by Lew Wallace
620 pages, Historical Fiction
Reviewed by Jeanne

A wonderful, beautiful read that resounds with the grace of God.


Set during the time of Christ, this is the tale of a Jewish nobleman who falls from Roman favor and is sentenced to life as a slave, all at the hands of his childhood friend Messala. Returning from the Roman galleys, Judah Ben-Hur seeks his revenge and comes face-to-face with the grace of God.


There is no set 'good' character, or a set 'bad' character. The people are shown realistically as fallen humans, each with their own moral struggles. The premise of the story is that Judah wishes to repay evil for evil, but that is the very thing that brings him to realize how worthless he is in and of himself. Forgiveness, love, and mercy shine from Wallace's pen.

Spiritual Content

The Jews believe in Judaism, the Romans in the gods and goddesses of Olympus, and the converted Jews believe in Jesus Christ. Some characters make sacrifices to Fortune in order to please her. At one point, Judah visits the Grove of Daphne in Antioch and sees people playing the parts of Bacchus (god of wine), as well as dryads, satyrs, and other characters of the Roman and Greek religion.


A character is accused of attempting to assassinate the new prefect, Valerius Gratus, and is then sentenced to life in the galleys. At one point there is a sea battle, which is described somewhat in detail; later the Roman commander of the fleet asks Judah to kill him, should it turn out that the battle was lost.

It is stated that a man was tortured twice by the Romans. Two characters are lepers. A man is trampled by a chariot later in the story. As this is a tale of the Christ, it deals with His crucifixion.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Wine and an Arabian drink are consumed throughout the story and one chapter specifically deals with an excess of drink. Also one or two references to Bacchus.

Sexual Content

Messala seems to have a mistress, but nothing much is said about that. The chapter entitled "A Roman Orgy" probably deals with some sexual content, but nothing is explicitly stated. In regards to Judah, there's nothing more than kisses. The Grove of Daphne is a shrine to the woman whom Apollo loved, and while visiting it, Judah notices a statue of Daphne with a girl and a boy lying at her feet; from this, he realizes that the whole place is a temple to "love," but a worldly and lawless (and un-Christian) kind of love.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

Frequent oaths to the Roman gods, and Judah invokes the name of Jehovah several times. One use of "b*****d" in its proper context.


'Ben-Hur', written in response to a challenge to prove that Christ is the Son of God, has been influential in bringing many to Christ. The plot is gripping, enchanting, and thoroughly uplifting. The encounters with Christ in this tale are wonderfully written and the best I have ever read, and the mercy of God portrayed is heart-wrenchingly beautiful.

Fun Score: 5
Values Score: 5
Written for Age: adult

Review Rating:

Average rating: 5 stars
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