Monnie's Reviews > Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal

Lamb by Christopher Moore
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May 09, 12

it was amazing
Read from April 30 to May 09, 2012

Many years ago when my husband Jack was teaching classes in Shakespeare as a high school English teacher, he introduced me to Richard Armour's hilarious "study guides" titled Twisted Tales from Shakespeare and I laughed myself silly. Since then, I don't recall reading anything anywhere near that laugh-out-loud funny - till my friend Barb recommended this book.

Basically, the book chronicles the life of Jesus (Joshua bar Jehovah) and his transition to the Messiah through the eyes of his childhood best buddy Levi bar Alphaeus (Biff), the son of a stonemason. Biff, it seems, now lives in the present day after having been ressurected from the dead, apparently for the primary purpose of documenting the Messiah's years between birth and age 30 that are missing from the Bible. Starting out as "ordinary" kids who are aware that one has both a Heavenly and a flesh-and-blood father but doesn't quite understand what that means, the two find hilarious adventure after adventure trying to figure it all out.

After surreptitiously reading a copy of the New Testament in his modern-day motel room, Biff learns first-hand that the Bible has nothing to say about what happened to Jesus for a major portion of his life -- the discrepancy he's charged with rectifying. In the Gospel According to Biff, many of those missing years were spent as the two set off to seek enlightenment from Balthasar, Gaspar and Melchior, the three Wise Guys who brought gifts to baby Josh at his birth in Bethlehem. Much of the book's humor comes through Moore's clever weaving in of Biblical names and places with which most of us are familiar, like Adam and Eve, Sodom and Gomorrah and John the Baptist. So during the time with the Wise Men, we readers have little frame of reference -- only a minor inconvenience since Biff continues to fill us in on the juicy details in his usual fine fashion. If the chuckles are a little less hearty in this section, it's only because we're relying solely on Biff's memory -- and so it shall be.

Although the book doesn't even come close to sacrilege in my humble opinion, it's definitely irreverant - so if the Vatican has a recommended reading list, I seriously doubt you'll find this one on it. Still, it's clear that a lot of research went into the writing of this book, and Moore has more than the average grip on what's in the Bible (not to mention how to make it downright funny). For instance:

Biff: "If there was anything I learned from John the Baptist, it was that the sooner you confess a mistake, the quicker you can get on with making new and better mistakes. Oh, that and don't piss off Salome, that was a big one too."

And another...

"Shut the door," the innkeeper shouted [to Josh] as the wind whipped through the door. "Were you born in a barn?"

"Yeah," said Joshua.

If there's a downside to this book, it's that it took at least twice the amount of time it usually takes me to read it. That's not because it isn't good; in fact, quite the opposite is true. I can zoom through somewhat formulaic whodunits like John Sanford's "Prey" series; much as I love them, after reading at least 10, I can almost predict what the characters will say before I even read the dialogue. Do that here, and I'd have missed way too many of the yuk-yuks here that can be so subtle they rise up (pun intended) and smack you upside the head when you least expect it.

Do I recommend this book? Absolutely, unless the thought of a few potshots at religion (okay, many potshots offends you. And as the author himself writes, "This story is not and never was meant to challenge anyone's faith; however, if one's faith can be shaken by stories in a humorous novel, one may have a bit more praying to do."

As for me, I'm still trying to catch my breath after all that laughing, and I have only one word to describe this reading experience: Hallelujah!
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