Introduction to Holy Week

Eric Huntsman received his BA from BYU in Classical Greek and Latin in 1990 and then went on to receive an MA and PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in Ancient History in 1992 and 1997.  In 1994 he began teaching full-time at BYU in Classics.  In 2003 he transferred to Ancient Scripture, where he is currently an associate professor specializing in New Testament.  After a year teaching at the BYU-Jerusalem Center from 2011-2012, he returned to BYU and began serving as the coordinator for the Ancient Near Eastern Studies (ANES) program in the Kennedy Center for International Relations.  The ANES major has two tracks, one in Hebrew Bible and one in Greek New Testament.  A co-author of Jesus Christ and the World of the New Testament with Richard Holzapfel and Thomas Wayment, Huntsman is the author of God So Loved the World, a study of and devotional reflection on the Passion Narratives, and Good Tidings of Great Joy, a similar treatment of the Infancy Narratives.  This August his new book, The Miracles of Jesus, will be released by Deseret Book.


I was excited when John Fowles approached me about guest blogging for By Common Consent. I have checked on blogs here from time to time and been particularly interested in the Mormon Lectionary Project. As a self-confessed “high church Mormon” (when I am not veering towards a more evangelical style when speaking and teaching!), I love using holidays and elements of the traditional liturgical calendar to structure my personal study and our family worship.  Scriptures that reflect pivotal moments of Jesus’ life and ministry, together with music that conveys the feelings of these events, have always spoken powerfully to me.

Unfortunately Holy Week this year is falling at a rather frantic time.  It is the last week of class at BYU and we are moving into exams, after which I have a couple of trips abroad to prepare for.  On top of that, the Tabernacle Choir is in the throes of preparations for this year’s special Easter concert, a full performance of Handel’s Messiah, which is itself a preparatory exercise for a our recording of that masterpiece in May.  In other words, I do not really have time to do any serious blogging this year!

So, with your indulgence, I am going to cheat a bit.  For years I sent out annual Holy Week and Easter emails to my family and friends, sharing that year’s study of the Passion Week.  I later began web pages for Holy Week/Easter and Advent/Christmas that later turned into full-scale publications, God So Loved the World and Good Tidings of Great Joy, which I published with Deseret Book in 2011.  Then, after some wonderful experiences in Jerusalem, I came home and started a more flexible blog called LDS Seasonal Materials that draws upon my earlier studies and publications and is becoming increasingly more of a clearing house of ideas and suggestions for personal study and family devotionals.  I am planning on updating my blog a bit this year with some new ideas and in particular with texts and comments drawn from Handel’s Messiah, which is rather on my mind this year. What I am proposing for By Common Consent is that I excerpt a bit from the blog and share links to the full entry for each day of Holy Week, where more explication, devotional ideas, pictures, video clips from Jerusalem, and musical YouTube links are posted.

Perhaps what we can do in this venue is for me to give a very succinct introduction of each day’s post.  After those interested have visited the post, they can come back here to post comments with their own observations, questions, and ideas.  I may not be able to do too much to moderate the discussion in the daily comment strings, but I will try to check in and make at least one or two responses.  From the little I have seen from you blogger-philes, you are very good at engaging each other in comment threads!

I’ll begin today by pointing you to my Preparing for Easter introductory page, which introduced the Holy Week and Easter section of my seasonal blog, and to two specific posts.  The first, “Ideas for Celebrating Easter,” lays out my philosophy on trying to make the Easter season more like Christmas through decorations, study, devotionals, music, and other customs.  The other post you may want to look at is “A Working Chronology.”  This one gets a bit detailed and some of it may only be of interest to biblical studies geeks like me, but the long and short of it is that very few of the days of Holy Week can be securely established.  My approach has been, as much as possible to follow as much as possible the sequence of events as laid out by Mark (supplemented by John) but to otherwise defer to the traditional calendar.  My major reason for that deference is because holidays like Easter and Christmas provide us ready-made points of contact with the rest of the Christian world and allow us to celebrate and worship with our fellow believers of other faith traditions.  Here then is my outline for Holy Week:

Preliminary Materials

The Passion Week and the Resurrection

  • Palm Sunday: The Triumphal Entry; the Cleansing of the Temple
  • Monday:  The Marcan Cleansing of the Temple; Teachings in the Temple
  • Tuesday: More Teachings in the Temple; the Olivet Discourse
  • “Spy” Wednesday: The Anointing in Mark and Matthew; Judas agrees to betray Jesus
  • Holy or “Maundy” Thursday: The Last Supper; Farewell Discourses; Gethsemane; Before the Jewish Authorities
  • Good Friday: Jesus in the Hands of the Romans; the Crucifixion; the Burial
  • Saturday: Jesus in the Spirit World
  • Easter Sunday: The Resurrection

So I hope you’ll join me on this sacred journey as we embark upon a scriptural, musical, and artistic pilgrimage through our Lord’s final days.


  1. A thousand times yes!

    I flew back yesterday from a week in Malaga, on the south coast of Spain, and was super disappointed to miss out on their Holy Week festivities. We were able to watch some people practicing carrying “tronos” (thrones – huge platforms holding life-sized, elaborately dressed statues of Jesus, Mary, and other Easter figures, among dozens of candles) for the parades, accompanied by an excellent marching band.

    I love that I’m learning new ways to celebrate this season, and I look forward to reading all those links. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Jason K. says:

    Eric: I was also thrilled when John said that he’d arranged for you to guest post. The Mormon Lectionary Project will be shifting into high gear next week, and we could hardly ask for a better introduction than this. Thank you! Here’s to an Easter week full of the beauty of holiness!

  3. I just got back to the US after a week in Mexico City. So many people, on learning we were tourists, asked us if we were staying for Semana Santa. Like missolea, I wish so much we had been able to. Being a lifelong Mormon, I’m sad that these religious traditions are so alien to me. Thank you for trying to alleviate my ignorance.

  4. I’m looking forward to this. I’ve celebrated Holy Week on my own for nearly 20 years now after spending one in Jerusalem and it was helpful when I discovered your books a few years ago, Eric.

  5. I’m really looking forward to this as well and to the coming joy of Holy Week. Thanks for bringing this to us here at BCC Eric!

  6. This is a like a direct prayer answered. This morning I awoke and decided I would create my own Holy Week experience. I have many pastor friends who invite me to participate or attend their Maudlin Thursday and Good Friday services. I really enjoy them and wanted to add more to the week, much like Christmas week. I log on here and guess what – a guide book lays before me. Thank you.

  7. Err, “Maundy” Thursday, Carrie. [grin] Although, depending on the venue and those in charge, a Maundy Thursday service could be, well, a little maudlin. In any case, I join with the others in thanking Eric for agreeing to do this. It’s a big week for him — besides everything else going on that week, the Mo Tab is performing the entire Messiah on Good Friday. Phew!

  8. Thanks for your warm response so far, everyone. I am actually guest-posting through John Fowles right now, and because he is on vacation with his family, there is a bit of a lag. So while you are waiting for him to post my next preparatory blog entry, the one on “Lazarus Saturday,” you may want to go straight to

%d bloggers like this: