Around this time last year I was just finishing up reading Lamb by Christopher Moore, easily one of the best books I’ve ever read. So now, “The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal” is forever embedded in my psyche as part of the holiday season. And that’s OK with me.
The book is is a (very) fictionalized account of Christ’s missing years–those mysterious 30-some years between birth and crucifiction. Biff meets Joshua by the village well one day when the young Christ is killing, and reviving a lizard, over and over. Joshua and his buddy Biff travel the world as young men, learning about world religions and life, while Joshua grapples with what it means to be the son of God. Eventually he returns to Israel, where they meet up with their old pal Maggie (Mary Magdalene) and the other disciples and start preaching.
I gave this book to my best-friend, a good Catholic girl if ever there was one, and she loved it. She sobbed–much like I did–but we loved this book for very different reasons. She kept telling me how she always cries at “the passion of Christ” (not the Mel Gibson movie…) and I was completely moved by Biff’s complete and utter devotion to his friend. When Joshua first sets off on his journey, Biff tells his family he’s going along, and says he’s going not because Joshua is the Messiah, but because he’s his best friend. That’s the kind of guy I can really get behind.
Then there is the love staory between Joshua, Biff, and Maggie. A college profressor of mine once said that the most interesting relationship in a love triangle is between the two people competing for the third person’s love. In Lamb’s case that couldn’t be more true, or more complicated. Maggie loves Joshua, but Joshua is the sin-less son of God and cannot know a woman’s love. Biff loves Maggie, but he also loves Joshua–perhaps even more than MAggie does–and finally, Josh loves Maggie too. (Following so far?) Basically, it’s General Hospital only without the hair and makeup. But these relationships are what humanize Joshua, what makes the book so successful.
For many reasons, it’s hard to really hard to comprehend the idea of seeing both man and God, whether it’s because you don’t believe, or because you jsut don’t have that kind of imagination. In any case, Lamb does a nearly pitch-perfect rendering of what it must be like to grow up under that kind of pressure, knowing your destiny, but trying to live the life of an ordinary man. It’s the kind of book that makes me understand the existence of groups like Jews for Jesus, because despite not being grounded in any sort of reality, it can’t help but make you think, “That was one cool dude.”