Hundreds of thousands of people around the world have read—and reread—Christopher Moore’s irreverent, iconoclastic, and divinely funny tale of the early life of Jesus Christ as witnessed by his boyhood pal Levi bar Alphaeus (a.k.a. Biff). Now, in this special (check out the cool red ribbon marker, gilt-edged pages, and gold lettering) gift edition of Christopher Moore’s bestselling Lamb, you, too, can find out what really happened between the manger and the Sermon on the Mount. And, in a new afterword written expressly for this edition, Christopher Moore addresses some of the most frequently asked questions he’s received from readers since Lamb’s initial publication, about the book and himself.
Fresh, funny, poignant, and wise, this special gift edition of Lamb is cause for rejoicing among readers everywhere.
I feel I must warn you, this is my favorite book and has been since the first time I read it many, many years ago. Though this book is so very dear to me I have never reviewed it and am, quite frankly, a bit nervous about doing so now. Please know, I will do my best to review this novel as objectively as possible and handle its subject matter as professionally as possible. I will gush and there will absolutely be rambling and so, without further ado . . . .
One day, Christopher Moore got the bright idea to answer the question “What did Jesus Christ do in all the years the Bible neglects to deal with/leaves out?” The resulting answer is presented in Lamb, The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal. Lamb opens with the angel Raziel resurrecting Levi who is known as Biff. This initial scene hooked me completely and tells you nearly everything you need to know about Biff. Here’s how the post-resurrection conversation goes:
“I’m alive,” he said in a language he had never heard before.
“Yes,” the angel said.
“What are these sounds, these words?”
“You have been given the gift of tongues.”
“I’ve always had the gift of tongues, ask any girl I’ve known. What are these words?”
“Languages. You’ve been given the gift of languages, as were all the apostles.”
“Then the kingdom has come.”
“Two thousand years ago.”
“You worthless bag of dog shit,” said Levi who was called Biff, as he punched the angel in the mouth. “You’re late.” (pages 4-5)
It has been more than two thousand years since Jesus Christ, known as Josh in Moore’s story, walked the earth and preached the coming of the Kingdom to all who would listen. Biff, once and always Josh’s best friend has been called to write what he knows of Josh’s life and to fill in all the blanks the other Gospel writers left out or knew nothing about. You see, since the time they were children, Biff was by Josh’s side and knows more about the Messiah than any other person alive or dead. According to Biff, Josh always understood he was the Son of God and was placed on Earth to do something amazing. The problem? When Josh was a child, he had no idea what the something amazing would be and so, as he sought to understand his mission and his ultimate role in the world, Josh walked with his more worldly (and later on, more experienced) friend Biff by his side. While Biff is better equipped to navigate the real world, Joshua is better equipped to navigate the spiritual world and so the two find not only friendship with one another but balance as well.
Even when they were children, Biff watched as Josh performed miracles (resurrecting small reptiles, causing his face to appear on bread throughout the village) and does his best to protect his friend from the religious leaders of their time. Mosaic Law is deep, intricate, and very complicated and nearly every time Josh acts, he is in violation of one law or another. As Josh’s best friend, Biff spends the bulk of his time shielding Josh from religious authorities. For example, one afternoon during a funeral, Josh determines he can raise the dead woman and return her to her family. Here’s how that went down:
“But I wanted the woman to live again. To walk among us. To tell of the miracle.”
“Well, it is written , two out of three ain’t bad.”
“Where is that written?”
“Dalmatians 9:7, I think – doesn’t matter, no one else could have done what you did.”
Joshua nodded. “What are people saying?”
“They think that it was something the women used to prepare the corpse. . . .”
“So they don’t know that it was me?”
“I hope not. Joshua, don’t you understand that you can’t do that sort of thing in front of people? They aren’t ready for it.” (pages 36-37)
And so, after several such incidents, Josh determines he will only understand his true mission and how to prepare everyone for what is to come if he tracks down and learns from the three men who travelled from afar to attend his birth. And this, dear reader, is how Christopher Moore explains the years of Christ’s life that are unaccounted for in the four Gospels. Cool, right?
The largest portion of Lamb deals with these missing years and how Josh and a very reluctant Biff leave their homes and their families to travel to the east in order to find the three Magi, Balthasar, Gaspar and, Melchior. During their travels, Josh discovers coffee – one of the greatest scenes in the entire book – how to read a wide variety of languages, the deep teachings of Buddhism, the tactics of Sun-tzu’s Art of War, the equally deep teachings of Hinduism, and finally, how to teach others of and prepare them for the coming of the Kingdom. While Josh is learning to be the Messiah, Biff learns the entirety of the Kama Sutra (thanks to a prostitute with an illustrated copy of the text), how to poison people, make explosives, kick the crap out of nearly everyone, and that he must, under any and all circumstances protect Josh. There are some remarkably touching moments in this portion of the book as well as some ridiculously funny moments. I know these moments are coming and yet I still laugh out loud every time I read this book. For example, when Joshua is at the Great Monastery learning the ways of Buddhism, a part of his training is to learn kung fu. Since Josh is the Messiah and won’t inflict harm on anyone, the monks modify the form to include a weaponless discipline which they call Jew-dô, or the way of the Jew. Or, when Josh and Biff are in India and Josh explains to Biff that he just can’t pass up an opportunity for palpable irony and so he pokes someone every time someone yells “Untouchable!” For seventeen years, Josh and Biff travel and learn all in preparation for their return to Jerusalem and the beginning (and end) of Josh’s something amazing.
The return to Jerusalem is the beginning of the end and a time filled with great tension as well as a wonderful sense of hope. Josh has always known he is the Messiah and now he must literally begin to practice what he preaches. Though this is a very serious part of Lamb, the seriousness is cut through with Moore’s humor. Two of the lighter moments include the raising of Lazarus from the dead and the preparation of Josh’s Sermon on the Mount. Bet you didn’t know the Sermon on the Mount wasn’t crafted in a single stroke of genius. Biff certainly had a hand in preparing that bit of awesome and here is how part of the preparation went down:
Josh: “How we doing on the Beatitudes?”
Biff: “Pardon me?”
“We’ve got: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness; blessed are the poor in spirit, the pure in heart, the whiners, the meek, the -“
“Wait, what are we giving the meek?”
“Let’s see, uh, here: Blessed are the meek, for to them we shall say, ‘attaboy.’”
“A little weak.”
“Let’s let the meek inherit the earth.”
“Can’t you give the earth to the whiners?”
“Well then, cut the whiners and give the earth to the meek.”
“Okay. Earth to the meek. Here we go. Blessed are the peacemakers, the mourners, and that’s it.”
“How many is that?”
“Not enough. We need one more. How about the dumbfucks?”
“No, Josh, not the dumbfucks. You’ve done enough for the dumbfucks.” (pages 372-373)
Of course, all the humor in the world can’t prevent the inevitable and before you know it, the week of the Passion and the final part of Lamb is upon you. This section could have been an EPIC FAIL for Moore but instead, it is the single best section in the entire book. Again, I know this story, both Biblical and Moore’s version and I know how it ends but it still, every time and without fail, brings me to sobbing tears!! Biff cannot understand Josh’s decision, his mission and his (Biff’s) inability to protect Josh but he has been with Josh through nearly every moment of his life and does not abandon Josh even at the end. Typical of Biff, he tries, even at the end, to help his friend and make his brutal passing easier.
The Bottom Line: I sincerely hope my words, my review, and most importantly Moore’s novel have not offended you. Lamb is certainly a tongue-in-cheek novel but it also adheres to the Bible in the places it can and is intended to be fiction, not fact. For myself, I have gone back to this read time and time again (I have no idea how many times I have read this book) because it speaks to my faith and I have often found that it reinforces my own beliefs and even strengthens my faith. I know this sounds crazy but I choose to hope that the man who changed the world forever had a Biff by his side, a companion so loyal, so faithful, that he endured unimaginable personal pain in order to help his best friend accomplish a great, great mission.
Though I love the entire novel, Lamb has some parts that have always stood out for me. Below are a few of my favorite passages:
As Raziel is packing to go to Earth and resurrect Biff he is asked by the angel Stephen to “Bing me back some chocolate.”
Stephan: “It’s a dirt-dweller snack. You’ll like it. Satan invented it.” (page 2)
There is the lesson on geography:
Josh: “We used to live in Egypt.”
Biff: “No you didn’t, that’s too far. Farther than the temple even.” The Temple in Jerusalem was the farthest place I had been as a child . . . .
Josh: “We lived here, then we lived in Egypt, now we live here again.” Joshua said . . . .
Biff: “You lie, it takes forty years to get to Egypt.”
Josh: “Not anymore, it’s closer now.” (pages 10-11)
Biff learns the true meaning of the word “abomination”
“Being a shepherd seems easy. I went with Kaliel last week to tend his flock. The Law says that two must go with the flock to keep an abomination from happening. I can spot an abomination from fifty paces.”
Maggie (aka Mary Magdalene) smiled. “And did you prevent any abominations?”
Biff: “Oh yes, I kept all of the abominations at bay while Kaliel played with his favorite sheep behind the bushes.”
Josh: “Biff,” Joshua said gravely, “that was the abomination you were supposed to prevent.”
See that cool cover up above? Well, I have a copy just like it up for grabs as a way of thanking you all for taking a chance on my little blog and sticking with me as RoloPoloBookBlog continues to grow. Here are the terms and conditions: 1) one imitation leather bound, Special Gift Edition – as seen above; 2) value: $18.59 (book) + tax + shipping; 3) open to US/Canadian residents only (due to high shipping costs :(); 4) must be 13+ years to enter; 5) sweepstakes will be open until midnight on Sunday, July 7, 2013 at which time a winner will be selected and notified via email.
Just click on the cute little ‘copter below for your chance to win 🙂