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Book Review

This book has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

When Judah Ben-Hur's childhood friend, Messala, returns from school indoctrinated by Roman teachings, he cruelly mocks Ben-Hur's Jewish beliefs. Messala works for the new Roman governor, Gratus, who stages an inaugural parade through Judaea. As Ben-Hur watches the scene, he accidentally dislodges a loose tile from his house, which hits the leader. Messala, enraged, ensures that Ben-Hur is harshly sentenced without trial and that his mother and sister are imprisoned. The tale that follows explains how Ben-Hur is relieved of his sentence and returns to a life of prosperity while looking for his family and seeking revenge against Messala. Amid it all, Ben-Hur becomes a follower of the carpenter who he believes will make war against the Romans — although he learns that earthly revenge is not the way of Christ.

Christian Beliefs

The story begins with Wallace's account of the biblical wise men meeting and following the star to Christ. Later, he provides an account of Mary and Joseph seeking a birthplace for Jesus. Ben-Hur, his friends and his family live in the time of Jesus' ministry and crucifixion, and they follow the Savior, initially anticipating His creation of an earthly kingdom to overthrow Rome. In Wallace's account, Ben-Hur witnesses and tells others about Jesus' miracles, including how He heals Ben-Hur's mother and sister of leprosy. Ben-Hur is the man who offers the wine-vinegar to Christ on the Cross.

Other Belief Systems

Frequent references are made to idol worship, gods, goddesses and other pagan beliefs and worship practices of the time. Pagan characters often use exclamations involving the gods, such as "O Bacchus!" or "By Apollo." Fortunetelling is commonly practiced at the Grove of Daphne, a temple.

Authority Roles

Arrius, a Roman officer at sea, listens sympathetically to Ben-Hur's story, even though Ben-Hur is merely a prisoner on rowing duty. Arrius not only frees Ben-Hur, but also adopts him and leaves him his fortune. Simonides, a former servant of Ben-Hur's father, cautiously investigates Ben-Hur to ensure he's who he claims to be. When Ben-Hur proves himself, Simonides (the doting father of Ben-Hur's future wife, Esther) offers to give Ben-Hur all the wealth he's accumulated through his stewardship of the Hur family money. Ben-Hur's mother demonstrates a spirit of love and protection with regard to her children. She reminds them of God's goodness even in the most desperate circumstances. Messala attempts to destroy the Hur family by using his Roman power and influence.


The words a-- and b--tard occur a few times.


The text mentions orgies at the temple in the Grove of Daphne, but provides no other detail.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Producers often use a book as a springboard for a movie idea or to earn a specific rating. Because of this, a movie may differ from the novel. To better understand how this book and movie differ, compare the book review with Plugged In's movie review.

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Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

18 and up


Lew Wallace






Record Label



Signet Books


On Video

Year Published





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