Think about your life and the stories you might tell of it.
Think of the grand adventures, great accomplishments, and life lessons. I know how most of you would like to tell the story of your life; I’ve had a look at more than a few résumés in my time.
But now, think about your best friend who was with you; think how that person would tell the same story.
It would probably not be exactly how you remember it and certainly not exactly how you would want it told.
Well, Lamb, by Christopher Moore is the story of Joshua.
To quote his best friend, “His name was Joshua. Jesus is a Greek translation of the Hebrew Yeshua, which is Joshua. Christ is not his last name. It’s the Greek for messiah, a Hebrew name for anointed. I have no idea what the “H” in Jesus H. Christ stands for. It’s one of the things I should have asked him.”
His best friend is Levi, who is called Biff. No middle initial.
In the story, an angel resurrects Biff in modern times to fill in the missing parts of the Bible—to tell the tales of how the baby whose birth was attended by the three wise men (a Hindu yogi, a Buddhist and a magician, as it turns out) became the Messiah.
Biff met Joshua as he was serially resurrecting the lizard his little brother was killing with a rock at the town well.
Joshua didn’t know he was the savior, although his mother did. The townsfolk all thought she was crazy for it. But when his face showed up on all of the flatbread at Passover and the whole raising-the-dead experience added up, it started to raise their suspicions.
But it was the visit from the angel Raziel (albeit 10 years late— he does apologize for that, but he had stopped to chat with Michael on the way and he had a deck of cards) that confirmed suspicions.
And so started the boy’s entry into puberty, and Joshua’s quest for learning all he would need to know to be the Savior.
For the Christians among us, don’t worry, in Moore’s version of Christ’s childhood, he doesn’t twist or darken the reputation of the Messiah. Joshua stays as pure and chaste in the Gospel according to Biff as he does in any other.
For the rest of you, don’t worry either, it’s not like there is no “action” of that sort. Biff, as any good friend would, didn’t want Joshua to go through his life without experiencing of the company of a woman. They decided together that if Joshua must remain chaste, he could at least enjoy women vicariously through Biff. And vicariously Joshua did have many relations with many women—sometimes with eight Chinese concubines. Biff was a very good friend in this way.
Biff is the perfect foil to the young Joshua, growing into Godhood and incapable of violence or telling anything less than the truth. These traits led often to trouble, but Biff’s casual interpretations of truth, virtue and integrity may be the only reason Joshua survived to live and die and live again. They certainly add spice to stories of Joshua’s spiritual growth.
I’m sure there are some who will choose to be offended by this book; It’s a humorous take on the most popular book of all time. I would have been a little uncomfortable enjoying a book that played fast-and-loose with the Bible, if it weren’t for the fact that my best friend picked up his copy of Lamb from the bookstore at the Vatican. I’m confident of this because I trust my best friend every bit as much as Jesus could trust his.
And if the book is Vatican-approved, I can hardly be denounced for enjoying it, can I? And neither can you.
I strongly recommend this one.
Mark Beese enjoys life on the Lamb.