Thursday, September 15, 2011

book review

I recently re-read Lamb by Christopher Moore, and I enjoyed it thoroughly the second time through.

The full title is "Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal", and I would like to say that I enthusiastically recommend it to any and all readers, but I suspect that the truth is more complicated.

The story is decidedly unorthodox in it's theology (mostly; see below), and many sincere Christians would likely be offended by many different aspects of the book, while many readers who come to the book without much exposure to modern Christianity might miss out on a good deal of the "inside" humor.

Lamb's general premise is that the 4 gospels recognized by the mainstream church cover only the beginning and end of the life and ministry of Jesus, and that approach leaves out a lot.  In order to fill in the missing years, "Biff" is resurrected by an angel, sent by his old buddy Jesus in the modern era, to write a new gospel in celebration of the second millenium (the book was published a few years back).

I find the book and the narrative of the Messiah's middle years very funny, and poignant, and spiritually edifying (from my decidedly liberal spiritual vantage, at least).  The likelihood that the novel gets the details correct about what Jesus did between 3 and 30 is pretty slim, but it's a fun speculation.

My own background of 1000s of hours in Sunday school and in personal study of the Bible made the references to the actual scripture jump out, and the way those references worked in the context of the narrative were often clever; in one instance, we see a young Jesus (and Biff) laboring at a housebuilding site where they hear the master craftsmen explain to the homeowner why the foundation had to be excavated down to the bedrock and back-filled, as a "house built upon the sand will not stand".

The liberal use of profanity, the open discussions of sex and sexuality, and the non-orthodox elements of the story did not bother me, but I can see how my more religiously inclined friends might take offense.  In an interesting twist, near the end of the book Biff offers a synopsis of the gospel as he saw Jesus teaching it, and the main points line up pretty tightly with the general, modern Protestant orthodox approach.

So, to wrap this up, I found the book entirely entertaining, and I think anyone interested in the story of Jesus or the evolution of the Christian faith, either from an insider or outsider perspective, would find it a good read.

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