Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore

Series: stand alone Rating: 5/5
Date of Publishing: March 1st 2002 Genre: fantasy, historical fiction, humor
Publisher: William Morrow/Harper Collins/Hachette Digital Available: Amazon, Barnes & Noble
Number of pages: 452 Author’s website: http://www.chrismoore.com/

Quote of the Book

“Mankind, I suppose, is designed to run on – to be motivated by – temptation. If progress is a virtue then this is our greatest gift. (For what is curiosity if not intellectual temptation? And what progress is there without curiosity?) On the other hand, can you call such a profound weakness a gift, or is it a design flaw? Is temptation itself at fault for man’s woes, or is it simply the lack of judgment in response to temptation? In other words, who is to blame? Mankind, or a bad designer?”

Blurb

The birth of Jesus has been well chronicled, as have his glorious teachings, acts, and divine sacrifice after his thirtieth birthday. But no one knows about the early life of the Son of God, the missing years - except Biff, the Messiah’s best bud, who has been resurrected to tell the story in this divinely hilarious, yet heartfelt work ‘reminiscent of Vonnegut and Douglas Adams’ (Philadelphia Inquirer). 

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 Saviour’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.

Personal notes

I’ve read this book in January, because I needed the comfort of my favorite book. Also I needed a break from my schedule which was about getting a bit overwhelming.

A little bit of background information about me, before I start raving about how awesome this book is. I have a BA degree in History and an MA degree in History of Religions. So you see, this book is well up my alley and though I’m not religious myself, I was always interested in how it worked, how it affected people and why humanity always needed something supernatural to hold on to. In elementary school (maybe 3rd or 4th grade) once I’ve got a book about the life of Jesus Christ and I was pretty fascinated with it. It discussed the topic from a scientific point of view, aimed for children. It was built on historical facts rather than Biblical stories. I guess that’s where everything started for me. And maybe that’s also why I love Lamb so damn much.

Song of the Book

I probably could have chosen a thousand other songs, but this was the first that came to mind. I just LOVE this song, and it goes well with the book.

Review

I’m not going too far if I say, Lamb by Christopher Moore is probably my most favourite book ever. I think it was recommended to me around 2009 – I remember bringing it with me to my first UK trip ever in 2010 and by that time I’ve read it at least once – and I instantly fell in love. In the past 10 years I’ve read it at least half a dozen times. And I still find it damn hilarious every time I decide to reread it. Though I’ve been mostly reading in English for the better part of the last 8 or so years, I think this is the first time that I read Lamb in that language. I have a well worn Hungarian paperback which I love to pieces – and which have a much better cover IMO – and a lot of memories dragging it halfway around the world. And since I have a pretty strong link with the Hungarian version, I was a bit afraid whether the enjoyment would be the same. Translations can be tricky and in recent years I’ve not been happy at how some books were translated into my language. I’m happy to report, that in this case our translator did a damn good job. The original version really lives up to my Hungarian memories.

Have you ever wondered who Jesus really was? About what happened to him during that 30 years the Bible doesn’t bother explaining? I can assure you, many scholars researched the topic, but probably none of them were as amusing as Christopher Moore‘s book. In Lamb we follow Jesus’ or rather Joshua’s life from the time he is six until his death. We watch him grow up, try his hands in miracles which later made him famous, learn how to be a Messiah. We follow him across half of the known world at the time until he returns to his home in Nasareth to be the man he was destined to be. But he wouldn’t be able to manage all that without his most trusted companion, Levi who is called Biff. Joshua – as he was called in Aramaic – , is depicted as a serious, emphatic, sensitive child who grows up into the man we more or less know from the Bible. Biff is his complete opposite, he is crafty, cunning and doesn’t say no to a little trouble making. But most of all, he is loyal to a fault.

“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 smiled. ‘And did you prevent any abominations?’ ‘Oh yes, I kept all of the abominations at bay while Kaliel played with his favorite sheep behind the bushes.’ ‘Biff,’ Joshua said gravely, ‘that was the abomination you were supposed to prevent.’”

They complement each other well, and in truth they are more brothers than friends. He also has a sense of humor which highlights the events all through the book. Because, when your best friend is the son of God, you have to suffer the companionship of the stupidest angel and you find yourself in impossible situations – like dealing with a yak, or getting your best friend out of a bag among other things), your only chance to stay sane is to develop a great sense of humor. And a healthy dose of common sense. The connection Josh and Biff have is really awesome and I have a soft spot for books which depict brotherhood such as theirs.

“Little Joshua spun on his heel. ‘My name is not Joshua bar Biff, and it is not Joshua bar Joseph either. It’s Joshua bar Jehovah!’ I looked around, hoping that no one had heard him. I didn’t want my only son (I planned to sell Judah and James into slavery) to be stoned to death for uttering the name of God in vain. ‘Don’t say that again, Josh. I won’t marry your mother.’ ‘No, you won’t.’ ‘I’m sorry.’ ‘I forgive you.’ ‘She will make an excellent concubine.’ Don’t let anyone tell you that the Prince of Peace never struck anyone. In those early days, before he had become who he would be, Joshua smote me in the nose more than once. That was the first time.”

As Joshua tries to figure out what it means to be Messiah and how can he become one, together they set off to find the three Magicans who visited Joshua upon his birth. Their adventure lead them to Balthasar in Kabul, Gaspar in China and Melchior in India. In all three places they learn about the teachings of famous philosophies and ideas which later shines through his teachings. Out of the three destinations they visited, my favorite was Kabul and Balthasar’s home with the seven Chinese concubines and the mysterious iron door. Gaspar and the monostor was a fun one too, where Joshua and Biff has to learn to ju-do. The parts about India, while were interesting, felt a bit rushed and we didn’t spend as much time there to be able to properly immerse ourselves in it.

“Rumi had expressed my sentiments exactly, but I would be damned if I was going to let my last words be ‘Eek, a tiger,’ so I listened quietly as urine filled my shoes.”

The last part of the book retells the story we know better from the Bible – how Joshua becomes the teacher people look up at, how he performs miracles and gets on the wrong side of the Sadducees and Pharisees. Even though you well damn know what is going to happen, you can’t help but sit on the edge of your seat as you read and feel ALL the emotions. I swear I have a lump in my throat every time I near the end.

“Since I could remember, my friendship with Joshua had been my anchor, my reason for being, my life; now it, he, was running toward destruction like a storm-driven ship to a reef, and I couldn’t think of a thing to do but panic.”

Lamb is, to put it simply a masterpiece. It has the right balance of adventure, humor, serious topics, mystery, history. I loved all the little Easter eggs Moore put into this book referring to historical events, people (a guy from Turin takes a cloth from Joshua after he cleans his face with it!!), etc. Not talking about how much research he must have put in to give back the atmosphere of the era, the traditions of Jews and the stories we know from the Bible. But thourough research and exquisite writing wouldn’t have been enough to have a near perfect book. What makes Lamb exceptional is the humor and the characters that Moore brought to life. No matter how many times I read it, I just can’t help laughing out loud or be sad or excited for them to succeed in their quest.

You absolutely have to read this book if you like Moore‘s books, love humor, want an alternative history about who Jesus was, enjoy reading about adventure, drama and prefer a character driven story. In short: READ THIS BOOK!

 

 

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