The double conversion of Ben-Hur: A case of manipulative translation

Nitsa Ben-Ari*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ever since the 18th century revival of Hebrew literature, translation has been considered an efficient tool for ideological manipulation. Christianity has been a traditional candidate for such manipulation. Fear and hatred of the "younger" religion may have accounted for the subversive treatment of Christian elements in Hebrew texts. Strategies varied, depending on period and norm, mostly involving omission of undesirable material, but often converting the text into a more acceptable ideological type. Ben-Hur: A taie of the Christ (1880) by Lew Wallace is one of the novels most translated and most tampered with, and due to its predominantly Christian character, it can serve as an illuminating case study both for the subversion of Christian elements and for the more "créative" conversion into the "Few against Many" or "Jewish bravura against the Roman Empire" model.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-301
Number of pages39
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2002


  • Christianity and Judaism
  • Conversion and assimilation in translated literature
  • Fear of the "Other"
  • History rewritten
  • Ideological manipulation
  • Jesus in Jewish and Hebrew culture
  • Self-censorship
  • Subversion of translated texts


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