The bookclub picked Christopher Moore’s Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal as our December book – the timing being roughly appropriate. The book is a fanciful novel, depicting Christ’s life in a somewhat preposterous but enjoyable way. It spends most of its time in the 30 years between Christ’s birth and the beginning of his ministry, and has extravagant stories told in a light-hearted way, as would befit someone who was a normal human trying to cope with being Christ’s friend.
Most of the bookclub members enjoyed the book, but there was a definite correlation between knowledge of the Gospels and the level of enjoyment. Those who knew how the Gospel authors had depicted any given event found the occasionally almost farcical alternative version funny, whereas the others didn’t quite get it in several cases. We spent some time at bookclub comparing the versions of stories, discussing the real role of Mary Magdalene and the fact that she wasn’t a harlot (despite what the Catholic Church and various translations of the Bible claimed), touching on the “Holy Blood, Holy Grail” and “da Vinci Code” versions of Christ’s relationship with Mary Magdalene, and postulating why Leviticus has so many laws about behaviour with animals.
Christopher Moore was worried about the church reaction to the book, but it was, I gather, almost exclusively positive. The book does depict Christ (Joshua) in a positive way; Joshua is very human as well as being divine. He gets angry at God, cares about his friends, is slightly naive and very curious. The descriptions of his behaviour differ from those in the Gospels by including more of the emotion, which makes Joshua more likeable and more approachable. The book won’t make anyone become a Christian, but it won’t turn them off, either.