books · Reviews

Book Review- Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ

Long time no see!  How are you all doing?  I have had quite an eventful, rough week recently.  I just got to keep thinking positive and truck along!

Around this time of year, when Easter is fast approaching, TV stations usually show two old films- The Ten Commandments and Ben-Hur, both starring the late, but famously talented actor, Charlton Heston.  I’m not sure if you all have seen these films.  In all of my 18 years of celebrating Easter, I still have yet to see either of the two films.  There was a TV movie made in 2010 that looks really good.  I hope to see that one!

However, I can now say that I read the books that inspired these films.  (The Ten Commandments is a film about the Book of Exodus in the Bible.)

Ben-Hur- A Tale of the Christ

I recently read Ben-Hur- A Tale of the Christ for my English class.  this Roman-Biblical inspired story was written back in the very late 1800s by Lew Wallace.

This book of epic proportions (metaphorically and literally) was a monster to read in two-three weeks.  My version of the book was 600+ pages.  Usually that isn’t bad if it is a breezy read or if you are interested in it… both instances were not the case for this book.

Ben-Hur follows the man of the same name (he is also called Judah.)  He is from a long line of Jews and a son of a late prince.  He lives with his dearly beloved family- his mother and his sister, Tirzah.  His life gets turned upside down when his much changed childhood friend, Messala, returns from years in Rome.  This results in Judah being separated from his family.


Betrayal, slavery, war, and discovery follow Judah in his quest to reunite with his mother and Tirzah.  He meets a cast of special characters including a wealthy merchant, Simonides, and his shy and fair daughter, Esther; one of the three magi, Balthasar, and his seductive daughter, Iras.

There are eight “books” within this one book.  Within each book are chapters- some very long, some short.  The first book takes the time to tell the story of the three Magi and the Nativity story.  Judah Ben-Hur isn’t even mentioned in the first book!

The plot itself, after the first few chapters, is exciting and well thought out.  However, the overly ornate and descriptive language used in this novel is exhausting.  Lew Wallace spent nearly a chapter describing every detail of the stadium that Judah did the chariot race in.  I kid you not.

The characters are complex and Wallace explores their inner wishes and consciousnesses without outwardly describing it.  To me, that is quite a feat.

Even though the book is called, “The Tale of the Christ”, Jesus doesn’t have one narration in the book.  None.  Jesus is only mentioned in the first and two last books of the novel.  Even though Jesus doesn’t make many appearances in the novel, it is fitting for the novel to have that title because it shows how Judah shaped his life and future after he met Christ.

Do I recommend this book?  Yes… and no.  If you have a desire to read it, by then all means, read!  If this doesn’t interest you in any way, I say skip it.  The story itself is great, a classic even, but it can be a tedious read.

Now, it’s your turn!

  •  Have you ever seen The Ten Commandments or Ben-Hur?
  • What book have you been reading recently?


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