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Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal. By Christopher Moore. New York, NY: Harper Collins, 2002. Print.

By Mandy Webster

After thousands of years, the mystery of Christ’s whereabouts from the time he was 12 until the age of 30 has been solved. Christopher Moore’s Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal, is Biff’s often hysterical account of the life of Christ during this oft-debated period.

Throughout this novel, Moore explores such deep theological questions as the divinity of Christ and free will, using modern language sometimes reminiscent of a contemporary television sitcom. Moore manages to integrate a high level of intellectual humor throughout most of the novel. For me, Lamb has earned the cliché, “laugh out loud.” In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me to hear that Biff himself had coined the phrase to begin with.

I’m not normally one to cry or laugh out loud when reading any book, but the sarcasm and irreverent humor used to create humor throughout Lamb definitely had me going. For example, when Joseph asks Biff, whose name translates roughly as “smack upside the head,” (p. 9) if he wants to become a stonecutter, Biff replies,“I was thinking about becoming the village idiot, if my father will allow it.”

“He has a God-given talent,” Joshua said.

“I’ve been talking to Bartholomew the idiot,” I said. “He’s going to teach me to fling my own dung and run headlong into walls” (27).

When taken out of context, I’m not sure why I even found this particular passage so funny. I think it has something to do with the specific sentiment Moore develops using Joseph’s seriousness and Joshua’s presumed divinity suddenly being trivialized by Biff’s smart-ass remarks. That and the fact that Jesus Christ so easily plays along.

The constant humanization of Jesus, aka Joshua, through the use of humor is an ongoing theme in Lamb. This purposeful humanization is counteracted by the innate divinity with which Joshua struggles throughout his life.

The dialog throughout Lamb is highly modernized, creating incongruence between the language used by Joshua, Biff and others characters and the language one would expect to hear from Christ and his followers during the time of Christ.

“Bartholomew says that he knows you are the Messiah.”

“The idiot? Did you ask him how he’s knows?”

“He says the village dogs told him.”

“I never thought to ask the dogs.”

“He says that we should live simply, like dogs, carry nothing, no affectations – whatever that means.”

“Bartholomew said that? Sounds like an Essene. He’s much smarter than he looks.”

“He’s trying to learn to lick his own balls.”

“I’m sure there’s something in the Law that forbids that. I’ll ask the Rabbi.”

“I’m not sure you want to bring that up to the Pharisee.” (41)

In Lamb, Moore often walks the fine line between believable and ludicrous, and he does occasionally cross that line. After a while, the reader is left thinking, “Oh come on now. Now you’re just being ridiculous.” By the time I reached the part where Biff was fooling around with Balthazar’s concubines, my own inner voice was saying, “Uh-huh, yeah. Sure you did, Biff.” Overall, Moore’s version of Christ’s lost years is as believable as any other I’ve read, and infinitely more entertaining.

Amanda L. Webster