Literature: Lamb: The Gospel According To Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal
An Affectionate Parody of The Bible by absurdist & humorist Christopher Moore.As suggested by its title, the main character and Sympathetic P.O.V. is a fellow named "Levi bar Alphaeus who is called Biff." The reason he doesn't show up in the actual Bible is that he was kind of a jerk and the other apostles conspired to keep him out of it (or so he figures). In the modern day, Biff is resurrected by an angel to give his accounts of what it was like to have known Joshua bar Joseph since they were both six years old, and he stumbled upon him having his kid brother smash a lizard with a rock, sticking the dead lizard in his mouth, and taking it back out alive again.
Biff: I wanna do that. Josh: Which part?
In between epistolary moments where he marvels about modern life, Biff pens his gospel, filling in a lot of the blanks of Jesus: The Early Years. According to Biff, the two of them went east so that Josh could learn, from The Three Wise Men, how to become the Messiah. Along the way, they absorbed many Buddhist, Taoist and Hindu attitudes which informed Joshua's later preaching. Biff looks out for his best friend, tempering Joshua's innocent stupidity with his own brand of ruthless, practical Magnificent Bastardry. The only thing that gets him off-balance is the presence of his childhood crush, Mary the Magdalene ("Maggie"), who is depicted as having a thing for Josh. And, because it's a humor novel, all sorts of silly things happen, be it the names of Balthazar's concubines, the explanation of how the martial art Judo came about, or the start of the Jewish tradition of having Chinese food on Joshua's birthday.
This book contains examples of:
Adorkable: Josh comes off as a bit of this. He literally cannot help himself from poking anyone who calls himself an Untouchable, and finds it hilarious every single time.
Anything That Moves: Sort of a running gag throughout the book. There were some perverted people back then...
Big Brother Instinct: A big part of Biff's heart of gold is his constant and never wavering desire to protect Josh, not just follow him. The one time he leaves Josh, he's at a complete loss at what to do until he goes back. Even the monks noticed it.
"If I was basking in the light of his holiness all of the time, how would I take care of him? Who would do all of his lying and cheating for him?"
Book Ends: For Biff's Gospel narrative in a way. Josh refuses to tell Biff why he must meet Maggie instead before they leave to find the Wise Men. Near the end of the book, Josh lies to Biff on where he intends to go, which ultimately ends in Josh's death.
Came Back Wrong: Lazarus, who has, err, somewhat fragmented in the meanwhile. (This is a Shout-Out to The Bible: Maggie protests that they should not open the tomb because Lazarus has been dead for four days and the stench will be dreadful.)
Celibate Hero: Josh is commanded by an angel (Raziel) not to "know women." What exactly does that mean? They mean to ask Raziel the next time he appears... but, as a Running Gag, they never get around to it.
Biff finds a loophole: he goes to know some women and then tells Josh about it.
Chick Magnet: Josh. Biff had a pretty interesting way of utilizing this for apostle recruits, as he demonstrates with Matthew:
Biff: Sad. You're probably heartbroken. That's sad. You see those women? There's women like that all the time around Joshua. And here's the best part, he's celibate. He doesn't want any of them. He's just interested in saving mankind and bringing the kingdom of God to earth - which we all are, of course. But the women, well, I think you can see...
Catch is the main villain in Christopher Moore's first book, Practical Demon Keeping, in which a man summons the demon and then can't figure out how to get rid of him. There's even a mention that the demon said he'd been to Earth before, but refused to say how he'd been banished.
Joshua's opinion of this "sarcasm" thing Biff invented (at least at first, before Josh starts using it in ways Biff never intended, i.e., against him). Other noteworthy ones include matches and the concept of gravity.
Likewise, Biff's name for a big barrier used to keep some barbarians out: The Ostentatious and Unpleasant Wall Of China. Joshua suggests asking if they named it yet in case Biff wants to submit it.
Jerkass Gods: While Josh is cool, his dad's reaction to his pleading for humanity is "Fuck 'em".
Jesus: The Early Years: The book is all about this. "Josh" travels to India, China, and The Middle East to visit The Three Wise Men, where they in turn teach Jesus one different facet of his later teachings. (In the afterword, Moore is specific in mentioning that Buddhism didn't reach China in the lifetime of Jesus. For him to study under a Buddha in Tibet would have been anachronistic.)
In the afterword, Moore mentions researching apocrypha dealing with Josh's/Jesus's/Yeshua's early life. Some stories even he had to pass on, such as child Jesus terrorizing and murdering children.
Jesus Was Crazy: A corner case. Jesus isn't crazy (and in fact is portrayed as closer to Crazy Awesome) but he's distracted enough by the whole Son of God thing that he comes off as a bit loopy.
Odd Name Out: All of Balthasar's concubines have long and elaborate names, often regarding their occupation (for instance, "Tiny Feet of the Divine Dance of Joyous Orgasm," who for obvious reasons just goes by "Joy")... Except for the last one: "Sue (short for Susanna)". A subversion, too, since Joy, not Susannah, lives through the following disaster.
Oh, and X Dies: When Biff finally gets the key to open the big scary door... he has an adorable exchange with one of Balthasar's concubines...and mentions that was the last time he ever saw her in one piece.
Offstage Waiting Room: Most of the novel takes place during the "lost years" of Ieshua of Nazareth; his actual ministry only takes up the last third or quarter of the book.
Reasonable Authority Figure: Gaius Justus Gallicus, a centurion captain in Nazareth. He bears no particular prejudice or hatred for Jews, just reminds them that in Roman colonies there are two rules: pay your taxes, and don't revolt.
Also subverted as the monastery is described as incredibly cold, and generally not a fun place to live.
Shaming the Mob: "Let he who is without sin..." (Josh himself is played completely straight in this scene, and in fact in most of the book; it's Biff who provides most of the silliness...mostly. Josh gets some good ones in as well.)
Shown Their Work: Moore's depiction of life in Palestine is reasonably historically accurate. He also includes an appendix in which he admits his deviations from known history on grounds of Rule of Drama and Rule of Funny.
Values Dissonance: Invoked - Josh's "drive the demon Legion into the pigs and drown them" miracle doesn't go over so well when the onlookers are a) Gentiles and b) the owners of said pigs. As it was, Torches and Pitchforks were involved.
Joshua: What? If they were Jews, it would have gone over great. I'm new at Gentiles.
Vitriolic Best Buds: Josh and Biff are a mild case at best, but the shades of it get truly meaningful when the reader realizes that Biff is the only person Josh can be human with - the only one he will even lie to.
Another good example of how Moore both pokes fun at The Bible and plays it straight. Peter takes one step and goes straight in. Josh teases him for being dumb as a rock, but also praises him for the strength of his faith, claiming, "On this rock..."
Also played with earlier in the book when Biff would ride on his elephant's head while it swam fully underwater. He claimed to be walking on water.