Well, it’s really frustrating to have to re-write a post you already wrote once, but I love you guys, so, here. I read Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore and I was pleasantly surprised by the rich authenticity of the time period, place setting, and religious customs depicted in Moore’s cheeky fiction. While the text is undeniably sacrilegious, as well as rife with cursing and bestiality jokes, I’d like to think that a Christian with a sense of humor might grudgingly acknowledge how respectfully Moore treats the actual character of Jesus, in his book called Joshua. Here is a sinless being who yet somehow maintains being a mostly normal kid. And then in the teen years, Josh remains a sinless teen, his lifestyle portrayed in sharp relief against Biff the sinner, who I’d go so far as to say represents most of us.
The book opens with an angel of God raising Biff (or Levi, who is called Biff) from the dead, with the holy mission of writing out the story of Joshua’s first thirty years. Those familiar with the more traditional Biblical text will recognize Josh’s time with the temple priests around age 12, discussion of the three wise men present at his birth, and the depiction of the end of Joshua’s life, the focus of the opening four books or so of the New Testament. But we readers here get to encounter a sweet, guileless Joshua and his lying pal Biff who mostly keeps them out of trouble, and some of Josh’s earliest miracles (think regular miracles, but with training wheels) as he tries to figure things out. We encounter his baptism-obsessed cousin John. There’s even an endearing Roman solider character who befriends Josh and Biff and looks out for them. Our pair of good Jewish boys is rounded into a trio with the addition of a little kid Maggie, short for Mary of the Magdalene.
What makes up the bulk of the novel, however, is Moore’s invented adventures of Joshua and Biff travelling East in pursuit of wisdom and how to be a Messiah, picking up knowledge about everything from Bodhisattvas to yoga to Kali along the way. Joshua learns philosophies from Buddhism, Taoism, Confuscianism. Moore even includes a number of moments where Joshua says something to the effect of, “Oh, that’s good, I’m gonna remember that,” as little origin stories for some of his most familiar sentiments, like the “do unto others” adage. Joshua and his loyal sidekick Biff pursue each of the three wise men in turn, studying in luxury here, ascetically there. Then, equipped with the knowledge of the East as well as the West, Josh and Biff make it back home just in time to pick up the more familiar stories of disciples, preaching on the mountain, water to wine, loaves and fishes. For anyone not offended by some pretty cheeky banter, Moore’s comedic depiction is a fun one.
This is the first time I’d read a book for a book club, so that was an interesting aspect of the reading experience, too. Let me just say, there is no book that is not made better by Vino’s pizza! Word Virus is the club, sponsored through the library, and it was neat to meet new and different people with just this one book in common. I am told that readers familiar with Moore’s work will recognize an angel named Raziel and a demon named Catch from previous works. Reading this novel definitely made me curious to revisit the original texts of my Pentecostal upbringing, as well as the much more serious but just as loving novel, Christ the Lord by Anne Rice.
Here we go for reading challenge updates:
- PopSugar 2017 reading challenge No. 31 A book with a main character who is a different ethnicity than you. This Christian writer states, “Jesus of Nazareth likely had a darker complexion than we imagine, not unlike the olive skin common among Middle Easterners today. ” And Wiki reports that “Most scholars believe that Jesus would have been similar in appearance to the modern inhabitants of the Middle East, due to the Bible (and other historical accounts) referring to him as a Galilean Israelite.” #blackjesus y’all. And while I’m at it #blacksanta too.
- Book Dragon’s Lair Audiobook challenge Nope.
- Book Dragon’s Lair Pages Read challenge This 464 pgs brings me to 7,737 pgs for the year so far.
- Read It Again, Sam Nope.
- My Reader’s Block Mount To Be Read (TBR) and Rock My TBR challenge Nope.
- For the Diverse Reads challenge (here and here) Nope, but I’m reading that one now.
- The Book Date Full House challenge Dang. This is the first title I wasn’t able to fit easily into a category. I knew it would happen eventually but I was surprised how upset it made me feel: somehow I thought everything would just naturally fall into place until the challenge was completed! And only then would I happen to read books that didn’t fit these categories! But then I remembered that everybody gets one free space, so I’m using this for that. Yay!
- The Book Date Read the Books You Buy challenge Yes, and this puts me at 10 read of 25 bought, or 40%, which is likely the closest to the next category, “Moderately Successful” (which starts at 41%) as I’ll get. I just can’t turn up a chance to buy books! They’re too wonderful! What if the apocalypse happens and the books we own in our homes are all that’s left of the world’s literature!
- The Worm Hole’s What’s In A Name challenge Nope.
Hashtags for the challenges that had them:
Got any fun plans for the upcoming weekend?