An updated version of the 1959 classic movie “Ben-Hur”  is currently playing in theaters across the country. The much-anticipated blockbuster hit of the summer offers many lessons for us as Christians because of the powerful testimony of faith.

The film is inspired by the book Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ  written by Lew Wallace in 1880. It was the first work of fiction to be blessed by a Pope (Pope Leo XIII) and is considered one of the most influential Christian books of the nineteenth century.

Themes of grace, mercy, and forgiveness are clear throughout the film. However,  some of the historical inaccuracies present in the movie require us to take a deeper look. Popular Catholic author, Mike Aquilina, has written an insightful book that will serve as a guide to understanding the time period in which the movie takes place. The World of Ben Hur will not only help you to gain a greater awareness of the historical impact of the Roman Empire, but also gives detailed background information about the author and the inspiration to write the story of Ben-Hur.

Sophia Institute Press has allowed us to share an excerpt from The World of Ben Hur . If you are going to be using this film in your apostolate, Mike Aquilina’s book is a must-have companion and guide to fully understanding the historical impact of this classic story.

“Any one of us could have been in that world—in Jerusalem, in Rome, in Antioch. There’s room for us there. There’s room for us to experience the sights, sounds, and smells of Jerusalem and Antioch as they were in those days. There’s room for us to mingle with the crowds as they gather around the carpenter who has started to preach a revolution of peace. There’s room for us at the foot of the Cross.

That’s what we want. We want to know what it was like.

We want to enjoy that grand spectacle of ancient Rome. We want to see the shocking violence and immorality that was constantly on display—but we also want to see it repudiated by the end of the movie, because it leaves us feeling sick if good doesn’t prevail.

That’s what stories like Ben-Hur give us. They let us see the sights and hear the sounds of those distant days of Roman glory. But they also show us that the glory died for a good reason, and that the Christian civilization that replaced it was better. By the end of the movie, we can be back home where we belong. We can have our gladiators and chariot races, but we can also be happy to live in a world where the things we see happening in ancient Rome aren’t allowed—not even in NASCAR.

And that’s why blockbuster movies, just like best-selling novels, are always returning to Christian origins. They give us a sense that we were there—that we actually saw the beginnings of the Christian movement, that we knew what it was like to follow Christ down the Via Dolorosa.

Sometimes they get their history right. Sometimes they get it wrong. But if they lure us into history at all, they’re doing a good thing.”

To keep reading  The World of Ben Hur  click on the link to purchase.