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Called "the most influential Christian book of the nineteenth century," Ben-Hur A Tale of the Christ was a best-seller in the 1880s, eclipsing the sales of Uncle Tom's Cabin and, later, Gone With the Wind to become the best-selling American novel of all time. The story recounts the adventures of Judah Ben-Hur, a fictional Jewish prince from Jerusalem, who is enslaved by th Called "the most influential Christian book of the nineteenth century," Ben-Hur A Tale of the Christ was a best-seller in the 1880s, eclipsing the sales of Uncle Tom's Cabin and, later, Gone With the Wind to become the best-selling American novel of all time. The story recounts the adventures of Judah Ben-Hur, a fictional Jewish prince from Jerusalem, who is enslaved by the Romans at the beginning of the 1st century and becomes a charioteer and a Christian. Parallel with Judah's narrative is the unfolding story of Jesus, who comes from the same region and is a similar age. The novel reflects themes of betrayal, conviction, and redemption, with a revenge plot that leads to a story of love and compassion. This new edition of Ben-Hur A Tale of the Christ includes an Includes Free Audiobook


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Called "the most influential Christian book of the nineteenth century," Ben-Hur A Tale of the Christ was a best-seller in the 1880s, eclipsing the sales of Uncle Tom's Cabin and, later, Gone With the Wind to become the best-selling American novel of all time. The story recounts the adventures of Judah Ben-Hur, a fictional Jewish prince from Jerusalem, who is enslaved by th Called "the most influential Christian book of the nineteenth century," Ben-Hur A Tale of the Christ was a best-seller in the 1880s, eclipsing the sales of Uncle Tom's Cabin and, later, Gone With the Wind to become the best-selling American novel of all time. The story recounts the adventures of Judah Ben-Hur, a fictional Jewish prince from Jerusalem, who is enslaved by the Romans at the beginning of the 1st century and becomes a charioteer and a Christian. Parallel with Judah's narrative is the unfolding story of Jesus, who comes from the same region and is a similar age. The novel reflects themes of betrayal, conviction, and redemption, with a revenge plot that leads to a story of love and compassion. This new edition of Ben-Hur A Tale of the Christ includes an Includes Free Audiobook

30 review for Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (Heron Classics) [Free Audiobook Included]

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, Lew Wallace Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ is a novel by Lew Wallace published by Harper & Brothers on November 12, 1880, and considered "the most influential Christian book of the nineteenth century". The story recounts in descriptive detail the adventures of Judah Ben-Hur, a Jewish prince from Jerusalem who is enslaved by the Romans at the beginning of the 1st century and becomes a charioteer and a Christian. Running in parallel with Judah's narrative is the unfold Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, Lew Wallace Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ is a novel by Lew Wallace published by Harper & Brothers on November 12, 1880, and considered "the most influential Christian book of the nineteenth century". The story recounts in descriptive detail the adventures of Judah Ben-Hur, a Jewish prince from Jerusalem who is enslaved by the Romans at the beginning of the 1st century and becomes a charioteer and a Christian. Running in parallel with Judah's narrative is the unfolding story of Jesus, from the same region and around the same age. The novel reflects themes of betrayal, conviction, and redemption, with a revenge plot that leads to a story of love and compassion. ... تاریخ نخستین خوانش: ماه فوریه سال 1971میلادی عنوان: بن هور؛ نویسنده: لوئیس والاس؛ مترجم: محمد نوروزی؛ تهران، امیرکبیر، فرانکلین، 1339؛ در 8ص و 535ص؛ موضوع داستانهای علمی تخیلی از نویسندگان امریکایی؛ سده 19م عنوان: بن هور - یا، داستان عیسی؛ نویسنده: لوئیس والاس؛ مترجم: محمود شایگان؛ تهران، علمی، 1363؛ در 337ص؛ فروست: داستانهای علمی تخیلی؛ خانم «ناهید سلطانی»، و آقایان: «امین نصیری»؛ «اسماعیل (اسمعیل) شایگان»؛ «کیومرث پارسای»؛ «حسن نامدار»؛ «محمدتقی دانیا»؛ نیز این کتاب را ترجمه کرده اند کتاب در سال 1880میلادی نوشته شده است؛ داستان شاهزاده‌ ای یهودی به نام «جودا بن‌هور» است؛ که ناجوانمردانه به جرم سوء قصد به جان فرستاده ی سزار، توسط دوست رومی‌ خویش دستگیر، و به بردگی و بندگی، و دیگر اعضای خانواده‌ اش هم به سیاهچال فرستاده می‌شوند؛ او پس از عبور از ماجراهای بسیار، به وطن خویش بازمی‌گردد، تا انتقام گیرد و خواهر و مادرش را رهایی بخشد...؛ تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 22/07/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    The first thing I want to address is the “speed” of this book. I first read this book in the fall or winter of 1971, and at that time, as a high school senior, I was well-accustomed to reading Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Victor Hugo, and all those other authors of the Victorian era (and before!) Back then, I read one Shakespeare play every year for high school English literature (with support from my friends and the teacher!), and had even slogged through the assigned portions of Beowulf. That The first thing I want to address is the “speed” of this book. I first read this book in the fall or winter of 1971, and at that time, as a high school senior, I was well-accustomed to reading Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Victor Hugo, and all those other authors of the Victorian era (and before!) Back then, I read one Shakespeare play every year for high school English literature (with support from my friends and the teacher!), and had even slogged through the assigned portions of Beowulf. That said….in 1971, I was just awestruck…. dumbfounded…. enthralled by the book Ben Hur on so many levels. It was one of the foundational books of my adolescence. I tried to pick the book up again in 2011, 40 years later, and found it to be much harder to “get into.” By this time, I’d seen the 1959 version twice, and had even seen the 1925 version twice. (Incidentally, some critics say the 1925 chariot race is superior to the 1959 version, because of some of the heroic camera shots and stuntmen of the 1920s. Check it out for yourself.) So I’ve completed Ben Hur again now, with the help of “Audible books.” My point about the “speed” of this book, is that we have all succumbed to the fast pace of Sesame Street. In this fast-moving era, we can no longer tolerate pausing for a moment in the story to feel the breeze, observe the delicate nuances of facial expressions and well-chosen words, smell the gardens, marvel at the stars, understand enough history of a childhood friendship to be able to comprehend the incomprehensible betrayal of that childhood friend, absorb the emotion of innocent women incarcerated in a jail cell known to be infected with leprosy…. and to read long enough to fully be able to empathize with the women who are coping with the long-term symptoms of leprosy as they mentally prepare for death from the disease. I’m ready to go back & pull out my nursing textbooks to brush up on signs/symptoms/treatment of leprosy! Well, so, I had an uncomfortable feeling that my life has accelerated enough in the last 40 years, that the style of Ben Hur’s author has become probably 4X as difficult for me to read, as it was when I was 17 and well-used to reading classics of the 1700s and 1800s. This makes me feel some shame! No wonder we get Alzheimer’s! I’m well on my way! OK. Enough of that. The plot of this book is earthy, emotional, spiritual, exciting…. just watch 1959 and 1925! All the elements of a fast-moving plot squeezed into 90 – 120 minutes! But I think some of us have ignored the philosophical, ethical, and spiritual questions posed and addressed in the book. Some of the Victorian descriptions are begging us to slow down first, and then take time to pick up and ponder the weighty questions of man’s existence, and God’s slow unfolding of His passionate pursuit and redemption of man throughout history. This is the book that untimately led me to firm faith in Christ. The book I read in 1971: it was a version printed in 1901, given to my Grandpa as a high school graduation gift, illustrated with photographs of actors on a stage in New York City. At the time of this printing, the author/Union general/Governor Lew Wallace was still alive. He insisted that if this book were to be portrayed onstage, that no human was capable of playing the part of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The Christ was to be represented as a light shining into the midst of the actors. (This is another indictment of our age. In 1901, even the Broadway producers could be persuaded that Jesus Christ was too holy to be represented by a human actor.) You undoubtedly know the story from the Paul Newman movie. Slow down your life for a couple of hours every day, and soak in this book. Take time to understand the viewpoints of Ben Hur’s associates…. that baby who had such an unusual birth, attended by one incredibly bright star, a chorus of angels in the sky, a rush of shepherds to the “postpartum-recovery room,” the arrival of mysterious Wise Men from the East…. Was he to be a Savior of the eternal souls of man? Was he to be a victorious King of Israel forever? Was he to be both? And if so, how COULD he be both? And…. was He GOD?! Take time to feel with Judah Ben Hur the thirst for revenge…. His enemy (his childhood playmate) twisted an accusation to condemn his widowed mother, his sweet little sister, and Ben Hur himself to incarceration, slave labor in a galley ship, and inevitable death…. Of COURSE Judah Ben Hur wanted to overcome that enemy publicly! Maybe even death in a chariot race! And the search for his lost mother and sister that led him to the leper colony outside the city. (Wouldn’t you want to kill the bastard?! He deserved to die for his flippant accusation of the Hur family!) And the restored fortune of Judah Ben Hur himself…. How to use it for the promised Messiah of Israel? This Jesus is a poor man. He does not lead an army. What better use of a fortune, than to devote it to the heir of King David?! This man who restores sight to blind men, and heals lepers…. Surely this is the man God promised to restore the eternal throne of David. And Judah Ben Hur could be in on the ground floor! And the two women who were attracted to/by Judah Ben Hur. Which was most exciting? Which was most pure? Which was most beautiful? Which would be the best choice for Ben Hur as a lifelong companion? (See what I mean? This is an EXCITING book! And you need the time to sit back from the action to ponder the fathom-deep philosophical & spiritual questions posed in the midst of this book!) This book was the best-selling novel of the whole 19th century…. it surpassed Uncle Tom’s Cabin. To this day, “Ben Hur” has never been out of print. This is an exceptionally significant book, in terms of literary history. All I can say now, is that it’s written in a different style than we’re used to. Over the years, we’ve gradually become used to RUN, Sally RUN! (faster, faster, faster!) and have drifted away from an afternoon playing a board game with the family with a pitcher of iced tea on the porch. Just look at the previous reviews…. good movie, but the book is weighted down with descriptions & philosophical questions. I would encourage you to tighten up your belt, squeeze on your thinking cap if you can find it, and wade into this book like you KNOW you can conquer the distance in years. Because….. if I can do it, you can easily do it! Take some time to lay the book down when the questions get too heavy, and just THINK about it for a while. While you’re shoveling snow or mowing grass or driving the kids to soccer. Think about the questions Ben Hur and Simonides and Balthazar are wrestling with. Or think about the injustice Ben Hur’s mother and sister are living and dying with. Because these questions and issues are the same ones we have, while we’re cheering Sally to “Run, Sally, Run. Gee, Sally, can’t you run any FASTER?!” This book takes fight and determination to read, for those of us born in the 20th century. It isn’t written for a lazy reader of Harlequin romances. It’s written for someone who wants to develop teeth and the digestion to read a book you have to churn a bit. Lew Wallace, who wrote this book, was a general with the Union army during the Civil War…. he witnessed some of the bloodiest battles this nation ever saw, and wrestled with the weightiest spiritual reasons for fighting a war…. the value of a slave’s soul and being. He struggled for most of his life with having been blamed unjustly and unfairly for the direction the battle of Shiloh took. He later served as governor of New Mexico during a time of violence and political corruption…. had to wrestle with justice versus forgiveness. He had negotiated a contract of forgiveness with the outlaw Billy the Kid, and wrestled with “the powers that be” to try to deliver this pardon, even though he was living in a world of politicians. This author was not a shallow man, and when this book was written in 1880, it undoubtedly presented the dilemmas he’d wrestled during this difficult period of American history. I think he presents these stories & concepts in a poetically beautiful manner, and a spiritually cleansing manner. Although the literary style is different from what we’ve become accustomed to, the concepts and questions are cutting edge. Weight Watchers isn’t easy. Curves isn’t easy. 5K’s aren’t easy. Marathons aren’t easy. You can sit on the couch and watch reruns on Me TV. You can read through a Harlequin romance in a couple of days. Or you can determine to train your mind and spirit, and read one of the BEST BOOKS you’ll ever read. Although it was harder to tackle at age 60 than it was when I was 17, this is still one of the very best books I’ve ever had the privilege to read. I still have my 1901 edition, and it is one of my most highly-treasured heirlooms. But my recorded version of Ben Hur is something I want to burn to CD to share with my kids, grandkids, descendants. It is truly one of the most significant books I’ve EVER read. Or listened to. Tackle it!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Vanessa J.

    Is not his the law, Eye for eye, hand for hand, foot for foot? Oh, in all these years I have dreamed of vengeance, and prayed and provided for it, and gathered patience from the growing of my store, thinking and promising, as the Lord liveth, it will one day buy me punishment of the wrong-doers? Who's in for a revenge tale set in the first century a.C.? Ben-Hur is a man who's perfectly happy. He has a mother and a sister who love him, and he's friends with a Roman, and that puts him in a posit Is not his the law, Eye for eye, hand for hand, foot for foot? Oh, in all these years I have dreamed of vengeance, and prayed and provided for it, and gathered patience from the growing of my store, thinking and promising, as the Lord liveth, it will one day buy me punishment of the wrong-doers? Who's in for a revenge tale set in the first century a.C.? Ben-Hur is a man who's perfectly happy. He has a mother and a sister who love him, and he's friends with a Roman, and that puts him in a position of privilege. All is well until one day he killed a Roman governor. It was an accident, but no one believes him. He's desperate, yet he can do nothing. But wait, he has a friend – Messalla - who can help him. Too bad he betrays him and sends him to the galleys in a life sentence. Obviously, Ben-Hur is angry. His life has been completely ruined. He will never get to see his family again because the passage to the galleys is a one-way ticket. By some turns of events – call them fate or luck - the ship in which he worked sank and he managed to get out and save a governor. Saving that governor gained him a great price: Fortune. Now, with money, his hatred turns to a desire of revenge and he's willing to make Messalla pay for what he did. All of the above may make the book sound like some epic tale of revenge, perhaps as epic as The Count of Monte Cristo. Well, it wasn't. Let me tell you how the book starts: Part 1 of the book is a complete recollection of Jesus' birth. It's even more detailed than in the Bible. Well, to be honest, that would not have been so bad if it weren't for the writing. The writing gave me many, many headaches. It was T-E-R-R-I-B-L-E. Look at this passage, for example: A moment they looked at each other; then they embraced—that is, each threw his right arm over the other’s shoulder, and the left round the side, placing his chin first upon the left, then upon the right breast. Do you think it's necessary that amount of detail? I mean, I understand they hugged, but I need not a description of how a hug is. That's excessive. Now imagine 500 pages of descriptions like those. A nightmare, isn't it? Not only is the writing like that. The author also assumes the reader is stupid. I couldn't find the quote, but there's a line at the beginning in which the author basically says: “I know you don't know anything about history, so I'll tell you something: Before Jesus was born, time was not measured by how many years had passed since his birth. That's because he didn't exist yet.” Isn't it a little obvious? If the man who's used as reference for measuring years has not been born yet, how can you use his birth as reference? It's called logic, Mr. Wallace. You don't need to be an historian to know that. Also, the writing was bland, boring and stiff. Here's your proof: “What has happened? What does it all mean?” she asked, in sudden alarm. “I have killed the Roman governor. The tile fell upon him.” Doesn't it feel a little... lacking of emotion? I mean, if you kill someone important by accident, would you be so calm? Ben-Hur is supposed to be afraid, yet that passage doesn't make him sound like that. If anything, he sounds bored, like “Hey, look, the tile fell upon the Roman governor and I killed him! Bah, YOLO. Who cares?” There's this one too: Malluch looked into Ben-Hur’s face for a hint of meaning, but saw, instead, two bright-red spots, one on each cheek, and in his eyes traces of what might have been repressed tears (...) No emotions, right? Then, Wallace kept addressing the readers. I don't have a problem with that, but in this case, I hated it. Why? Because he did it in almost every page. I'm going to show you the ones I had enough patience to look for: The reader who recollects the history of Balthasar as given by himself at the meeting in the desert will understand the effect of Ben-Hur’s assertion of disinterestedness upon that worthy. Yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever. Show me Ben-Hur is disinterested. I want to feel him disinterested. I don't want you telling me. Here's an advice for you, Mr. Wallace: Show, not tell. He fell to thinking; and even the reader will say he was having a vision of the woman, and that it was more welcome than that of Esther, if only because it stayed longer with him (...) No, you cannot tell what I was thinking at that moment. In fact, when I read that line I was wondering what the dinner was going to be. If the reader will take a map of Greece and the AEgean, he will notice the island of Euboea lying along the classic coast like a rampart against Asia, leaving a channel between it and the continent quite a hundred and twenty miles in length, and scarcely an average of eight in width. See? I was so damn tired of it after 20 pages! And this block has more than five. Hundred. Pages! There's also the religious plot. I thought it would not bother me, but in the end, it did. I'll show you why: Exhibit A: “Who's Jesus?” Where was the Child then? And what was his mission? Yes, Wallace made a big mystery about Jesus. I said he assumes the reader is stupid. Here's one example of that: He tries to thrill the reader into the mystery as to who the Mesiah is. Please, you don't have to be Catholic to know who's the great Mesiah in that religion. Everyone knows that! Exhibit B: “Believe in God, or else you go to Hell.” This was not a revenge tale. This was a redemption tale. I knew that from the beginning because I've watched the movie thousands of times (and the name of the book makes it obvious) and I know the story as I know my house, so I didn't expect to get angry at that. What got me was that basically, the message Wallace gives you is the one I wrote as exhibit B: If you don't pray, then you're a bad person. We all know that's not necessarily true. But I'll stop talking about that here. At the beginning of this review, I said this could have been EPIC. And indeed, it had all the chances of being so; I mean, it's a REVENGE tale. I love those, so I was expecting to like this, but what I got was an overdose of BOREDOM. Really, you could change the name of the book to "Ben-Dull: A Tale of Tediousness". In the end, this book was bad. I do not understand why it has such a high average rating (to be exact, it has, at this moment, an av. rating of 4.00 stars with 21,073 ratings and 469 reviews). Is there something wrong with me?. I don't get very suspicious about high ratings when we're talking about classics, but this book has made me learn the lesson: That a book is a classic doesn't mean you can trust the hype. Oh, and may I tell you something else? The movie was better. The movie better than the book. Can you believe it? No, of course you can't. It's always the book better than the movie, but trust me, that's not the case with this book. Now, pay attention to the following quote. It's the ending paragraph of the book: If any of my readers, visiting Rome, will make the short journey to the Catacomb of San Calixto, which is more ancient than that of San Sebastiano, he will see what became of the fortune of Ben-Hur, and give him thanks. Out of that vast tomb Christianity issued to supersede the Caesars. If you go there, make sure you thank Ben-Hur, or else, Wallace can get angry. P.S.: Want to have some good laughs? Look at my infinite status updates. They'll make your day.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Terrington

    "Out of that vast tomb Christianity issued to supersede the Caesars." Ben Hur is one of those classic works better recognised for its many adaptations. To this end it seems fair to compare it to another highly similar work - Les Miserables. Both are classic historical fiction works which use history to spread themes and ideas about humanity as a whole. Both novels also regularly divert from the storytelling to provide detailed insights into history. This is perhaps where Ben Hur is stronger t "Out of that vast tomb Christianity issued to supersede the Caesars." Ben Hur is one of those classic works better recognised for its many adaptations. To this end it seems fair to compare it to another highly similar work - Les Miserables. Both are classic historical fiction works which use history to spread themes and ideas about humanity as a whole. Both novels also regularly divert from the storytelling to provide detailed insights into history. This is perhaps where Ben Hur is stronger than Les Miserables - in that as a novel it works historical detail better into the plot. However, Les Miserables' message of grace and redemption holds as much power as this tale, if not more. If you've failed to see the famous and equally classic Charlton Heston 1959 film of this novel then you would be in the minority. There are very few individuals without some knowledge of the film's story and plot - a grand sweeping tragedy that comes full circle and moves the character Judah Ben Hur from prince to slave to prince again. The book is no different, though there are perhaps elements better highlighted in each version of the tale. There is a well-portrayed sense of a love triangle within the novel, for instance, that is not there in the film. However this love triangle exists purely to work a contrast between love and death and love and duty. It is powerful how Lew Wallace worked his novel to feature ideas that could be linked back into his modern times. Firstly, there is the internal and consistent religious/Christian theology and debate that ensures within the novel, a line of inquiry that vanishes from the 1959 film, to be replaced with other equally strong motives. The way in which Wallace writes about the disparity between the different 'racial groups' of his novel - the Romans, Greeks, Israelites, Arabs, Negroes and Egyptians - possibly works as a form of social criticism of his own era. There is the point made that the Jews live in bondage under the Romans and are treated as much inferior people. This in turn reminds one of how African Americans were treated during the 1880s and beyond - as an inferior group. One can perhaps wonder whether Lew Wallace is observing the differences in the way groups of his own time interact and are treated and working them into his novel. Indeed, when it came to freedom and slavery (key themes within this novel) Wallace "claimed, 'In the nature of things Freedom and Slavery cannot be coexistent, and if Freedom is lost the Democratic party is responsible.' To him, the presence of some slavery made it impossible for true freedom to exist anywhere within the country." (1) "Down Eros, up Mars Essentially, Ben Hur is a novel of many contrasts, epitomised by this quote made famous through the film. It is a novel of revenge versus love, death versus life, kingship versus servant-hood. It is a novel of all the things that compose Christianity in many regards with how Christ came and turned many things upside down in that regard. Ben Hur is compared to the journeys of the Romans around him and serves to show the effect of Christ upon a hate-filled individual. He is particularly compared to his friend Messala. On the other hand Esther is compared to the Egyptian, with the differences in love and respect for their parents particularly noticeable. Then there is the overall comparison of Roman rule when it clashes with Jewish rule or law. Ben Hur is a great tale, and it is a real testament to its greatness that it has survived through the years and in many forms. As with Les Miserables it is a must read historical fiction classic. Though there are periods at the beginning of the novel that serve as slow exposition and could cause the reader to lose track of the plot the novel itself is a masterful fiction work. Leave behind the pseudo-historical fiction works of the modern mega selling authors and the fantasy worlds that enthral modern readers. Ben Hur is the equal and better of any of them, though it may not suit one's modern taste particularly well, as some may note the difficulty of being forced to keep focused on everything within the novel. Give Ben Hur a read, and down with Mars, down with Eros and up with true love.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Werner

    Historical fiction as a genre was first developed by the writers of the Romantic school, which arose around the end of the 18th century; the Romantics were drawn by the exoticism of historical settings and the drama of epochal events, and even of daily life in a time was life was wilder and more dangerous. Lew Wallace's masterwork stands squarely in this tradition, but takes it in a new direction. For the first couple of Romantic generations, "history" largely meant European history. Biblical hi Historical fiction as a genre was first developed by the writers of the Romantic school, which arose around the end of the 18th century; the Romantics were drawn by the exoticism of historical settings and the drama of epochal events, and even of daily life in a time was life was wilder and more dangerous. Lew Wallace's masterwork stands squarely in this tradition, but takes it in a new direction. For the first couple of Romantic generations, "history" largely meant European history. Biblical history, outside of the text of the Bible itself, simply wasn't that well known; archaeology was in its infancy, and neither writers or readers could really imagine the Biblical world as it actually was. By 1880, however, scholarship had pulled back the curtain of obscurity enough to bring to light the basic contours of that ancient and Near Eastern world, and a full-fledged epic novel of the time of Christ had become possible. It was Lew Wallace's destiny to write it. A lawyer-politician with a military background in both the Mexican and Civil Wars, he was already a successful historical novelist. At the time he embarked on writing Ben Hur, by his own statement, he had no particular religious beliefs; but during the seven years of research he put in for the writing of the novel, his study of the New Testament and its historical background led him to become a Christian believer. Although title character Judah Ben Hur is the novel's protagonist, this is also very much, as the subtitle says, a tale of the Christ, who will be the decisive influence in the protagonist's life; and the author's treatment of Christ and his ministry is thoroughly reverent. The novel isn't without its flaws. Having a background in Biblical scholarship, I'm prone to notice factual errors in the historical-cultural details; and despite Wallace's research, there are several of them here, though in the interests of time I'll refrain from cataloging them. Besides his typical 19th-century diction (which doesn't bother me personally, though it does some modern readers), his pacing can be slow, especially in the opening chapters, and a few passages of dialogue basically take the form of long, sermon-like discourses or expositions that can be on the dry side. His prose style is often description-heavy, and there sometimes isn't a corresponding gain in the clarity with which readers can visualize the scenes (for instance, despite the laborious attempt to describe the appointments of the ampitheater at Antioch, I can't say I really have a clear mental picture of it, though that may be my fault and not his). He inserts miraculous Divine activity into some contexts where the New Testament writers don't; and in common with most 19th-century Christians, he belabors a false dichotomy between Christ as a savior and "spiritual" king vs. his role as future king of the physical world, a dichotomy which IMO makes nonsense of both Old and New Testament eschatology (though Wallace is right in recognizing that Christ's mission in his first coming was vastly more profound, and less militant, than the role the Zealots wanted to cast him in). However, the pluses here strongly outweigh the minuses. This is a substantial novel, dealing with serious spiritual, moral and psychological issues, and embodying them in the experiences and decisions of very well-drawn, lifelike characters. To be sure, there is the full panoply of a Romantic -school novel of excitement and adventure, with plenty of appeal to strong emotions (miscarriage of justice, galley slavery, piracy, shipwreck, a high-stakes chariot race with the possibility of death or injury for the contestants, a romantic triangle, revenge, betrayal, the horrors of leprosy, and above all the intense real-life drama of the crucifixion of Christ, here depicted with as much horrific force as prose can give it without the visual element). All of this, of course, is something the Realist critical establishment, of Wallace's day and ours, sees as literary mortal sin, and deprecates accordingly --and which I do not. But it's coupled with a significant message that's as profound as that of any other classic novel that's stood the test of time. That combination made this the best-selling novel of the 19th-century, and ensured that it's never been out of print since. It was the decisive influence in opening up the Biblical world as a setting for historical fiction, which innumerable authors since have made use of, and in opening up the minds of conservative Protestant readers in the English-speaking world to the legitimacy of fiction as an art form. These are no mean achievements; by any objective measure, Wallace ranks as one of the most influential and significant American authors of his period, although you would never discover this from most of the "official" literary histories and academic survey courses. Note: I read this in the 1992 Reader's Digest unabridged edition, which has an illuminating Afterword adapted from Lew Wallace, Militant Romantic, by Robert and Katharine Morsberger.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    Third Reading - Lent 2017 Could there be a better classic to read during Lent?! Second reading - Lent 2016. Absolutely better on the second reading. What American is unaware of the Charlton Heston chariot race? It is absolutely iconic. In Anne of Green Gables, Anne is caught reading Ben Hur during lessons but couldn't put it down because of the intensity of the chariot race. Most Americans have grown up with at least a passing exposure to the Hollywood epic of Ben Hur and therefore will find the t Third Reading - Lent 2017 Could there be a better classic to read during Lent?! Second reading - Lent 2016. Absolutely better on the second reading. What American is unaware of the Charlton Heston chariot race? It is absolutely iconic. In Anne of Green Gables, Anne is caught reading Ben Hur during lessons but couldn't put it down because of the intensity of the chariot race. Most Americans have grown up with at least a passing exposure to the Hollywood epic of Ben Hur and therefore will find the text to be surreal and disorienting at first and then much richer than the beloved movie as the story evolves. This very complex story has a whole cast of important characters and hundreds of pages to work out their stories. It is a lot to read and keep straight - but it is packed with one incredible story and some of the most beautiful biblical imagery I have ever read. While the story is layered, exciting and quick moving, it is the beautiful scenery that Wallace paints that stays with me. Wallace carefully orients the reader in the sights, smells and people in the background of each scene. This makes for very entertaining reading but in the scenes with Christ, this leaves a reader feeling as though they were actually there. We see Christ through 3rd person eyes but sometimes we also see him through Judah's eyes and this is very helpful during the Passion. We relate to Judah's struggle against wanting to defend Christ with a sword against the Romans but being bound by His will. Wallace does a brilliant job of drawing Judah right into those famous biblical scenes without compromising the Gospel one iota. His ability to hold a fictional plot line in tandem with these eternally famous final days of Christ's life is inspired. I was particularly gratified by how Wallace was able to include Judah into the most famous scenes of the Gospel without changing Christ's words one syllable. The way that he fills in the context is very inspiring to this reader. In fact, I wish that more biblical movies would study the final chapters of this brilliant book. There are so many interesting themes that one could teach an entire year on this text and the rabbit trails it takes us on. Egyptian mythology, Eastern religions, Jewish customs, Jewish law, Judaism across different cultures, Roman expansion and occupation, Roman military engineering - specifically their dominance at sea, Roman games - specifically chariot racing, Arabian horses, Leprosy, Jewish banking, Slavery, the life of Christ, persecution of the early Christians, etc. etc. etc. This is a book that I will re-read every few years and always during Lent. This is a beautiful example of fiction revealing Truth, Goodness and Beauty. I am a better person for having let the Prince of Hur move into my heart. First reading Apr 1-13, 2014. Without a particular thought to the season in which I chose to read this, I was, by Divine Intervention, scheduled to read this at the end of Lent. The incredible last 50 pages on Palm Sunday weekend. Ben Hur was a beloved childhood movie. I had no idea how much richer and profound the book would be. Beginning with the wisemens' meeting and ending with the persecution of Christians by Nero, this book is a Christ story as well as an incredible fictional adventure and love story. Absolutely incredible.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mike (the Paladin)

    I've been meaning to read this book for at least 40 or 50 years and have just never gotten farther than starting it and then not finishing it. The reason I hadn't finished it in the past was that I'd pick something else up to read. See this book was written or at least published in 1880...the language and the writing reflect that. Look, that is not a criticism it's simply a fact. I had trouble acclimating myself to the period writing. Also I suspect most reading this will have seen the Charlton He I've been meaning to read this book for at least 40 or 50 years and have just never gotten farther than starting it and then not finishing it. The reason I hadn't finished it in the past was that I'd pick something else up to read. See this book was written or at least published in 1880...the language and the writing reflect that. Look, that is not a criticism it's simply a fact. I had trouble acclimating myself to the period writing. Also I suspect most reading this will have seen the Charlton Heston film. It will be almost impossible not to compare the two. Let me say (therefore) that I like the movie and have seen it enough to have favorite parts. That said there are significant differences in the book and movie(s) (there are a couple other movies "of" the same book.) The book has much more content about Jesus (I mean the book is subtitled "A Tale of the Christ). The novel takes much longer to get rolling (again probably a product of the time it was written) and it takes longer to set up the tragedy. Also the relationship between Judah and Messala is completely different here than in the film... Anyway, good book be ready for some slow story telling but again a pretty good book. Recommended.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Christian McKay

    The first sign that I should not have read this book was the discrepancy in hours between the abridged and unabridged versions on audible. Unabridged: 21 hours, Abridged: 3 hours. I bought it anyway and soon discovered why. There's about 15% story and 85% fluff in Ben Hur. It is, hands down, the best argument for editing I have ever read. For example, there was a section in the beginning where two men embraced. That's all we need to know, right? No, no. Of course not. We have to hear that they t The first sign that I should not have read this book was the discrepancy in hours between the abridged and unabridged versions on audible. Unabridged: 21 hours, Abridged: 3 hours. I bought it anyway and soon discovered why. There's about 15% story and 85% fluff in Ben Hur. It is, hands down, the best argument for editing I have ever read. For example, there was a section in the beginning where two men embraced. That's all we need to know, right? No, no. Of course not. We have to hear that they threw their right arm around each other, keeping the left to the side as was custom at that time. They then touched chins to each other's shoulder, withdrew and did the same thing on the other side all the while smiling and wishing each other well. That might not seem so bad. But when every facet of every scene is so unrelentingly explored, it gets old real quick. The book proceeds for the next four hours to retell the birth of Jesus in painstaking detail. Want to know what kind of trimming lined each of the wise men's shawls? Then READ THIS BOOK. The moment that really made me want to stop reading was when the author admitted how exhaustive his story was. When finally introduced to Ben Hur in hour five, he decided to take a moment to describe the rise and fall of Herod and the ensuing political uprisings. With all of this detail behind he said, "The reader shall be spared a full chapter on Jewish politics." Spared? Are you kidding? You realize how boring your book is, don't you? Ug. I'll keep going, but I'm not happy about it. November 23rd: Just can't do it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Charles van Buren

    Excellent novel, weak theology.

  10. 5 out of 5

    David Eppenstein

    Like probably most if not all of you I have seen the movie made from this book and more than once. To no one's surprise I last saw that movie a very long time ago. Consequently, I cannot say just how faithful the screen adaptation was to this book but I think the book, as we would all expect, is better and the ending much more fulfilling. Now why read a book first published in 1880? To be honest, as a kid, I liked the movie though after reading this book I think Charleton Heston was horribly mis Like probably most if not all of you I have seen the movie made from this book and more than once. To no one's surprise I last saw that movie a very long time ago. Consequently, I cannot say just how faithful the screen adaptation was to this book but I think the book, as we would all expect, is better and the ending much more fulfilling. Now why read a book first published in 1880? To be honest, as a kid, I liked the movie though after reading this book I think Charleton Heston was horribly miscast as a Jewish man in his late 20s to early 30s. Later, in my fascination with history I learned that the author of Ben Hur was Lew Wallace a Union general in our Civil War. I thought it very odd for a general of Wallace's repute would be writing a novel and a novel such as this one. So I was curious about this book and got even more curious when I learned that it was the most popular American novel of the 19th century surpassing Uncle Tom's Cabin. Life, however, doesn't always allow us to satisfy our curiosities whenever we please and I just never got around to reading this book until now. I have to admit that I think the knowledge gained from seeing the movie did reduce the tension that one might have had if the movie had not been seen. Nevertheless, I did find the book written better than I expected. I have read books written in the 19th century and have found the written language of that time to be very formal and stiff, in fact quite dull and that was what I expected in this book. I am pleased to say my expectation was not met. While Wallace did his best to replicate the language styles of the Biblical era his writing otherwise was almost modern in its usage. I was also very impressed with the amount of research the general had to do to write this historical fiction as he had never been to the Holy Land. I knew that after the Civil War Wallace became the territorial governor of New Mexico and I had the opportunity a few years ago to tour the Old Governor's Palace in Santa Fe where part of this book was written. The general's descriptions of the culture and geography of this early Christian Era history is remarkably detailed and I was now curious as to how he managed this accomplishment. Thanks to Google I learned that Wallace spent of great deal of time in the Library of Congress specifically researching for this book. So the story while probably well known to most readers is well written and its age doesn't show in the reading and it is worth reading. After the reading you might experience the same final curiosity that I had. Lew Wallace was a military man, a man that played a key role in the Civil War and was a man of war. Ben Hur is a book set during the life of Christ and the Crucifixion is a pivotal scene in the story. Why would such a man write such a book? I thought about this while reading and I was able to see parallels between Wallace's story and the Civil War and the Reconstruction. The book is about misunderstood causes and rebellion, unjust enslavements, the useless pursuit of revenge, forgiveness and rebuilding. Upon thinking about it I could believe the writing of this book might have been very cathartic for a combat general in such a horrible war. The book might be very old but it is worth reading and I'm glad I did. Now I have a question that I hope some of you more knowledgeable in literary history and trivia can answer. The book I have is a Wilder publication from 2011 and it is titled Ben Hur by Lew Wallace, however, at the top of every lefthand page in bold type is the name Sir Edwin Arnold as though Arnold was the author. I Googled Arnold and discovered he was a 19th century author and poet but there was no apparent relationship to Wallace or Ben Hur mentioned. I checked Wallace and there was nothing to be found connecting him to Arnold. Can anybody explain why Arnold's name is on every page of this book?

  11. 5 out of 5

    David Sarkies

    One man's search for redemption 27 July 2010 Needless to say that the book is much better than the movie, and when it comes to Ben Hur, that is definitely saying something. While the famous scenes in the movie are replicated from the book (that being the chariot race and the sea battle), there is much more to the book than there is to the movie (though the theme is the same in both). The book is actually called Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ. It may seem that Christ is only a bit part in the book One man's search for redemption 27 July 2010 Needless to say that the book is much better than the movie, and when it comes to Ben Hur, that is definitely saying something. While the famous scenes in the movie are replicated from the book (that being the chariot race and the sea battle), there is much more to the book than there is to the movie (though the theme is the same in both). The book is actually called Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ. It may seem that Christ is only a bit part in the book (and in the movie) but his presence in the world of Ben Hur dominates. Much of Ben Hur is about who the Christ is and what his purpose is in the world, and there is a lot of discussion about this. We have Balthasar, an Egyptian and one of the wise men who visited Christ at birth. He is seeking a redeemer, somebody to restore the relationship between humanity and their creator. Then there is Ben Hur, a Jew who believes that the Messiah is a king who shall come and liberate them from the Romans (and he even has three legions ready to be called when the king comes on his own). To us this side of the cross, Balthasar is correct in identifying Christ as a redeemer, and it is that realisation in Ben Hur that forms the centerpiece of the book (and this is something that isn't teased out in the movie, though the scene where Ben Hur sits at the foot of the cross and looks up to Christ still sits in my mind as one of the greatest scenes in film history). However the first part of the book (like the movie) is about how Ben Hur comes through his own redemption. At the beginning he meets Masarla, a childhood friend who traveled to Rome for an education, and it is when they meet as adults that they discover that they can no longer be friends. Masarla believes that the Jews are a backward people clinging to their outdated traditions (much like how the world views Christians today) while Ben Hur is convinced by his mother that these outdated traditions are not outdated, but eternal, and demonstrates that Masarla is incorrect when he accuses the Jews of not having a culture (and identifies the psalms and the prophets as examples of their literary ability – indeed today the book of Isaiah is considered a literary masterpiece). Ben Hur travels to hell in the form of being a slave on a galley, but he is released shortly before the battle, and it is this act of a gracious tribune that redeems him in the eyes of Rome. From then on, while clinging to his Jewish heritage, he is reborn as a Roman and is able to pass through the Roman world as a Roman. However, it is his heritage that defines him, and Ben Hur is faithful to that heritage. While in the film the focus is on Ben Hur's search for his mother and sister, and then his quest to see them healed of their leprosy, this is a mere sub-plot in the book. The quest is for the Christ and the redemption of Israel, however at its conclusion, it is not a physical redemption from Rome that is achieved, but a spiritual redemption with God.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca L

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Wow. I have put off reading 'Ben-Hur' for years because well it was just too long, too big, to old, to boring sounding. And after seeing the horrible rendition of the movie I thought that I certainly didn't need to read it any time soon. Finally however my sister convinced me to read it and as soon as I picked it up I was hooked. It takes a truly great author to write historical fiction I believe for unlike Fantasy, where you can make everything up, historical fiction has to be at least somewhat Wow. I have put off reading 'Ben-Hur' for years because well it was just too long, too big, to old, to boring sounding. And after seeing the horrible rendition of the movie I thought that I certainly didn't need to read it any time soon. Finally however my sister convinced me to read it and as soon as I picked it up I was hooked. It takes a truly great author to write historical fiction I believe for unlike Fantasy, where you can make everything up, historical fiction has to be at least somewhat historically accurate and if its not, well Lord help the author whose book I come across that is not historically accurate.:) Lew Wallis is one of those few truly great authors that can write a compelling, interesting, exciting, vivid, detailed, fast-paced, sweeping, epic, historical fiction book that gives the genre a great name. Ben-Hur has got to be one of the best pieces of literary work written that I have ever read. At first, reading Ben-Hur, I was sympathetic towards Egypt and didn't like Esther who I thought weak and a wimp (My only problem with the book.) But in the end Egypt turned out to be a traitor and showed her true colors and Esther, although still a tad of a wimp, was not so bad and I believe Ben-Hur made the right choice in marrying her. The tale of Christ, intricately woven into that of Ben-Hur and being as much part of the book as he was, was told wonderfully and accurately and by the end of the book I was crying as I read again of the love of God towards humankind and His greatest gift of His only begotten Son; Jesus Christ. I fear that I am rambling now so I will cut it short with just one last word: at the end of the book there was a 'Afterword' telling a bit about the author and the writing of Ben-Hur. What I found extremely interesting was how it used to be a mandated read in the school system and one of the 'have to read' books for everyone. All I can say is I wish it still was and it should be made so again for everyone can benefit from this hauntingly-beautiful, thought-provoking book of mercy, loss, revenge and the greatest of all things: Love. One more thing that I thought of that I had a problem with in this book was that there was no talk of the resurrection of Jesus Christ a very important and necessary part of salvation that shouldn't be overlooked. I feel that the author should have spoken of this for without the resurrection there can be no everlasting life in Heaven.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Suzannah

    There is a very small genre that I love. Set during the late ancient times, it tends to be sensational, exciting, and full of moral fibre. That's right—I'm talking about that guilty pleasure of the Christian fiction world, the Tale of Early Christianity, the ultimate have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too book, in which people with shocking vices get saved and then (like as not) served to the lions in the Circus Maximus. Henryk Sienkiewicz won the Nobel Prize for Quo Vadis, perhaps the masterpiece of the There is a very small genre that I love. Set during the late ancient times, it tends to be sensational, exciting, and full of moral fibre. That's right—I'm talking about that guilty pleasure of the Christian fiction world, the Tale of Early Christianity, the ultimate have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too book, in which people with shocking vices get saved and then (like as not) served to the lions in the Circus Maximus. Henryk Sienkiewicz won the Nobel Prize for Quo Vadis, perhaps the masterpiece of the genre in 1907, but it continues today with the Mark of the Lion novels by Francine Rivers and many others. Ben-Hur, subtitled A Tale of the Christ, may have been the first notable work in this genre. And it's a really good one. When Judah Ben-Hur's estranged childhood friend, the Roman Messala, betrays him into a life as a galley-slave and leaves his mother and sister to rot in prison, Ben-Hur survives only by vowing revenge. The wheel of fortune eventually brings him wealth, power, and an incredibly well-developed physique, so he returns to Palestine hell-bent on exacting the kind of comeuppance that would make the Count of Monte Cristo raise his eyebrows and tut. Along the way he makes the acquaintance not only of Messiah claimant Jesus of Nazareth but also of the beautiful and scheming Iras the Egyptian. There is, at one point, a chariot race, but that's only a fraction of the fun to be had. In case you didn't notice yet, this is one ripping tale of backstabbing, revenge, adventure, true love, and more melodrama than you could possibly imagine. Mixed in are some theological musings which I, when I first read it, found very profound, and still enjoy. I had read the book perhaps five times when I got around to seeing the movie, and was consequently surprised to see the decidedly pale and husky Charlton Heston playing Ben-Hur, although gratified to see some of the storylines played with even more melodrama. Unfortunately, the movie did not include the character of Iras the Egyptian. This is a shame, because she might be the best character in the book. I was also a little disappointed by the omission of the scene at the Palace Idernee. Before I finish—you, dear reader, may go off to read Ben-Hur and be disappointed to find it slightly more slowly moving than you expect. It does take a little time to get underway, though it gathers steam after the Prologue and kicks into high gear halfway through. It's a fantastic adventure story well worth being patient with. (Review originally posted at Vintage Novels)

  14. 4 out of 5

    Teri

    Went to a BYU education week class on finding good books to read. A woman in the class recommended this one. One of her favorites. I look forward to reading it and then watching the movie which Sally has highly recommended. I loved this story. It was a bit of a challenge in the beginning. There is a lot of detailed description of clothing, customs, etc. Wallace addressed the reader and would try to put you in the location he was describing. It took some patience, but I began to really enjoy it. Went to a BYU education week class on finding good books to read. A woman in the class recommended this one. One of her favorites. I look forward to reading it and then watching the movie which Sally has highly recommended. I loved this story. It was a bit of a challenge in the beginning. There is a lot of detailed description of clothing, customs, etc. Wallace addressed the reader and would try to put you in the location he was describing. It took some patience, but I began to really enjoy it. The introduction is fascinating. Ben-Hur was published in 1880. It was the bestselling novel of all time until "Gone with the Wind" was published in 1936. That surprised me since most people are familiar with the 1959 movie, but when I told them I was reading the book, they didn't know there was a book. I didn't know there was a book until last year. Lew Wallace wrote Ben-Hur as a way to sort out his beliefs concerning God and Christ. "Long before I was through with my book, I became a believer in God and Christ." It was a perfect read for the Easter season. I finished on Good Friday. I read the Barnes and Noble edition which is 635 pages. I am excited about watching the movie with all the knowledge I have gained from the book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Olivia

    I think Elizabeth said this best: "A great story. Not always told in the greatest way." There were moments that truly spoke to me spiritually, moments that were outstanding. But there were also many moments that were not. I wanted to rate it three stars just for those passages that were so meaningful, but I knew that two stars would more accurately reflect my opinion, so here we are. [Also I'm in increasingly desperate need of a solid 4- or 5-star read so send help plz. *sobs*] I think Elizabeth said this best: "A great story. Not always told in the greatest way." There were moments that truly spoke to me spiritually, moments that were outstanding. But there were also many moments that were not. I wanted to rate it three stars just for those passages that were so meaningful, but I knew that two stars would more accurately reflect my opinion, so here we are. [Also I'm in increasingly desperate need of a solid 4- or 5-star read so send help plz. *sobs*]

  16. 5 out of 5

    Winter Sophia Rose

    Engaging, Moving, Thrilling, Uplifting, Unforgettable, Action Packed & Life Changing! An Amazing Classic! I Loved It!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Julie Davis

    Having just watched the 2016 Ben Hur (which was inferior to the classic 1959 film, but very interesting as a companion piece), I decided to reread the book because my memory of it is muddled by all the film versions. Enjoying it so far and surprised by some of the book facts that the movies changed. ======== I'm listening to the LibriVox recording by Mark F. Smith. AND reading the Readers' Digest version which is unabridged and has illustrations on every page. It's the next best thing to watching Having just watched the 2016 Ben Hur (which was inferior to the classic 1959 film, but very interesting as a companion piece), I decided to reread the book because my memory of it is muddled by all the film versions. Enjoying it so far and surprised by some of the book facts that the movies changed. ======== I'm listening to the LibriVox recording by Mark F. Smith. AND reading the Readers' Digest version which is unabridged and has illustrations on every page. It's the next best thing to watching a movie while I read. I read this story many years ago, long before I was Christian. Certainly it long before I picked up the fact that the author was a Civil War General ... which somehow just makes the book that much more interesting. I also recently was in a conversation in which I learned that Ben-Hur was the Harry Potter of its day. Since people couldn't afford to travel, this was a great way to combine exotic travelogue and an inspiring tale. I decided it was time to revisit the book. And so here I am ... we shall see if my three-star review changes or not since it wasn't based on the story but on my perception of the writing quality. FINAL Still enjoyable and holds up but my star rating holds.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ivi Oltovska

    loved it epic 5 stars

  19. 4 out of 5

    Robin Lee Hatcher

    I first read Ben-Hur when I was in my late teens or early 20s. But over time, the Charlton Heston movie version (a favorite that I watch often) replaced anything about the book in my mind. Therefore, I decided it was time I revisited this classic novel, first published in the USA in 1880. This novel is surprisingly easy to read, considering when it was written. The style is as that of a storyteller, speaking directly to his audience, and I quickly fell under the spell of the story being told. The I first read Ben-Hur when I was in my late teens or early 20s. But over time, the Charlton Heston movie version (a favorite that I watch often) replaced anything about the book in my mind. Therefore, I decided it was time I revisited this classic novel, first published in the USA in 1880. This novel is surprisingly easy to read, considering when it was written. The style is as that of a storyteller, speaking directly to his audience, and I quickly fell under the spell of the story being told. The differences between the book and the movie are massive. Much more than I imagined. Not really surprising, considering the audiobook is just over 23 hours and the movie just over 3 1/2 hours. That's a lot of cutting and condensing that must happen. I still love the movie, but I will view it differently in the future. I highly recommend reading Ben-Hur, especially all fans of biblical epics, whether or not you are also a fan of the 1959 film.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ron

    “A man is never so on trial as in the moment of excessive good fortune.” Read the book. Many people argue about the relative merits of the 2015 movie version of Ben-Hur versus the classic 1959 version. I liked both, but realized I hadn’t read the underlying book, published in 1880. Now I have: forget the movies; read the book. “When God walks the earth, his steps are often centuries apart.” Moderns think, “That’s the story about the chariot race.” No. The chariot race occurs two-thirds of the way “A man is never so on trial as in the moment of excessive good fortune.” Read the book. Many people argue about the relative merits of the 2015 movie version of Ben-Hur versus the classic 1959 version. I liked both, but realized I hadn’t read the underlying book, published in 1880. Now I have: forget the movies; read the book. “When God walks the earth, his steps are often centuries apart.” Moderns think, “That’s the story about the chariot race.” No. The chariot race occurs two-thirds of the way through, years before the ministry of Jesus. Both movies identify the source of a healing miracle as the blood of Jesus draining from the cross; the book ascribes a more obvious, but no less miraculous agent. Characters and subplots multiple, barely referred to in the movies. “If thy faith is equal to thy knowledge, he will hear thee though all the heavens thunder.” Like some modern novels, Ben-Hur weaves a new tale into the periphery of a well-known story, such as a Shakespeare play or a classic novel. Here the background story is the gospel of Jesus, the interwoven tale is that of Judah Ben-Hur, a wealthy Hellenized Jew of the Sadducee persuasion who runs afoul of vindictive Romans. “The daughter who despises her father will bring her husband to grief.” In addition to using the King James Version of the Bible as his outline and dialogue style book, Wallace wove in many nineteenth century myths surrounding the life of Jesus. For example one plot thread concerns one of the three wise men, using the traditional names. Jesus is described as physically fitting the northern European model prevalent in paintings of that time. Wallace had not yet visited the Holy Land when he wrote the novel (though he did later as US Minister to the Ottoman Empire) but he thoroughly researched its geography and history. Biographies suggest that the inciting incident of the book is modeled after how misunderstanding of his role at the battle of Shiloh hounded Wallace for the rest of his life. “While carving justice for ourselves, it is never wise to be unjust to others.” First published in 1880, Ben-Hur shares the credits and debits of nineteenth-century novels. Even the best suffer from long narrative descriptions and sermonizing. The characters tend to be idealized and the plots convoluted. The texture is rich, the pace occasionally slow. “The poor make themselves poorer as apes of the rich, and the merely rich carry themselves like princes.” Quibbles: Aside from perpetuating myths surrounding the person and history of Jesus, Wallace of course viewed the world as his contemporaries. The term “millions” is loosely applied. For example, Wallace claims three million witnessed the Crucifixion. Ben-Hur himself is of too-good-to-be-true hero type. Despite his transparent Christianity, Wallace skips the Resurrection. “He is never alone who is where God is--and God is everywhere.” I often jot down apt quotes for inclusion in these reviews. Normally those notes fill two to three pages; Ben-Hur exceeded seven. Some have passed into our everyday language. For example, Rudyard Kipling is often credited with, “God could not be everywhere and therefore he made mothers.” In fact, Wallace published it in Ben-Hur when Kipling was but fourteen years old. (Other sources identify it as a Jewish proverb.) “All great peoples are proud, but the pride of [Rome] is … so grown the gods barely escape it.” Finally, thanks to Project Gutenberg for keeping old works like this available in electronic form. “God meant to make us know ourselves created for another and better life.”

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    An inspiring read... more to follow.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Joshua

    Before reading the book, I had the pleasure of watching the 1959 film. So, whilst reading the book, I found myself constantly comparing it to the film. There are so many differences! The book, like most, have a lot more backstory and character development than in the film. Two of the characters that stood out to me in difference from the film the most where: Tirzah (Judah Ben Hur's Sister) and Quintus Arrius (Judah's Step-father). To me both book versions where way better than what was portrayed Before reading the book, I had the pleasure of watching the 1959 film. So, whilst reading the book, I found myself constantly comparing it to the film. There are so many differences! The book, like most, have a lot more backstory and character development than in the film. Two of the characters that stood out to me in difference from the film the most where: Tirzah (Judah Ben Hur's Sister) and Quintus Arrius (Judah's Step-father). To me both book versions where way better than what was portrayed in the film. If you have seen the movie but haven't read the book: You are missing out on a lot! If you have read the book, but haven't seen the film: You have missed out on the perfect visual portrayal of Judah Ben Hur through the amazing actor; Charlton Heston. (Also, the film has a much more colorful portrayal of Ildirim the Arabian Sheik than in the book.) Plus, there is the chariot race in the film, that is just amazing! Sure, the book describes the chariot race so vividly, but there is just something about seeing it on film! Be sure to check out both!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Allen M Werner

    Said to be "the most influential Christian book of the 19th century," I thought it was about time I read it, having seen the silent film from 1925, and the religious epic of 1959 - both films I highly recommend, although the book is different in many ways although not deeper - just different. Reading any book written in 1880 is a challenge for us today unless you are accustomed to reading books from this time period. I am not. I've read some but never had a steady diet of them. On that note, let Said to be "the most influential Christian book of the 19th century," I thought it was about time I read it, having seen the silent film from 1925, and the religious epic of 1959 - both films I highly recommend, although the book is different in many ways although not deeper - just different. Reading any book written in 1880 is a challenge for us today unless you are accustomed to reading books from this time period. I am not. I've read some but never had a steady diet of them. On that note, let me say I found myself slowing down and even re-reading sentences and paragraphs just to fully absorb the content and nuances of Mr. Wallace's vocabulary. And while I found many passage poetic and inspiring, much of it also felt disjointed and detached which was surprising for a book hailed to be profoundly spiritual. I can't say I found it spiritually inspiring. I will say I thought the drawing together of the wise men in the first several chapters was the best description of that event I've ever read. It was a very unique presentation, using faith and spirit to unite. After that, the faith and spirit began to evaporate for the most part. Throughout the tale, questions of justice, ethics and faith were posed but I didn't feel they were central to the story or a driving force of the character. It was like a haze or mist floating around the story but hardly perceptible. It was a mixture of revenge and heartbreak filling most scenes. Near the end there was an outburst of tale telling that sounded much like a recounting of Scripture. I thought he could have titled those chapters The Four Gospels. In the end, I'm glad I read it. It is a treasure of literary history with its position cemented in history. There is a lot to be appreciated in both the writing and the story. I'll keep it on my shelf at home unsure if I'll ever read it again.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Nooilforpacifists

    Really two books; the first about a young Jewish Prince, Judah Ben-Hur, who contemplates rebellion with Rome, the second in which Ben-Hur increasingly is intertwined with the life of Jesus. Published in 1880, it quickly became the second best selling book in the English language until 1936, when “Gone With The Wind” shattered its record.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Yibbie

    Wallace's style is engaging, and his descriptions of the area are so clear you can easily picture Ancient Rome or Judah. The research seems quite accurate as to the customs of the time and place. He was a very good author. I don't think his handling of Biblical characters was appropriate. There was just to much dialog and to many extra-biblical scenes. The Bible is the Word of God and only through it we have eternal life. We must be very careful in our handling of it. Especially if we are tryin Wallace's style is engaging, and his descriptions of the area are so clear you can easily picture Ancient Rome or Judah. The research seems quite accurate as to the customs of the time and place. He was a very good author. I don't think his handling of Biblical characters was appropriate. There was just to much dialog and to many extra-biblical scenes. The Bible is the Word of God and only through it we have eternal life. We must be very careful in our handling of it. Especially if we are trying to tell others of Jesus. We are even warned in the Bible about adding to or subtracting from it. (Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:32, Proverbs 30:6,Rev 22:18-19) It is to easy to stray from true biblical teaching without adding to it mans imaginings. The worst thing though was his omitting the Resurrection. That is why Jesus came. He came to redeem us from death and to conquer death. If Jesus didn't rise from the dead, we have no salvation. "And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.'(1 Corinthians 15:17) Very sad omission. Then after I had finished the book, I found out that Judah was supposedly based on a Biblical character himself. So this book could be summed up as a man's wild imaginings about a little known character in the Bible.(Mark 14:51-52) It is not worth the reading. If you want to know Jesus read the scriptures. "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.'(John 5:39)

  26. 5 out of 5

    Rachel N

    INCREDIBLE! I found this book to be on the same par as Les Miserables. The story begins with the birth of the Christ Child and a detailed depiction of the journey of the Three Wise Men (what could have happened), and ends with the Crucifixion of Jesus. In between these two world changing events is the story of a man (Ben Hur) from a wealthy family who is deeply betrayed by a Roman friend. He ends up in the bowels of a ship as an oarsman – a grueling job. Ben Hur’s life journey is described in gr INCREDIBLE! I found this book to be on the same par as Les Miserables. The story begins with the birth of the Christ Child and a detailed depiction of the journey of the Three Wise Men (what could have happened), and ends with the Crucifixion of Jesus. In between these two world changing events is the story of a man (Ben Hur) from a wealthy family who is deeply betrayed by a Roman friend. He ends up in the bowels of a ship as an oarsman – a grueling job. Ben Hur’s life journey is described in gripping and transparent detail. Ultimately, he is forced to choose revenge or forgiveness. And then, with the reappearance of the Christ – no longer a child – now a man, Ben Hur must come to terms with the fact that Jesus has not come as a political deliverer… the rest you must read on your own. I highly recommend this novel! I have to admit, in 2004, I did read the abridged version - but it's still 500 pages!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Brian Eshleman

    Goes into more historical and character depth than does the movie. The story, movie or book, is an exciting classic, and the book enhances the attraction by spending more time on the human tendency to build kingdoms in this world in Christ's name versus living here in gratitude for His everlasting Kingdom. The only downside of the book is that the author is so ready to educate the reader on the culture and geography of the time, in itself a strength, that he takes long pauses in the story to do Goes into more historical and character depth than does the movie. The story, movie or book, is an exciting classic, and the book enhances the attraction by spending more time on the human tendency to build kingdoms in this world in Christ's name versus living here in gratitude for His everlasting Kingdom. The only downside of the book is that the author is so ready to educate the reader on the culture and geography of the time, in itself a strength, that he takes long pauses in the story to do so.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Michael O'Brien

    This was probably originally written about 50 years ago for a 3rd-5th grade reading level. It's good for that age group. Being an older comic, it's illustrations are about what you'd expect for that. It covers the main parts of the plot of the book, but it's condensed quite a bit. Probably good for one's kids, but, for adult fans of graphic novels, you may want more than what it's got in terms of story line. This was probably originally written about 50 years ago for a 3rd-5th grade reading level. It's good for that age group. Being an older comic, it's illustrations are about what you'd expect for that. It covers the main parts of the plot of the book, but it's condensed quite a bit. Probably good for one's kids, but, for adult fans of graphic novels, you may want more than what it's got in terms of story line.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Czarny Pies

    Published in 1880 with a Jewish hero, Ben-Hur is appears to be the work of a liberal progressive. A quick search on the Internet reveals that the Lew Wallace indeed had been a rabid abolitionist and that his mother-in-law was an active suffragette. Unfortunately, this well-intentioned book is extremely verbose and the author's decision to imitate the language of the King James Bible in his dialogues is highly irritating. The biggest problem is that Wallace's novel is far more Christian than the H Published in 1880 with a Jewish hero, Ben-Hur is appears to be the work of a liberal progressive. A quick search on the Internet reveals that the Lew Wallace indeed had been a rabid abolitionist and that his mother-in-law was an active suffragette. Unfortunately, this well-intentioned book is extremely verbose and the author's decision to imitate the language of the King James Bible in his dialogues is highly irritating. The biggest problem is that Wallace's novel is far more Christian than the Hollywood movie. In particular, Wallace includes a long passage describing Christ's passion that is omitted from the film. For a young reader who knows the Passion story well, Wallace's fictionalized account is very powerful. For any young person who has never attended an Easter service, it would be hard to understand and very boring. Encourage your children to read this book if you are church-goers. If you are not, it will be a difficult slog for them.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jamie

    I really enjoyed reading this with my reading buddy. Wallace is a beautiful writer. My favorite story of the book is Balthazar’s storyline.

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