Author: Eric Huntsman

Completed my BA in Classical Greek and Latin at BYU in 1990. Received my MA and PhD in Ancient History from the University of Pennsylvania in 1992 and 1997 respectively. Began teaching full-time at BYU in 1994, where I was an assistant professor of Classics, specializing in Greek and Roman history and historical authors. Moved to Ancient Scripture in 2003, where I am now an associate professor and affiliate faculty with Classics and Ancient Near Eastern Studies. My primary research and writing focuses are Johannine Writings with a little Pauline and Lucan thrown in, but my real interest, pure and simply, is Jesus! I married Elaine Scott in 1993, and we have two children, Rachel and Samuel. Have held the normal kind of church callings, culminating in a six-plus year stint as bishop, but I now have the two best callings in the church (in my opinion): serving as an ordinance worker in the Provo Temple and singing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Easter Sunday

Because Easter is not a biblical term (and has pagan origins), some suggest that “Resurrection Sunday” would be a better term. The word itself only appears once in the King James Bible at Acts 12:4, where is is better translated as “Passover.” So significant was the event of that Sunday morning that Christians since have celebrated it as “the Lord’s Day,” and it has become our weekly sabbath, replacing the Saturday of the Old Testament. Still, for millennia the term “Easter” has come to be synonymous with resurrection, hope, and the joyful refrain “He is risen!”

The Choir Documentary “One Voice.”

This is a bit gratuitous (let alone a tad self-promoting), but this Sunday at noon, between conference sessions, BYU-TV will be airing a documentary on the Choir, focusing particularly on our tour last summer.  Entitled “One Voice: On the Road With the Tabernacle Choir” it includes behind-the-scenes and in-front-of-the-audience footage, as well as interesting interviews with Mack Wilbert, Choir leadership and administration, organist Rick Elliott, and others. There are also a handful of short interviews with me . . . Then, at 5:30 that same day, BYU-TV will broadcast out final tour concert at Red Rock outside of Denver.  For those who do not get BYU-TV, it can be streamed at A trailer of the documentary can be found at, and additional broadcast times of both shows can be found at

Saturday before Easter

D&C 138; 3 Nephi 9 and 10 Christian tradition relates the so-called “Harrowing of Hell,” wherein Jesus broke the bonds of Adam and Eve and brought them and other Old Testament saints from hell into heaven.  Although LDS doctrinal statements do not include statements such as “and he descended into hell” as do the Apostolic and other creeds, Restoration scripture does stress that “he descended below all things” (e.g., D&C 88:6, 122:8). The real state of the righteous dead before the Atonement of Christ and Jesus’ own activities among them during the time that his body lay in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea were revealed to Joseph F. Smith on October 3, 1918: As I pondered over these things which are written, the eyes of my understanding were opened, and the Spirit of the Lord rested upon me, and I saw the hosts of the dead, both small and great.  And there were gathered together in one place an innumerable company of the spirits of the just, who had been faithful in the testimony of Jesus while they lived in mortality; And who had offered sacrifice in the similitude of the great sacrifice of the Son of God, and had suffered tribulation in their Redeemer’s name. All these had departed the mortal life, firm in the hope of a glorious resurrection, through the grace of God the Father and his Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ. I beheld that they…

Good Friday

The day traditional associated with the crucifixion of Jesus, the Friday before Easter, is called “Good Friday” in English either because it is a “holy” Friday, or, more likely, because in English “good” is often an archaic expression for “God.”  Hence “goodbye” for “go with God.”  Accordingly it is “God’s Friday” because on this day was the culmination of God’s reconciling the world to himself through the death of his Son. Matt 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 18:28–19:42; see also 3 Nephi 8 Jesus in the Hands of the Romans (Mark 15:1–21; Matt 27:1–32; Luke 23:1–32; John 18:29–19:17a) At Calvary (Mark 15:22–28; Matt 27:33–38; Luke 23:33–34, 38; John 19:17b–24) Activities at the Cross (Mark 15:29–32; Matt 27:39–44; Luke 23:35–43; John 19:25–27) Last Moments (Mark 15:33–37; Matt 27:45–50; Luke 23:44–46; John 19:28–30) The Burial of Jesus (Mark 15:42–47; Matt 27:57–66; Luke 23:50–56; John 19:38–42) Suggested Music: Suggested Music: “O Savior, Thou Who Wearest a Crown.” (hymn 197) Suggested Listening: St . Matthew Passion; Handel, Messiah, Part II. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.  For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.  And not only so, but we also joy in God…

Maundy Thursday

“Maundy” is an early English form of the Latin mandatum for “commandment” and recalling “A new commandment I give you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye love one another” in John 13:34. The events of Thursday night, beginning with the Last Supper and extending through our Lord’s suffering in Gethsemane, his betrayal, his arrest, and his first hearing before the Jewish authorities, reveal his great love for us.

Spy Wednesday

In some traditions the Wednesday before Easter is called “Spy Wednesday” because this may have been when Judas agreed with the chief priests to betray the Savior. This act of betrayal is highlighted by its collocation with an act of love, the anointing by the unnamed woman in Bethany.

Tuesday before Easter

After drawing lessons from the withered tree, Jesus spent the morning in the temple. The second block of these teachings in Matthew, which also cover most of the material preserved in Mark and Luke, focus on attempts by the Pharisees, Herodians, and Sadducees to trap Jesus in his words (22:15–40).

Monday before Easter

While readers are more familiar with Jesus healing and blessing rather than “cursing,” the story of the Fig Tree is important for our day. Just as the Jews of Jesus’ time were held accountable for brining forth fruit, so, too, are our lives expected to reflect that of Jesus.

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday is a good opportunity to recall one of the rare moments in Jesus’ ministry when he was recognized for the king he was. But depending upon the timing of Passover and the day that Jesus was crucified, this Sunday could also have been “fifth day before Passover” when the Paschal Lamb was selected for Passover and set apart for the Lord, giving special significance to crowd’s recognition of Jesus on this day—they may have been welcoming him as a hoped-for king, but in reality he had come as the Lamb of God who would die for them.

For the Saturday before Holy Week: The Symbolism of Jesus as Anointed King and Priest

As a prologue to our journey through the Savior’s final week, considering another, implicit level of symbolism inherent in the accounts of Jesus’ anointing provides depth to Jesus’ role as “the Christ.” John’s placement of the anointing before the Triumphal Entry can be seen as portraying Jesus as the rightful king who enters Jerusalem with authority. The location of the anointing in Mark and Matthew on Wednesday of Holy Week signals a shift in emphasis as Jesus begins to function as the anointed priest who makes the ultimate sacrifice for his people.

Holy Week Preliminaries: Chronology

For most traditional Christians, the basic chronology of Jesus’ last week is fairly clear: he entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday; taught and prophesied for two or more days; held the Last Supper and was arrested on Thursday evening; died on Good Friday; and rose from the dead the morning of Easter Sunday.  To make a devotional study of the Savior’s Final Week simpler, in past years posts and in last year’s Ensign article,[1] I have avoided detailed chronological discussions.  Here, however, I want to provide interested parties with more background to the issues involved in this study, after which I will endorse a basically traditional chronology for devotional purposes. The only securely established day is the day of the resurrection, which is explicitly identified as “the first day of the week” (Mark 16:2; parallels Matt 28:1 and Luke 24:1; John 20:1).  The gospel of Mark, widely assumed to be the earliest of the written gospel accounts, provides relative time markers, which, calculating back from the resurrection on the first day of the week, place Jesus’ triumphal entry on the previous Sunday.[2] Sunday:                “And when they came nigh unto Jerusalem” (11:1) Monday:               “And on the morrow, when they were come back from Bethany” (11:12) Tuesday:               “And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree” (11:20) Wednesday:         “After two days was the feast of the Passover” (14:1) Thursday:              “And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the…

Preparing for Easter through Holy Week

In the bustle of day-to-day life, it is useful to employ holidays to refocus our attention and our thoughts and, most of all, celebrate together and with friends of other faiths the events we all value. For some years now, my family and I have benefited spiritually by using the gospel accounts of the Savior’s last week as the focus of our family and personal scripture study. It is a great way to truly celebrate Easter!

Lucan Infancy Narrative

[Once again, these are just notes, and they do not even begin to do the subject justice, but yesterday’s Matthew notes were able to spark some good discussion. I will response and comment as I can today, but, hey, it is Christmas Eve Day!] While Matthew’s is largely from Joseph’s perspective, Luke’s from Mary’s This does not mean, however, that Joseph and Mary were necessarily the sources—rather that the evangelists focused on them and what they represented Luke included poetic passages or songs to personalize the characters of his infancy narrative (canticles, more below) Luke adds the stories about John the Baptist as literary foils to compare and contrast with the story of Jesus While Matthew and Luke differ, and even conflict, on some details, the important facts are all confirmed by the Book of Mormon Mary was a virgin from Nazareth, where she divinely conceived Jesus (1 Nephi 11:13–20) Jesus was the son of God and his mother was named “Mary” (Mosiah 3:8) Jesus was born near Jerusalem (Alma 7:10; Bethlehem is 9 km south of Jerusalem, hence “at,” or in the region, of Jerusalem) Mary was a precious and chosen vessel, who conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost (Alma 7:10; not of the Holy Ghost as in Matt 1:18, 21) Luke’s Infancy Narrative. Doublets: John the Baptist and Jesus [Luke’s prologue to his gospel (1:1–4)] Birth of John the Baptist Foretold (1:5–25) Birth of Jesus Foretold…

The Matthean Infancy Narrative

[Christmas realities have hit, making me admit that full length blogs the last two days of Christmas week are just not feasible! So forgive me as I just post here some “notes” on Matt and later Luke, consisting of largely recycled material from my class lectures!] Matthew’s is largely from Joseph’s perspective, Luke’s from Mary’s This does not mean, however, that Joseph and Mary were necessarily the sources—rather that the evangelists focused on them and what they represented For Matt, Joseph’s proposed status as a Davidid makes Jesus David’s true heir, although admittedly through “adoption” or legal recognition by Joseph, not literal descent Matthew does not mention Nazareth until the end of his account, presenting the possibility that Joseph was from Bethlehem and Mary was from Nazareth Was it an arranged marriage and Joseph went to Nazareth to retrieve his new bride? The problem of the “census” is will be treated in the next blog on the Lucan infancy narrative Joseph and Mary had a “house” in Bethlehem and intended to return to there from Egypt (Matt 2:11, 22) Structure of Matthew’s Infancy Narrative Formula quotations cite Jewish scriptures (usually from the LXX or Greek translation); they give authority to Matthew’s account and demonstrate that Jesus is fulfilling prophecy Genealogy (1:1–17) Conception and birth (1:18–25) first formula quotation, 1:23 = Isaiah 7:14 LXX Visit of the Wise Men (Epiphany; 2:1–12) second formula quotation, 2:6 = Micah 5:2, 2 Samuel 5:2…

Studying the Infancy Narratives

This Christmas Eve, most of us will at least read the “Christmas Story,” as found in Luke 2:1-20. As we approach the holiday, a few more diligent souls will read all of the Infancy Narratives, as found in Matt 1-2 AND Luke 1-2. Yet even when reading (as opposed to just remembering or “thinking” about) these familiar texts, the tendency will be to harmonize the two accounts, resulting in a hybrid vision of the birth of Jesus that accords nicely with the Christmas pageants that we will watch and the Nativity scenes that we have set up. But our Christmas creches—which confidently put three kings (as opposed to two or more magi or wise men) at the stable (not mentioned in Luke, although he does record a manger) along with shepherds and various animals under a star—are the result not only of jarring harmonization, but even some creative fabrication. This harmonizing tendency is alive and well in the LDS community, perhaps as a result of Elder Talmages well-known and familiar Jesus the Christ, Elder McConkie’s The Mortal Messiah, and our Gospel Doctrine’s curriculum, each of which draws from all four gospels to produce and fill in a rough chronological account of our Lord’s mortal life and final salvific acts. This impulse is natural enough: after all Jesus’ ministry, death, and resurrection were historical events, so the four surviving, canonical accounts should represent those events accurately. Yet the four gospels were…

Christmas with Autism

In April of 2008, our son Samuel was diagnosed with autism . . . But in this Christmas week, I wanted to share some specific experiences that we have had with our special needs child, first the challenges that the holiday posed and then the wonderful blessings that we have experienced together as a family. . . . As we celebrate the birth of our Lord together, the spirit is not only filling my home, it is reaching my precious son in ways that I pray will make an indelible mark on his memory and soul.

An LDS Observance of Advent

A recent spoof on Conan O’Brien that has made the rounds on the Internet highlights how little many outside the Church know about LDS practices. The hilarious skit, ostensibly in honor of a “Mormon Christmas,” points out that we really do not have many LDS-specific holiday traditions, at least not many that anyone can readily point to. There are ward Christmas programs a week or two before Christmas. There is the First Presidency Christmas Devotional at the beginning of December. And, as I wrote yesterday, for those in Utah, or perhaps farther afield thanks to PBS, there is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert. But there is not really anything that I would call an actual LDS worship service focused solely on Christmas. There are, perhaps, occasional exceptions. My mother recalls attending candlelight Christmas Eve services growing up in her ward in Cedar City, Utah. When I was a bishop we did a special Christmas musical and scriptural fireside one year when Sunday evening fell a couple of days before Christmas. I have heard of other ward families that try to do something more devotional than the usual “ward Christmas party,” one even on Christmas Eve, but I have not heard of any Christmas Day services except on the rare occasion that Christmas falls on a Sunday. The reality is that the focus in our community is, perhaps rightly, on family and family traditions. The challenge that many of us…

Tabernacle Choir Christmas Concert

[Choir policy keeps members from posting or blogging about the Choir before and even during events.  Here I am sharing only some very general information about the concert after it is over. Although I will respond to comments, I do not intend to speculate on policies, how guests are chosen, etc.] Perhaps the most important thing that the Tabernacle Choir does is provide music for several of the session of General Conference. After that, our biannual tours rank high as perhaps our most overt and perhaps important missionary outreach. While the weekly broadcasts of Music and the Spoken Word fill a similar purpose, probably the most exciting event to participate in is our annual Christmas concert. Since the dedication of the Conference Center almost ten years ago, the concert has reached a stunningly large audience: 21,000 for a ticketed “dress rehearsal” Thursday evening, 42,000 for the official concerts Friday and Saturday night, and then nearly another 21,000 for the Sunday morning broadcast, which includes many numbers from the concert and then is followed by a “mini-concert” that is not broadcast but includes most of the remaining repertoire. That equals about 84,000 people who are the recipients of this annual gift by the Choir and church to the community. For the past several years, some 90% of the PBS stations in the U.S. have been broadcasting the previous year’s concerts. I first attended one of the concerts the year before I…

Truant Blogger Here at Last

First, apologies for keeping you all waiting. The Choir’s Christmas concerts were last week, which was also the last week of BYU’s fall semester. This week I am in the midst of finals. And in the few moments I squeeze out, there are family Christmas preparations to make! I am a complete neophyte to the Blogosphere, having hardly read much of it and having never contributed outside of a single stint on the Mormon Theology Seminar. Still, when my friend Julie Smith approached me, I told her there were two times of the year that I would be interested in participating: Christmas and Easter! We’ll see how this goes and perhaps you will have me back for Holy Week. Although some of the comments I saw posted to the announcement of my guest stint suggest that a few of you know who I am, I am not assuming anything . . . So, although I do not know whether it is typical to introduce oneself, let me share some of my background and then what I plan to share with you this next week. I did my graduate work in Classics and Ancient History at the University of Pennsylvania and then came back to BYU where I taught the full breadth of Classics (Greek and Latin language and literature, Greek and Roman history, mythology, civ, etc.) for nine years. Then, in 2003, I “got religion” as a result of writing…