Lew Wallace, Ben-Hur: A Tale Of The Christ [Contents and Summary] Cf. Ben-Hur in Print, at Amazon


Quick Open of Ben Hur Book 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Book One — The Magi

Three Magi have come from the East. One, Balthasar, sets up a tent in the desert. Melchior, a Hindu, and Gaspar from Athens join him and as the three men each tell their stories and they realize they have been brought together by their common goal. As they prepare for the journey to come, they see a bright star shining over the region, and they take it as a sign that they are to leave. They follow the star through the desert towards the province of Judaea.

At the Joppa Gate in Jerusalem Mary and Joseph are traveling through on their way from Nazareth to Bethlehem. They stop at the inn at the entrance to the city but there is no room. Mary is pregnant and, as labor begins, they head to a cave on a hillside behind the inn and here Jesus is born.

In the pasturelands outside the city, a group of seven shepherds are keeping watch over their flocks. Angels from heaven announce the Christ’s birth. The shepherds hurry towards the city. They are rebuked by one of the men supervising the khan but nevertheless, inspired by the angels’ message, they enter the caves on the hillside and worship Christ. They spread the news of the Christ’s birth and many come to see him.

The Magi arrive in Jerusalem and inquire for news of the Christ. Herod the Great is angry to hear of another king challenging his rule and asks the Sanhedrin to find information for him. The Sanhedrin brings out a prophecy, written by Micah, telling of a ruler to come from Bethlehem Ephrathah, interpreting it to signify the Christ’s birthplace.

Book Two — Ben-Hur meets Jesus

Judah Ben-Hur is a prince descended from a royal family of Judaea. Messala, his closest childhood friend, the son of a Roman tax-collector, leaves home for five years of education in Rome. He returns as a proud and avaricious Roman. He mocks Judah and his religion and the two become enemies. Judah decides to go to Rome, as Messala had, for military training but use his skills to fight the Roman Empire.

Valerius Gratus, the fourth Roman prefect of Judaea, passes by Judah’s house. As Judah watches the procession, a roof tile is loosed, falls into the street and hits the governor. Messala betrays Judah, who is arrested. There is no trial; Judah’s family is secretly imprisoned in the Antonia Fortress and all the family property is seized. Judah vows vengeance against the Romans. He is sent to become a slave aboard a Roman warship. On the way to the ship he meets Jesus, who offers him water, which deeply moves Judah.

Book Three — Ben-Hur becomes a Roman citizen

In Italy, Greek pirate-ships have been looting Roman vessels in the Aegean Sea. The prefect Sejanus orders the Roman Quintus Arrius to take warships to combat the pirates. Judah is a galley slave rowing chained on one of the Roman warships. He had survived three hard years, fueled by his passion for vengeance. Arrius is impressed by Judah and finds out more about his life and his story. The ship is attacked by pirates and the ship is sunk. Judah uses a plank as a raft. Arrius surfaces besides him and the two of them hold on until a Roman ship appears and rescues them. They return to Misenum and Judah is adopted by the influential Arrius, becoming a Roman citizen.