Satirizing the ‘Greatest Story Ever Told’
Author offers a tale of the Christ and his pal, Biff
(CNN) — Christopher Moore was curious about Jesus’ “missing years,” that span of time between the prophet’s childhood and the final years of his life about which almost nothing is known. It seemed like a great subject for a book, though Moore — a self-described “Buddhist with Christian tendencies” — wasn’t exactly a biblical scholar.
“I thought, ‘Someone should write that story. And since I know nothing about religion or history, I should be that someone,'” the author said in an e-mail interview.
The result of Moore’s imagination is “Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal” (Morrow), a tale that falls somewhere between the New Testament, a book on Roman history, a guide to Eastern religion and “Monty Python’s Life of Brian.”
In the book, a forgotten apostle — Levi, who is called Biff — is brought back from the dead by the angel Raziel to give his version of the life of Jesus (also known as Joshua, son of Joseph, or simply “Josh”), which he does trapped in a hotel room at the Hyatt Regency St. Louis while the angel gets hooked on daytime TV and junk food.
As Biff was Joshua’s lifelong best friend, he fills in the gaps in the Messiah’s adolescent and 20-something life. The story follows the pair to the Far East, where Jesus is tutored in the ways of Buddha and Confucius, and back to the Holy Land, where Jesus begins his priesthood with a rather motley crew of followers.
Moore treats the historical Jesus gently, even honorably, focusing on the “love your fellow human” message even as he makes jokes about turn-of-the-first-millennium politics and the Kama Sutra.
Still, he was concerned about how the book would be greeted.
“My family was concerned about my safety, and I was a bit reticent about touring the South, but as it turned out, the reaction . . . has been overwhelmingly positive. I had always said, even before the book was released, that I wasn’t worried about the people who read the book, but those who didn’t. That’s still my worry,” he said. “The book is not in the least bit mean-spirited, so anyone who took offense to it would have to be looking for something that simply isn’t there.”
Perhaps, Moore added, he did his job too well.
“Unfortunately, we weren’t able to garner any negative publicity either, and at one point I was calling friends in Ohio and begging them to burn my books (I even offered to pay for the books and the lighter fluid), but in the end everyone remained reasonable and intelligent,” he said. “America is more reasonable and intelligent than the pundits would have us believe.”
‘A revolutionary, a radical’