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Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  32,901 ratings  ·  1,110 reviews
Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1880) by Lew Wallace is one of the most popular and beloved 19th century American novels. This faithful New Testament tale combines the events of the life of Jesus with grand historical spectacle in the exciting story of Judah of the House of Hur, a man who finds extraordinary redemption for himself and his family.A classic of faith, fortitud ...more
Hardcover, 620 pages
Published October 18th 2007 by Norilana Books (first published November 12th 1880)
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Mike Take your time. It takes a few chapters to get comfortable with the style of writing. It is also quite descriptive. It took me about 4 weeks to comple…moreTake your time. It takes a few chapters to get comfortable with the style of writing. It is also quite descriptive. It took me about 4 weeks to complete the book. I loved it.(less)
Dana Garretson I read the original unabridged version and the Carol Wallace abridged version preparing to lead a class discussion, and I hands down recommend the ori…moreI read the original unabridged version and the Carol Wallace abridged version preparing to lead a class discussion, and I hands down recommend the original as so much better. While the abridged keeps the storyline intact, it lacks so much depth, and misses so many points the author was making.(less)

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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
Nov 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
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
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
Nov 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of 19th-century literature, or of historical fiction
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 ...more
Mar 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Christian McKay
Nov 12, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: regrettables
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
Charles  van Buren
Excellent novel, weak theology.
David Eppenstein
Feb 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, fiction
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 ...more
David Sarkies
Jul 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everybody
Recommended to David by: Charlton Heston
Shelves: historical
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
Rebecca L
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
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.
May 06, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: religious, classics
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*]
Julie Davis
Jun 21, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Winter Sophia Rose
Jul 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Engaging, Moving, Thrilling, Uplifting, Unforgettable, Action Packed & Life Changing! An Amazing Classic! I Loved It!
Ivi Oltovska
loved it epic 5 stars
Robin Lee Hatcher
Dec 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
“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
Sep 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An inspiring read... more to follow.
May 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
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
Jan 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, 2021
Published in 1880, Ben Hur is often considered the most influential Christian book of the nineteenth century. What a delight to finally read this gem!


“In thankfulness for present mercy, nothing so becomes us as losing sight of past ills.”

“The happiness of love is in action; its test is what one is willing to do for others.”

“As a rule, there is no surer way to the dislike of men than to behave well where they have behaved badly.”

“The fiend whose task it is to torture us with fears and bitte
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.
Jan 04, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So this is the best selling American novel of all time. It is also a hit movie from 1959 and a new adaptation just hit the theaters last week.

The book itself is excellent. The subtitle is there so that, among other things, the last few chapters aren't a surprise. The main plot follows the young Judah Ben-Hur as he navigates his way from profound loss and betrayal back to wholeness, a wholeness which comes through his experiences of the Christ.

Quite likely, some people who read this will object
Mar 05, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: classics
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
Rachel N
Jul 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
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 ...more
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 ...more
Czarny Pies
Jun 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Young people who know the Passion stories from the New Testament.
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
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Lewis "Lew" Wallace was a lawyer, governor, Union general in the American Civil War, American statesman, and author, best remembered for his historical novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ.

From Civil War Biography:

Although he would have much preferred to be remembered as a highly successful military hero, Lew Wallace has been thwarted in this ambition and is best known as an author. Born in Indiana

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