Christopher Moore in his afterword reminds his readers “The book you’ve just read is a story. I made it up…I am not trying to present history as it might really have been, I’m simply telling stories…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.”
The book is definitely irreverent, which is why Moore feels compelled to make the above statement. I wonder if Moore will ever decide to write a book about “Hank the childhood pal of Mohammed” — not likely, the life insurance policy would be too expensive. The religion of grace is always easier to pick on.
What is the book actually about? Biff takes Jesus on an epic trip of self-discovery for about 20 years through Afghanistan, China, and India. On this trip, there are Yeti’s, Monks, lots of wisdom learned, evil spirits vanquished, daring escapes, people rescued, discipline learned, miracles practiced with varying degrees of success, and lots and lots of sex, not for Jesus though, his father in heaven had told him “no sex” and he was going to obey. Biff had no such prohibitions coming down from heaven however and so was free to indulge. The benefit to Jesus with having such a promiscuous friend is that he was able to learn all about sex through Biff’s detailed recounting’s but yet still remain blissfully pure as the son of God. — Lovely. I’m not sure if there was a single chapter that was free from this tireless crusade to educate the son of God on all things sexual. Eventually, Biff and Jesus make their way back to Judah just in time for Jesus to gather up a bunch of misfit disciples, bring in the kingdom of God, rekindle old romances with Mary Magdalene and die on the cross. Biff is not at all for Jesus’ death and tries to prevent it, with all manner of cunning and deception. He fails, Jesus dies. In a fit of sorrow and rage, Biff tracks down Judas, kills him, then commits suicide. This inglorious end is the reason why the disciples of Jesus wrote Biff out of the official story recounted in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Is sin real? Moore never excuses or justifies the actions of Biff. Biff is impulsive, careless, foolish, proud, and selfish but Jesus loves him anyway, but not with an “It’s all good” kind of false love. Jesus, with masterful patience, genuinely speaks into Biff’s life with authority. There is a right and a wrong, and Biff finds himself regularly on the side of wrong, but Jesus’ ever-faithful arm is always there gently pulling him back, but yet giving Biff the freedom to make his own choices.
Who is Jesus? Jesus’ humanity comes out strongly in this book, Jesus is confused at times, unsure of himself, unsuccessful, and wanting to hear from God more than he actually does, however, the author without hesitation communicates Jesus to the reader as God in the flesh. This was one point that I was surprised at, through all of the twists and turns of this story there is never a doubt, Jesus is God enrobed in flesh here on earth to save the world through his own death and resurrection. This beautiful high ground that has actually changed the world is present in this book! One just has to wade through a lot of swampland to get there.
Who is man? Biff loves Jesus with all his heart, his fierce loyalty is commendable but his constant use of unwholesome traits to protect and shield Jesus from the dangers of this world, not so much. Biff is decidedly human, all of us can relate to him, but we are not left feeling comfortable with that. Sure, Biff’s escapades create lots of laughs, and at times leave the reader shaking his head saying “really?” But in the end, It’s obvious that Jesus’ life, not Biffs is the life we should long for.
Do all paths lead to God? Not hardly. Moore does not present a universalist understanding of the world’s religions. I thought for sure as Jesus travelled into the Buddhist and Hindu worlds I would be told that the Jesus way that was being developed would essentially be a repackaged version of what already existed. The tired old mantra that “all religions are the same” would inevitably come forth. It didn’t. Instead, Moore has Jesus carving a new way forward in contrast to the eastern religions. Moore’s Jesus is radically anti-caste. He is at his most aggressive in resisting the scourge upon humanity that has Brahmans on one side and untouchables on the other. He is very critical of karma and the justification of doing nothing to help your fellow human as a result of it. Jesus is gracious but firm, meditation is overrated, and the perceived wisdom of nebulous gurus is fraught with hypocrisy and pretension.
The book is entertaining, and it contains some food for thought. Moore is certainly a clever writer, but why it would be a best seller is beyond me.