Book Seven — At the Baptism of the Christ

At a meeting in Bethany, Ben-Hur and his Galileans organise a resistance force, an army which will revolt against Rome. Judah asks Simonides and Ilderim for help, and they establish a training base in Ilderim’s territory, deep in the desert. After training for some time, Malluch sends him a letter announcing the appearance of a prophet who he believes to be a herald for the Christ. Judah journeys to the Jordan to see the Prophet, and on the way meets Balthasar and Iras again, traveling for the same purpose. Judah does not accept Balthasar’s reasoning of the Christ as a savior rather than an earthly king, and continues with his plan to fight. They reach Bethabara, where a group has gathered to watch John the Baptist. A man walks up to John, and asks to be baptized. Judah recognizes him as the same man that gave him water at the well in Nazareth many years earlier, and Balthasar worships and almost faints at once again seeing the Christ.

Book Eight — Ben-Hur commits his life to Jesus

During the next three years, Jesus preaches his gospel around Galilee, and Ben-Hur becomes one of his followers. He starts to believe that Balthasar may be right, when he sees that Jesus chooses fishermen, farmers and similar people, considered “lowly”, as apostles. Judah believes Jesus to be wasting valuable time by not proclaiming himself king immediately. Yet, he has seen Jesus perform miracles, and is convinced that the Christ really had come.

During this time Malluch, armed with the Hur fortune, has bought the old Hur house and renovated it, restoring it to splendor. He then invites Simonides and Balthasar, with their daughters, to live in the house with him, and they become regular occupants of the house. Judah Ben-Hur seldom visits the house. The day before Jesus plans to enter Jerusalem and, finally proclaim himself, Judah returns and gives them a full account of what has happened through the years he has followed Jesus. When he tells of the healing of ten lepers, Amrah realizes that Judah’s mother and sister could be healed, and the next morning, alone, hurries to the lepers’ cave to tell them the good news. The three wait along a road, and amidst all the rejoicing and din during the Triumphal Entry, they ask Jesus to heal them, and their request is granted. When they are cured, Judah sees them and Amrah and the family are finally re-united.

Several days later, Iras talks with Judah, saying he has trusted in a false hope, for Jesus had not started the expected revolution. She says that it is all over between them, saying she loves Messala. Ben-Hur remembers the “invitation of Iras” that led to the incident with Thord, and accuses Iras of betraying him and spying on him for Messala’s gain. That night, he realizes how different Balthasar and his daughter are, and resolves to go to Esther.

While he is lost in thought, he sees a parade marching down the street, and falls in with it, confused. He notices that Judas Iscariot is leading the parade, and many of the temple priests and Roman soldiers are all marching together. They go to the olive grove of Gethsemane, which confuses Ben-Hur even more, and he sees, ahead of him, Jesus walking out to meet them. Ben-Hur understands the betrayal, is spotted by a priest who tries to take him into custody; he breaks away and flees. When morning comes, Ben-Hur learns that the Jewish priests have tried Jesus before Pilate, and although he was originally ruled “not guilty”, has nevertheless been sentenced to crucifixion at the crowd’s demand. Ben-Hur is shocked at how his legions have all deserted him in his time of need. They head to Calvary, and Ben-Hur resigns himself to watch the crucifixion of Jesus. The sky darkens. Ben-Hur offers Jesus wine vinegar to return Jesus’ favor to him. Jesus utters his last cry.