Considered "the most influential Christian book of the nineteenth century". it was the best-selling American novel from the time of its publication. The story recounts the adventures of Judah Ben-Hur, a Jewish prince and merchant in Jerusalem at the beginning of the 1st century. Judah's childhood friend Messala returns home as an ambitious commanding officer of the Roman legions. They come to realize that they have changed and hold very different views and aspirations.