This is just one of the many vital questions Christopher Moore asks and answers in his hilarious novel Lamb. This book chronicles the years that are missing from the New Testament in the Bible. It begins when Jesus (called Joshua throughout the book) was a small boy, and takes us through his awkward adolescence into adulthood, and, spoiler alert, ends at the crucifixion. The entire story is narrated by Joshua’s best friend, Levi bar Alphaeus who is called Biff. Or Biff for short.
Biff has been resurrected to present day America in order to fill in these missing years from the Bible. He is, for lack of better terms, being held captive in a hotel room by the angel Raziel, who seems much more interested in watching soap operas than supervising Biff. Anyways, it is from this hotel room that Biff tells his story, which begins when he and Joshua are six years old and Josh is putting a dead lizard in his mouth to bring it back to life.
As they pass through their childhood years, Josh works on honing his Messiah powers, while Biff work on inventing sarcasm. Priorities. In their early teen years, the lovely Margaret of Magdela, or Maggie as she’s called, moves to Nazareth and a love triangle is sparked. Biff falls madly in love with the beautiful Maggie, while she has eyes for Joseph, who is told by an angel that he needs to remain celibate. Not ideal for a teenage boy, but it’s one of the many burdens of being the Messiah, right?
As their teen years progress, Joshua realizes that he really has no idea how to be the Messiah. Sure he can make his face appear on bread and how to raise the dead, but when it comes to being a leader of people, he finds himself rather clueless. So, he and Biff set out to find the three wise men that were present at his birth, as they hold the answers in becoming the Messiah.
Their journey takes them to the Far East where they spend several years with the each of the wise men. While Joshua learns how to perform the miracles we’re familiar with (multiplying food, invisibility, Kung Fu, Judo etc), Biff learns the pleasures of harlots (he has to make up for the fact that Joshua can’t partake in this pleasure), the more violent side of Kung Fu and the intricacies of the Karma Sutra. Again, priorities.
When they return to Nazareth, Joshua begins to take on the more Jesus-y persona we’re familiar with as Biff recounts how the apostles came to join their crew, and the events leading up to Joshua’s persecution.
Needless to say, this book is hilarious. Moore writes with an elegant wit and biting sarcasm that I both tremendously enjoy and envy. I found myself laughing out loud more than once, usually at Biff’s shenanigans or when Joshua uses sarcasm against him (Biff feels that, as the inventor of the lowest form of wit, no one should be allowed to use it against him. Clearly that doesn’t happen). Between the laughs, Moore has created a deep, passionate friendship between these two characters. Through Biff’s eyes, it becomes a little clearer why people loved this dude named Joshua so much. He’s flawed, has a foul mouth and some pretty clever insults, but he’s a loveable guy. These two are like, the Jay and Silent Bob of the bible – hetero life mates and best buds. And this incredible friendship makes the inevitably sad ending of the book that much more heartbreaking. It’s beautiful.
You don’t need to know anything about the Bible to enjoy this book. Hell, my religious education is based on Christmas carols and Jesus Christ Superstar and I loved it. All you need is the love of a good story, and a solid appreciation for sarcasm, and you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.