Ben Hur: Rome vs Christ, then and now

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August 23, 2016

Unlike most reviewers, I enjoyed the new Ben Hur film. …

BenHurIn the 1950s Rome for some may have equated with the fading British Empire, while America was the noble republic, perhaps like the Hebrews. Rome was honored for its achievements even if seen as corrupt and passé. Today, in Christian circles especially, America is often equated with Rome, a decadent empire that oppresses people of faith. The Gospel and church must resist the empire.

In both films Rome plays its sinister role against Ben Hur’s family and also against Christ Himself. The new film emphasizes Rome as oppressor of the Hebrews and countless other conquered peoples, including the family of the African horse merchant who rescues Ben Hur, played by Morgan Freeman. …

The French Christian philosopher Blaise Pascal remarked that Divine Providence was wide, and the same Rome that executed Jesus and persecuted the church also facilitated the Gospel’s spread across its vast empire, eventually adopting that faith as its own. … In some ways, the new Ben Hur is more explicitly Christian in the style of American evangelicals. And in some ways the 1959 version has a more nuanced appreciation of how Providence deploys nations and empires.

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