Ben-Hur

Ben-HurBen-Hur by Carol Wallace, Lew Wallace
Genres: Biblical Fiction
Published by Tyndale Publishing on July 19, 2016
Pages: 425

 

About Ben-Hur (from the back cover):
As one of the bestselling stories of all time, Lew Wallace’s Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ has captivated and enthralled millions around the world—both in print and on the big screen. Now Lew’s great-great-granddaughter has taken the old-fashioned prose of this classic novel and breathed new life into it for today’s audience.

Coming to theaters in August 2016 as Ben-Hur, a major motion picture from MGM and Paramount studios, the story follows Judah Ben-Hur, a Jewish nobleman whose childhood friend Messala betrays him. Accused of trying to murder the new Roman governor in Jerusalem, Judah is sentenced to the galley ships and vows to seek revenge against the Romans and Messala. But a chance encounter with a carpenter from Nazareth sets Judah on a different path.

Rediscover the intrigue, romance, and tragedy in this thrilling adventure.

Until reading this edition of Ben-Hur, the only thing I knew about this story was the infamous chariot race.  I was not familiar with the story enough to even know that it would be categorized as Biblical fiction by today’s standards.  If the language had not been updated, I probably still wouldn’t know much about this book.  However, I am so grateful for the update as it has made a story that I normally would not attempt, a book I could not put down.

The promotional information for this book states, “Carol Wallace has taken the old-fashioned prose of this classic novel and breathed new life into it for today’s audience. She has modernized the text, bringing this story of intrigue, romance, and tragedy into a more accessible and readable format—drawing readers back to this time-honored tale.”  Given that I have not read the original book I cannot comment on how well this version sticks to the original text.  However, given the information provided by Tyndale, I am making the assumption (and my review will reflect this viewpoint) that the story remained intact, only the writing has been updated.

Perhaps some people will disagree with the decision to update the writing for this classic tale.  But I am not a purist and am quite happy to have the language modernized.

Perhaps some people will disagree with the decision to update the writing for this classic tale.  But I am not a purist and am quite happy to have the language modernized so that I can more easily enjoy it.  And enjoy it I did!  I fell in love with the story!

The characters are astounding; Judah Ben-Hur is simply incredible.  I am having a hard time envisioning any actor truly doing justice to his character.  He’s complex, heroic, tragic, realistic.  From the moment he runs to meet his childhood friend Messala to that pivotal, life altering moment, to the chariot race, and throughout each other major event during his journey, Judah grabs the reader’s heart and carries them through each page.  The emotions he generates because he is so realistic only serves to make this story more relatable and ultimately allows the reader to see Jesus as Savior.

The characters are astounding; Judah Ben-Hur is simply incredible.

Though Judah is certainly an amazing character, I absolutely love the way Jesus is portrayed.  I’ve read several modern Biblical fiction novels and I’m always curious as to how each one portrays Jesus.  Now that I’ve read Ben-Hur, I wonder how many authors today follow Lew Wallace’s lead in writing Jesus.  The words Jesus speaks are from scripture.  There is little enhancing of Jesus or trying to characterize Him.  We get to see Judah’s thoughts and other people’s ideas of who Jesus is, but the author did not try to get into Jesus’ mind and interpret scripture from His perspective.  This is the perfect way to include Jesus in a story—let Him be who scripture records.

I am a lover of suspense, drama, and thrills and this book has plenty of that.  Judah’s story is a coming of age combined with tragedy and perseverance.  Just the basic plot is amazing.  However, while I loved the action and the human drama throughout Ben-Hur, I very appreciate the speculation about Jesus.  This is another trend that I’ve seen in New Testament Biblical fiction and again I wonder if other authors are following Mr. Wallace’s lead.  It is incredibly easy to judge first century Jews for not recognizing Jesus as the Messiah.  However, I like how Ben-Hur demonstrates why there was so much confusion.  Why His actions contradicted their expectations.  It lends authenticity to the fictional story, but also gives the reader a different perspective and challenges them to reevaluate their beliefs about Jesus.

I am a lover of suspense, drama, and thrills and this book has plenty of that.  Judah’s story is a coming of age combined with tragedy and perseverance.

The historical detail is amazing.  In a world where it’s fairly easy to find information about ancient Israel from the internet, it’s hard to imagine how Mr. Wallace was able to create the historical setting for Ben-Hur.  I felt like I walked the streets of Jerusalem, rowed in the galley of an ancient Roman warship, and was a spectator at the stadium in Antioch.  It is truly amazing the level of detail in this book and I’m impressed that it was originally written in the 1870s.

Though an updated version of the movie is coming out this year, I strongly encourage readers to grab a copy of the book and read it first.  It’s an easy read and definitely worth it.  This is a remarkable story and I’m thrilled that it has been modernized so that it’s more readable for today’s audiences.  My only regrets are that I waited this long to find out the story beyond the chariot race and that Lew Wallace is not available for an interview.  I have so many questions I’d love to ask!

The notes at the end of the book are well worth reading.  They include a short biography for Lew Wallace as well as a brief history of Ben-Hur.  Definitely take the time to read the notes.

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