Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal
by Christopher Moore
Reviewed by April D. Boland
When I first heard about this book years ago, I was religious enough to both laugh at the title and wonder if it would offend me. I must have forgotten about it but when it was brought to my attention again this year, I pounced. I am no longer as religious and I thought that I could use a few laughs.
The novel is so much more than laughs, although it has plenty of those. Biff, the protagonist, is the self-proclaimed inventor of sarcasm. He is Jesus Christ's sidekick and retells all of the major events of "Joshua's" (Jesus') life through his perspective, including the childhood that is left out of each of the gospels. Apparently Matthew, Mark, Luke and John forgot to tell us that Jesus went out in search of the three Magi in the hopes that they would explain to him how to be the Messiah. He finds them in Afghanistan, China and India and learns important tenets of the eastern faiths that help him develop his own repertoire, which those of us who were raised in the Christian church will immediately recognize.
On a purely superficial level, the book is fun and comical. When one looks deeper, however, there are extraordinary elements to the story. The friendship between Biff and Joshua, as well as between the two and Maggie (Mary Magdalene), is rich, complex and satisfying. We find ourselves liking Jesus in a completely different way than we do in the gospels. He starts out as a child with special powers who is unsure of how to use them, and develops into a compassionate, intelligent figure.
As a person who has been burned by Christianity, I found "Lamb" not offensive but endearing. It made me feel better about who Christ might have been (Moore makes no pretense to be portraying fact; he admits that this is fiction based on what we know historically) and what the faith means. It is an excellent and fun read for Christians and non-Christians alike, and my favorite read of this year.