These are what we call the 'YMMV items.' Things that some people find in this work. We call them 'your mileage might vary' because not everyone sees these things in the same way. This starts discussions in the trope lists, a thing we don't want. Please use the discussion page if you'd like to discuss any of these items.
True for modern audiences, no doubt, but the book was the best-selling novel of the nineteenth century and was very popular far into the twentieth century. As of 2013, it has still never been out of print.
Ending Fatigue: You'd think the story would end with Judah winning the chariot race.
But the point of the whole story is to show that getting personal revenge over Massala was ultimately meaningless and that winning the race wasn't what allowed Judah to come to terms with his past. You can't get that by ending with the chariot race.
Ho Yay: Between Ben-Hur and Messala, as stated on the main page.
Come to think of it, there seemed to be a little something between Messala and his henchman Drusus as well.
Tear Jerker: Many, though the scene where Judah learns the true fate of his mother and sister is probably the strongest.
Visual Effects of Awesome: Even today the sea battle sequence is spectacular (even if the bright blue water breaks suspension of disbelief somewhat), to say nothing of the chariot race.