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Tom Chaney: So Jesus Found His Missing Years

Of Writers And Their Books: 'So Jesus Found His Missing Years.' Tom reviews Christopher Moore's novel Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal, a delightful story of the years not covered in the gospels of the New Testament canon. This column first appeared 7 September 2008.
The next earlier Tom Chaney column: Does the Cut Worm Forgive the Plow?

By Tom Chaney

'So Jesus Found His Missing Years'

With Apologies to John Prine and Biff

All of the four gospels of the New Testament canon leave a large gap in the life of Christ. By covering the missing years from just after his birth to about age 30, Christopher Moore in his novel Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal [William Morrow, 2002] has performed a delightful, believable, reverent, irreverent service.

We know about his birth, the wise men from the East, the incident in the temple where he confounds the elders. But who did he hang out with? How and when did Joshua come to learn he was the messiah -- Christ?
Enter Levi, called Biff, buddy of Joshua, called Josh/Jesus, friend of Mary Magdalene, called Maggie, and Christopher Moore, called Christopher Moore who puts it all together after taking a Hippocratic oath 'to do no harm' to the gospel story.

You see, it happened this way.

One day the angel Raziel was cleaning out his closet sorting halos, moonbeams, wineskins of glory and satchels of wrath and scabbards of lightening. His boss, Stephen, comes with orders for him to go 'dirt-side' as appearing on earth was called.

Go! "Now. Pack the gift of tongues and some minor miracles. No weapons, it's not a wrath job. You'll be undercover. Very low profile, but important. It's all in the orders."

Rumor has it that there is to be a new book written by Levi who is called Biff and who must be resurrected for the job.


"Because it's some kind of anniversary in dirt-dweller time of the Son's birth, and he feels it's time the whole story is told."

Next stop -- a barren hillside on the outskirts of Jerusalem where a dry wind pulls a column of dirt out of the ground and Biff appears.

Raziel dusts him off and washes him down.

From there to a hotel room in New York where Biff is to write the story of the missing years and where the angel Raziel becomes addicted to television -- first soap operas then wrestling then Spider-Man.

Biff is captive to the angel he calls "an incompetent doofuss" -- possessed of a monumental ego but no free will.

Biff must write from what he remembers. Early on he discovers the Gideon bible in the dresser and sneaks off to the bathroom to read what Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John have said.

Highly critical of them, he tells his own story. First, of the years when they were boys in Nazareth. Josh has strange powers which neither quite understand -- able to heal both small animals and Roman soldiers.
So he packed his bags and he headed out
To find out what the world's about -- John Prine
From Nazareth to the far corners of the earth. Josh and Biff set out on a 24-year pilgrimage in search of the three wise men who attended him at birth.

First, Balthasar north of Antioch into what is now Afghanistan. The quest is basically Josh's search for what it means to be the messiah. In the palace of Balthasar Biff learns the joys of sex from Balthasar's eight concubines.

Josh learns that "God doesn't care if we eat bacon. I can just feel it."

To which Biff replies "You're going to need more than that to usher in the kingdom of God, Josh, no offense. We can't go home with, 'Hi, I'm the Messiah, God wanted you to have this bacon.' "

After Balthasar dies, Josh and Biff set out to find the second wise man, Gaspar. Biff bids a reluctant farewell to Joy, the last of the concubines who has taught him "to read and speak Chinese, to mix potions and poisons, to cheat at gambling, to perform slight of hand, and where and how to properly touch a woman."

From Gaspar in Buddhist China the two pilgrims learn compassion and love. "The yeti knew. He loved constantly, instantly, spontaneously without thought or words. That's what he taught me. Love is not something you think about, it is a state in which you dwell. That was his gift."

The third brother, for the three wise men were brothers, each of whom made the pilgrimage to Bethlehem for his own reason, Melchior helps Josh to find the path to the Divine Spark through yogi. Biff learns about the Kama Sutra to the sarcastic disapproval of Josh.

Biff becomes a beggar, but has difficulty getting a good spot for he is not part of the guild. He meets a young lad, legless and blind, an accomplished beggar. When he takes him to meet Josh, Josh heals him of his blindness and gives him legs.

In return, the beggar curses him for taking away his livelihood.

For two years Josh and Biff are trained -- Josh to remain unattached to the physical world becoming more adept at multiplying food, healing the sick, and raising the dead; Biff to pay for lessons in drawing, decorating his nook, and buying several personal items, including an elephant.

But when the word finally comes it is time to return home.

Biff's story takes them back to join the story of the gospels we know. He plays quite a role in the events written there, but is left out of the accounts we have.

Lamb is a delightful story. If the missing years did not go just this way, ask yourself just how Josh learned to multiply the loaves and fishes. And said, according to John Prine,
I'm a human corkscrew and all my wine is blood
They don't like me mama. . .
So Jesus went to heaven and he went there awful quick
All them people killed him and he wasn't even sick
If it didn't happen this way, how did it happen?

Tom Chaney can be found telling stories, planning his next meal, and occasionally selling books at
Box 73 / 111 Water Street
Horse Cave, Kentucky 42749
Email: Tom Chaney

You can find the words to John Prine's Jesus The Missing Years at

This story was posted on 2013-09-08 03:37:24
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