One day, Lew Wallace had a conversation with a staff officer who laughed and mocked God, the faith, and Christians. Wallace, although not a devout Christian believer, decided to do a thorough study of the Bible, Jesus Christ, and Christian faith. This is how the book Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1880) appeared, a bestselling novel considered the most influential Christian book of the 19th century by Humanities. In 1900, Ben-Hur was the best-selling American novel, being one of the best-selling novels of all time. There are critics who claim that the novel was inspired by Wallace’s life, especially the battle of Shiloh when Wallace was held responsible for the losses suffered by the Union army. But the novels of Sir Walter Scott and Jane Porter, and the Count of Monte Cristo (1846) by Alexandre Dumas also had an influence.
The novel, published by Harper and Brothers on November 12, 1880, inspired other novels with biblical sets, and was adapted for movies. It was then surpassed only by Margaret Mitchell’s novel, Gone with the Wind. The best-known film adaptation was 1959’s Ben-Hur, a film made by MGM and considered one of the greatest films ever made, with 11 Oscars in 1960. The novel was blessed by Pope Leo XIII, the first novel to receive such an honor.
The story of Judas Ben-Hur, a Jewish prince in Jerusalem, runs parallel to the narrative of Judas and Jesus, emphasizing the theme of betrayal and religious beliefs – a story of love and compassion. Ben-Hur is accused and convicted of an assassination attempt on the Roman governor of Judea, being enslaved by the Romans. The novel starts with his desire for revenge, finally reaching forgiveness after falling in love with a Jew named Esther. A story about revenge and forgiveness, about God’s redemption and goodwill through compassion, and prosperity through godliness.
Introduction and author’s biography by Nicolae Sfetcu
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