#12. Ben-Hur

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"Fair Egyptian," the merchant replied, nodding with grave politeness, "your father is a good man who would not be offended if he knew I told you his Persian lore is the least part of his wisdom."

Iras's lip curled slightly.

"To speak like a philosopher, as you invite me," she said, "the least part always implies a greater. Let me ask what you esteem the greater part of the rare quality you are pleased to attribute to him."

Simonides turned upon her somewhat sternly.

"Pure wisdom always directs itself toward God; the purest wisdom is knowledge of God; and no man of my acquaintance has it in higher degree, or makes it more manifest in speech and act, than the good Balthasar."

Author: Lew Wallace

Synopsis: Judah Ben-Hur lives with his mother and sister in a beautiful home, proud to be a Jew but interested in becoming a soldier. When his childhood friend betrays him, throwing mother and sister into a leprous prison cell and putting Ben-Hur himself into chained service at the oars of warships, Ben-Hur develops a desire for revenge. During a great battle, Ben-Hur saves Arrius the duumvir's life and is adopted as his son, becoming a Roman, but his heart is still full of zeal for the Jewish people and bitterness at the wrongs done him. Encounters with one of the Magi--Balthasar--and daughter Iras, with a Sheikh from the desert, and with family servant Simonides and daughter Esther, prepare him for the greatest encounter of all: finding the Messiah.

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I love this book. It took me a long time to pick a quote; there were at least three that I thought worthy of inclusion, not counting my favorite part (where Ben-Hur figures out which of the beautiful young women he really loves).

There is an awful lot of focus on revenge in the story, and the portrayal of Christ is certainly subjective, but it is an interesting tale drawn from history and tradition and told with all the grand old glories of love and war.

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