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Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal
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475 of 500 people found the following review helpful
on March 6, 2002
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
What does the H in Jesus H. Christ stand for? I'll give you a hint--it's a family name. Beyond that, you'll have to read the book and discover it for yourself.
I interviewed Chris Moore for my writing ezine. At the time, he was in the throes of writing Lamb, and had been instructed by his publisher to keep the project hush-hush, lest a bad B movie rendition torpedo the whole thing. I remember him saying that this book would certainly "piss off more people" than any of his previous works--and from the looks of the reviews cropping up here, the process has already begun.
I've read every one of Christopher Moore's books--I'm a devoted fan. Every time I read Chris Moore in bed, I find myself laughing so hard that my husband refers to me as "the human equivalent of Magic Fingers." I have to believe that someone whose writing can evoke such a reaction has a true gift. Christopher Moore's writing is both funny and deeply humane--he pokes fun at the world with tenderness and benevolence. That style shines through in Lamb, a story retold by Jesus' life-long friend, the irrepressible Levi, who is called Biff.
At first glance, it might seem Biff is an archetype--the guy whose exterior reflects "a--hole," (to quote the angel, Raziel), but who actually possesses a heart of gold. But on further examination, Biff's more than that. He's intelligent (incidentally, the first to theorize that the world was round, and the first to speculate on the existence of gravity), kind and selfless. Sure, he has his faults, but that brilliant combination of jerk/gentleman is what makes him so intriguing.
Those who scoff at this book for religious reasons (and there will be many, I'm sure) are missing the bigger picture. As Moore relates in his afterword, the book was "not designed to change anyone's beliefs or worldview." But, for me, it did. I'm a Christian, and after reading Lamb I came away with a new understanding of Jesus (called Joshua in the book--Jesus is the Greek translation of the Hebrew, Yeshua, which is Joshua) as a human being. The fact that Jesus became human to redeem the world is the core of the Christian faith, and Christopher Moore brings that belief home with an almost magical tenderness. I found it moving to think of Jesus as a real person, and not some mystical, unreachable Godhead. Regardless of Moore's own religious beliefs--it's difficult to determine whether he views Christ as the Son of God, or a fascinating historical figure with a 30-year hole in his life story--Lamb meant something to me, and I know I'll read it more than once.
Is Lamb a perfect book? No. Some of the humor was a little too slapstick to really work. But as a whole, it's a bright spot in a world that has grown far too serious and cynical. Lamb was painstakingly researched; it's poignant and real; and, oh yeah...it's incredibly funny.
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153 of 158 people found the following review helpful
on January 5, 2008
Format: Imitation LeatherVerified Purchase
Okay, I'm old (over 50) and have been an avid reader all my life, so the number of books I own or which have passed beneath my gaze is way beyond counting. And if one played the old game of "You're on a sinking ship and can grab a handful of books to take with you to that desert island over there where you'll be stuck for who knows how long... what would you take?" then Lamb would definitely be in the handful (others, in case you're interested: Virginia Woolf's "The Waves", Dostoevsky's "Brothers Karamazov", Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" and an anthology of poetry, heavy on the romantics).

I should issue a warning, however, which is that this book is dangerous. If you're someone who doesn't like embarrassing yourself by laughing out loud in public places like subway trains or at boring baseball games, then this isn't the book for you. It's one of those rarities, the book that makes you guffaw whether you want to or not.

I've read most of Moore's work (and have met him a couple of times - he's a very funny guy in person too), and this is easily his best novel. It is hysterically funny at many points, and yet manages to always protect the central character of Joshua (Jesus). Moore treats Joshua with respect throughout. He's never the butt of the many jokes directly; his best friend Biff is always the comic and the fall guy - but oh my, how gloriously he plays that role.

Offhand, and despite my extensive reading experience, I can't think of a funnier book than this one. True, you have to have a somewhat sick sense of humor to fully appreciate it, but those of that persuasion will love it and will find it one of the best reading rides of their lives. Buy it and treat yourself.
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166 of 182 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
The Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John leave a gaping hole in the story of Jesus. They tell of the shepherds, the angel, the virgin, the manger, and the wise men, then jump to Jesus as a thirtysomething rabbi. What did Jesus do during his formative years? Christopher Moore has an answer in his latest novel Lamb: The Gospel According To Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal. Biff is Levi bar Alphaeus, son of a stonemason and childhood friend of Joshua [Yeshua] bar Jehovah, son of God. The first section of the novel tells of the adventures of Biff, Joshua, and Maggie [Mary of Magdala] in and around Nazareth. The next three sections take Biff and Joshua to visit and learn from each of the three magi. The last section puts a Christopher Moore spin on the story told in the New Testament. We can read the good news according to Biff because the angel Raziel has resurrected Biff [and one other person] to write their versions of the Gospel. Biff's interactions with Raziel are interspersed with the main story, usually at the beginings of chapters, and [inconsistently] set apart as long block quotes. This is a humorous book from a master of humor, but also a sensitive book. I loved this novel. Humor fans, Christopher Moore fans, believers, non-believers, mainstream Christians, and non-Christians should all love this wonderful book. If you find sacrilege in non-Biblical mentions of Jesus, stay away from this novel. You'll hate it. You might even want to burn it. You'll convince your friends to write gratuitous negative reviews of this book. But in my opinion, any open-minded person who has ever mused about the life and teachings of Jesus will find a lot to laugh about and think about in Christopher Moore's Lamb.
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42 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on February 28, 2002
Format: Hardcover
With "Lamb", Christopher Moore has opened a door that has been closed to many people. This book offers the light of humanity that has been missing from many images of God and his kin. I have laughed and almost cried while reading this book. If something can move me so deeply and so quickly, with humor and respect, I feel compelled to share.
As the daughter of a Methodist minister, I can say without hesitation that I am, in no way! offended by this brilliant novel. Please, do not read one excerpt and then harshly dismiss this humorous look at the childhood of Christ as blasphemy. Take a moment to remember what it was to be a child and then imagine how you might have handled the burden.
Kudos to Moore and his bravery, talent and really cool outlook on Life.
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61 of 73 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon April 12, 2004
Format: Paperback
Okay, it seemingly appears on the cover as being sacreligious. After all, Jesus having a childhood friend named Biff, of all things? However, despite it's cheeky tone and some brilliantly funny scenes, there is a sense of reverence that flows under the story, which in turn, ends up dominating the ending.
Biff is narrator, called from the dead to tell his story of his best pal Jesus. Friends since the early days, there is a comraderie between the two lads, a la Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. Biff, frankly, is nothing short of an idiot, but a well-intentioned idiot. He is seemingly unimpressed by the miracles his friend can do, and often calls on him to perform to suit their purposes. And in great Hope and Crosby form, due to a problem with a certain Roman centurion, they have to take to the road, following Jesus' wish to meet the three wise men that visited him at birth.
This is the richest part of the novel as the author spins a fantastic tale of what might have happened to Jesus during those unaccounted for years. Given free range, Moore runs with it and paints a wild adventure that's amusing and entertaining. Several times I was enchanted with the action and the humor. Biff is living it up, and Jesus, seemingly understanding his friend and his role, allows for both to happen.
And in fact, that is one wonderful thing that Moore does in the book. Jesus is never made to be anything than what history has deemed him to be. In other words, the character of Jesus in his book fits with our perception of who he should be. When it comes time for Jesus to decide whether he wants to be sexual with a woman, he elects not to, bit in true young man fashion, pumps Biff for all the juicy details to understand the act. We see a Jesus confused by his own destiny, yet figuring it out, somehow with the help of Biff.
What starts out as a promising two-thirds of a book ends up disappointing in the end. Of course, I began to wonder what was going to happen to these characters one the fictional Jesus collides with the historical Jesus and needs to start following the Gospel narratives. Moore plunges along, and with it, much of the humor fades. Perhaps it would have been wiser to stop the narrative at that point. We all know how it's going to end and frankly, there is no easy to way to make light of it (unless you're in Monty Python.... but I digress).
So I give this book three stars, for an admirable two thirds of a story that is funny and wise at the same time.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on November 5, 2007
Format: Imitation Leather
You absolutely have to see and feel this book in person to gain the full appreciation of this edition. This book is the perfect gift for first time readers of Moore, and die hard fans.

Lamb is one of my all time favorite books, and probably Moore's best work (though I am also very partial to Island of the Sequined Love Nun.) It is laugh out loud funny, while being thought-provoking and open-minded. Open-mindedness and religion are generally mutually exclusive, but Moore executes brilliantly.

I bought 5 copies (one for me and 4 to give as gifts) and I think I'll be buying ... ready? .... Moore.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on June 18, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is the first book I've read by Christopher Moore, but it certainly won't be the last. His style of writing is so down to earth that you can relate to everything he says instantly. You'll laugh out loud numerous times and repeat passages to friends, family, or anyone who has an ear.
The basis of the book is that Levi (Who is called Biff) was Christ's best friend growing up. With orders from God, the angel Raziel has resurrected Biff in modern day Egypt, travels with him to NYC, and locks him in a hotel room. Raziel, who is addicted to pro wrestling, MTV, and soap operas, is locked in the room with Biff and charges him with the task of writing his own gospel of Christ to fill in the gaps that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John left out which was pretty much everything from the wise men to the age of 33. Biff recounts his time with Joshua (Joshua is his Hebrew name, Jesus is his Greek name) and their adventures to teach Josh how to be the Messiah. Along the way, you'll learn about Biff's experiences with the Kama Sutra, Josh's schooling in meditation and knack for getting stuck in wine bottles, what bunnies have to do with Easter, what the "H" stands for in Jesus H. Christ, and most of all, the bond between two best friends.
Is it satire? Of course. Is it blasphemous? That's for the reader to decide. Is it the funniest book I've ever read? Without a doubt.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
I've been told for quite some time what a good book this was, but I'd avoided reading it. I've got a sense of humor about my faith ("Dogma" is one of my favorite movies), but I also feel there's a very thin line between having a sense of humor about religion and outright ridiculing it, and the latter holds no interest for me. Not being sure which side of that line Lamb fell on, it kept getting shunted aside as I read other books.

Then this past Christmas I read "The Stupidest Angel" by Christopher Moore and I absolutely LOVED it -- and it wasn't until I was halfway through that novel that I realized it was the same author as "Lamb." That was enough for me to give it a shot. I'm glad to say that this book completely engrossed me. Told from the viewpoint of Levi who was called Biff, best friend of Joshua of Nazareth ("Jesus" being the Greek translation of the Hebrew "Yeshua"), who traveled with the Son of God from the age of six until his death on the cross. This book fills in the missing 30 years in the life of Jesus in a lighthearted, humorous manner. The two boys set out on a journey at a young age to help Joshua learn to be the Messiah, traveling to all corners of the far east and learning many philosophies and disciplines which actually fit quite nicely into the teachings of Jesus. It's entirely off the wall, but at the same time, the novel as a whole makes a lot of sense and, rather than ridiculing faith, actually uses humor to accentuate those things that are most important. While this is by no means a religious text (Biff's frequent swearing and promiscuity would preclude that if nothing else), it's a wonderful read, and perhaps the best books I've read yet this year.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on December 7, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is Christopher Moore's humorous attempt to fill in the mysterious childhood of Jesus (or Joshua, as Moore calls him). He does this through the fictional invention of a boyhood friend named Biff (really Levi, but Biff is his nickname) who tags along with Jesus as he grows to maturity and realizes his divine nature and takes his place as Messiah and Son of God. Lamb is exceedingly irreverent at times. Don't read it if you can't handle liberal use of the f-bomb (steer clear if Good Will Hunting made you squirm). Moore himself is not a Christian, but I was amazed at how rather traditional is his view of Jesus. Though he sends Jesus on a trip to the far east to learn from the three magi who visited him at birth, Moore never questions Jesus' celibacy, miracles, resurrection, or even his divinity. Moore does add some elements to Jesus' life - Jesus does learn kung-fu, Zen-style meditation, befriends a yeti, as well disrupting child sacrifices to Kali in India.

My guess is a lot of Christians (fundies especially) would not appreciate much of Lamb. I personally thought it was hilarious, and in a strange way I was encouraged by Moore's admiration for Christ. This is Moore's assessment of what he was trying to do:

"I portray Joshua having and making fun, yet somehow, I like to think that while he carried out his sacred mission, Jesus of Nazareth might have enjoyed a sense of irony and the company of a wisecracking buddy. This story is not and never was meant to challenge anyone's faith; however, if one's faith can be shaken by stories in a humorous novel, one may have a bit more praying to do." Good point.

Get it. Read it. I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy it. And who knows, in a strange way, it may make you feel closer to Jesus. I found myself identifying with Biff - a guy who never imagined himself as a spiritual insider, but at the same time drawn to follow Jesus.
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27 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on March 11, 2003
Format: Paperback
No less an authority than Ralph Waldo Emerson said one of the chief failings of contemporary Christianity was that it emphasized the myth of Christ over the actual historical figure of Jesus. Fortunately, Christopher Moore has decided to present us with his own vision of Jesus's human side, as told by his resurrected best friend, Levi bar Alphaeus who is called Biff.
Moore has a well-earned reputation as a silly writer, but with "Lamb" he manages to apply his bizarre sense of humor to some more serious subject matter. "Lamb" is a sort of strange combination of adventure, religious satire, screwball comedy, and heavy philosophy. At turns it's funny, at other turns it's plaintive, and sometimes it's just odd, but it's always a fun read. After meeting as kids in Galilee, Biff and Jesus (or Joshua, as he's known in this narrative) embark on an epic journey that takes them all over Asia and back again. Joshua struggles to figure out how to fill his role as the Messiah, learning along the way from wise men and Buddhist monks.
Moore, as one could imagine from a writer with his imagination, has a lot of fun constructing his own version of Jesus's world as it existed two thousand years ago. He fills his narrative with innumerable humorous details of everyday life (the kids playing a game of "stone the adulteress" is one especially hilarious moment), and it's amusing to hear Biff tell how he and Joshua brought the world such inventions as sarcasm, cafe latte, and Judo.
Silly as it can be, "Lamb" is surprisingly thoughtful, even touching, at some moments. Even though he's the son of God, it's still easy to symphathize with Joshua's struggle to find his way in life. Moore also makes "Lamb" a tale of friendship, capturing the complexities of the relationship between Joshua, Biff, and Mary Magdalene (Biff loves Mary, Mary loves Joshua, Joshua can't know woman, so you get the idea). Really, though, it's the philosophy and theology that make this book. As presented by Moore, Joshua has a completely inclusive view of religion, heavily indebted to Eastern thought (especially Buddhism). Against the skepticism of those who know him, even the Apostles, Joshua sets out to save the souls of all people, not just the Jews who have been "chosen" by God. I was a history major in college, and I can say with reasonable certainty that the world would've been a better place if more people subscribed to the tolerant view of religion set forth in "Lamb." It's too bad that many of those who call themselves religious don't know or care enough about the teachings of Jesus, but "Lamb" is a good reminder of what he stood for, especially if you want a laugh.
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