Around a quarter of the way into Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore, I decided I had finally found a book I didn’t like. (Sorry, Bree!)
The tone, the characters, the storyline – I just wasn’t into it.
But then it got good.
First, a brief synopsis:
We all know the story of Jesus Christ – his virgin birth, his gruesome death. But what about the bit in the middle? What happened between Jesus’s birth and crucifixion? Well, it turns out the Bible left out an important part of the story – and an important character: Biff, the quick-thinking, sarcastic, and eternally horny best bud of Jesus Christ himself.
So an angel brings Biff back to life in modern times to write his own gospel, the story of the missing years between Jesus’s birth and his death. Following Jesus’s quest to seek out the three wise men to learn how to be the Messiah, Biff’s gospel shares a side of the Lord that few have ever seen (and now cannot unsee.)
Lamb gets off to a slow start. The story drags before Biff and Jesus – or, as he was known back then (apparently?), Joshua – begin their quest to find the three wise men. Despite that, those draggy chapters were needed to lay the groundwork for some new characters and for some re-imagined familiar characters, like Mary Magdalene (call her Maggie.)
Those chapters also helped define the setting; no matter how many Bible stories you’ve heard or Passion of the Christ movies you’ve seen, it’s hard to have a full historical understanding of the timeframe in which Jesus lived. (Okay, perhaps I’m the only person oblivious to all the political and religious issues that were occurring at that time in that part of the world. I started attending public school in grade three, and we didn’t get too Biblical there.)
The story picked up once Biff and Josh set out on their journey, and once I realized that each wise man would introduce our Lord Savior Jesus Christ to an EASTERN religion, I was hooked. I mean, I think Jesus was probably a pretty cool guy (regardless of whether I adhere to the Catholic concept of him), and I think his teachings have value even today – but I find eastern religions like Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism to be so interesting.
That the traditional deity from my Catholic upbringing would go on a quest to learn from other belief structures really appealed to my concept of religion. I value spirituality, but I can’t get behind rigid religions that persecute others. No God(s) that I believe in would condone that kind of hate.
So I liked that Moore sent Jesus into the world to draw from other religions for his teachings. It makes more sense to me than any of the Bible stories I’ve read along the way.
I also liked Biff. His shenanigans and colour commentary were a nice counter to the (mostly) straight-and-narrow Joshua. And though I knew how the story was going to end – because duh – I couldn’t help but root for Biff to find a way for Josh to get out of, you know, sacrificing himself for our sins.
And while this book is in no way historically accurate, it rekindled my interest in theology and kind of almost possibly made me believe in God again.
Or, at least, in the value of believing in something.