Yep, definitely not an asp.

by Chet

In between book selections for my book partnership I picked up Lamb by Christopher Moore. It’s a novel that my dear wife has been urging me to read for the better part of 2011; now I’ve finished the book after finally taking up her recommendation and couldn’t be happier with that decision. I want to get a few fun facts about this book out of the way before I dive into my feelings on it. Lamb is the fictitious comedy of Jesus of Nazareth through the eyes of his best friend Biff, keyword fictitious. It contains more sex and swearing than most people will think a book about the life of Jesus should have, again fictitious. Jesus learns kung-fu.

The entire book is told from Biff’s perspective, and he begins his story by explaining Jesus’ name isn’t actually Jesus Christ. From there on Jesus is referred to by either Joshua or simply Josh. It’s humanizing and makes the character more approachable. Biff met Josh when they were six years old. Josh knows he’s the son of God, because Mary is apparently the earliest and proudest soccer mom of all time. When we meet little Josh he has a lizard in his mouth, it’s a nice meeting filled with smashed zombie lizards. As readers we are welcomed into this world where Josh is just a normal little boy with the same curiosities as all little boys.

There are a few more misadventures in the early part of Josh and Biff’s friendship that include dealing with bullies and murder, meeting Mary Magdalene (Maggie), taming a Cobra (asp?). I’m not sure why Josh had such an affinity for reptiles. Also, Biff invented sarcasm.

Here’s a quick interchange between the two that will help highlight the difference between the two boys:

Josh: Have you committed the sin of Onan?
Biff: No, but I’m looking forward to it.”

As Josh and Biff grow older and begin training for their stations in life as masons. Yes, Joseph was a carpenter, but he allowed Josh to train under Biff’s father as a stone worker. Josh struggles with the fact that he doesn’t feel like he knows how to be the Messiah of his people. This is the battle that leads him to leave home to find the three magi who were present at his birth. Biff came along, naturally.

Each of the three Magi teach Joshua and Biff, but mostly Josh, a new aspect of life and enlightenment. There is a blending of the eastern religions into Joshua’s identity as the messiah. This blending is recognizable in the non-fictitious parts of Josh’s life as we know it. The again Moore took pieces of each religion that show up in nearly every form of human spirituality. Notably the Golden Rule.

There are, of course, more misadventures. These however are both humorous and mournful. We witness the death of a mighty peaceful being, as well as a complete destruction of innocence. There are battles with demons and challenges for vengeful and violent Hindu gods. There is a point where a demon has been unleashed in the caves Josh and Biff have called home for a few years. Josh is able to calm the demon down with a touch. Before banishing the demon from Earth, Josh offers to allow him a moment of truly free will. It was a poor judgement call on Josh’s part.

While Josh is seeking Nirvana in India, Biff pays a lovely woman to teach him through every page of the Kama Sutra. He uses Josh’s new found skills to make enough money to do so, without having to beg in the streets.

Eventually Josh and Biff are called back to their homelands. The story then switches from totally fictional, to only sorta, sometimes fictional yet coincidentally related to events as described in the Bible. For the most part we know how those events go, as well as how Josh’s story as a human ends.

Lamb does go on through the crucifixion, but I’m stopping here. By time the books reaches this point Moore has done a great job of switching from full-on comedy to complete reverence and respect of the subject at hand. Never while reading the “Lamb” or “Passion” sections of the book did I feel like cheap shots were taken toward any religion as a whole. There are comedic scenes, including one where Josh regrows a little girl’s arm, and thusly teaches her a very important symbol involving one finger to share with the Pharisees. Overall, however the respect is there, and I think that really solidifies this book as more than just a mere parody.

Go find this book today, and read it if you haven’t. You won’t regret it. Also, don’t worry about being offended by it, or worrying about it raising any deep religious stirrings within you. As Christopher Moore writes in the end of the book, and I’m paraphrasing because I don’t have the book with me, if this story shakes your religion, you should probably do some more praying.