviously, not all Christians will be on board with this. In fact, I think my own father would hate Lamb. So it takes a certain kind of person. Other small notes: I liked the way the book felt split into sections as they traveled, and it felt well paced and interesting.
The only parts that bored me were the end, where we begin seeing familiar stories like Lazarus and the harlot who gets stoned. Having grown up in a Christian household, I’ve heard these stories more times than I can count. Christopher Moore is respectful of the scenes that are also in the Bible, and only goes so far as to add Biff’s voice to them. All in all, these are quick scenes leading up to the crucifixion. For a book that is overall very cocky, Moore is pretty respectful of the real figures in these later chapters. I was just a bit bored by them, because I’ve read those stories before, dozens of times. But I appreciate that he didn’t try to really change them.
I also appreciate how down-to-earth and approachable this novel feels. Because of my personal history, I tend to balk at books with Christian themes. My experience with religion has always been very forceful and unforgiving, and as a result, I avoid things with Christian themes like the plague. Not as a personal attack on anyone’s faith, but because the way I was raised in Christianity has led me to be uncomfortable with it. I say this because reading Lamb was a leap for me. I skipped over it for a while on my TBR, danced around it, considered removing it because even though it sounded like it could be funny, I was worried it was going to be an 18 hour sermon. I’m glad I read it, because it was funny, interesting, well-written, and faithful in many ways without being religious.
I’m also super terrified that this review is going to get a lot of hate, because like I said at the beginning… Christianity is one of those things that fiction writers don’t touch, unless it is to use their work to accentuate the Word and exalt God. Which is fine, not my cup of tea, but totally fine. And I’m not even digging on the Left Behind series, because that was really good, too. Please remember that this is a work of fiction and is not intended to be an attack on anyone’s faith. Only pick up this book if you’re comfortable. If you think you’d be comfortable, it’s HILARIOUS.