Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace

Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace is a good historical novel, though it is not as fast-paced as the movie. Wallace’s writing is a bit stilted in places with the verbosity common to the later 19th century. (Speaking of stilted and verbose, how do you like them fancy words?) Even with those negatives, the book has ample, accurate descriptions of the life and culture of Judea during the time of Christ. It is also a great fictional account of God’s providence working through all the suffering and pain of individuals to bring about their good and His glory. I also enjoyed reading a fictitious narrative of how a Jewish zealot who expected the Messiah to be a conquering military hero overthrowing Rome became aware that Christ instead came to set His people spiritually free and set up his kingdom in their hearts. Still, it is one of the few books where I actually enjoyed the movie more the book. It is hard to beat Charlton Heston’s 1957 portrayal of Ben Hur.

The title is a bit misleading.  Christ is not the main character of the story, but Christ does play a pivotal role in His impact on the life of the main character, Judah Ben-Hur, a Judean prince.  True biblical accounts such as the story of the wise men visiting the Babe are embellished with fictional detail, but most of the narrative

deals with the betrayal of Ben-Hur by his former childhood friend.  This betrayal has disastrous results upon Ben-Hur and his family and servants.  Two forces have direct influence in keeping him alive in the slave galley of a Roman naval ship: his thirst for revenge and his desire to find out what has happened to his family.  Indirectly through many means, God is working through His providence to bring Ben-Hur to realize that vengeance is the Lord’s and that compassion is the true channel by which one is freed from one’s past.  Ben-Hur also has two love interests in the book through whom he learns that outward appearances do not always match inward beauty.  This book is recommended to those who enjoy historical fiction dealing with betrayal, revenge, and redemption and do not mind the verbose prose of the nineteenth century.

Brother Steven Henderson