Greater Love Hath No Man: A Review

Click here for Eric Huntsman’s translations of New Testament passages created specifically for readers of this book.


Latter-day Saints have always been allergic to liturgy. This allergy has nothing to do with doctrine or even church policy. It is just our inheritance from the pragmatic Yankee Puritans and low-church English immigrants who first converted to Mormonism and created our worship patterns. For these Christians, there were very few things more important than not looking too much like Catholics.

Without any liturgical tradition, however, Latter-day Saints find themselves separated from much of the Christian world at times like the Advent season and Holy Week—the extended periods of devotion and reflection that surround the holidays of Christmas and Easter. We often lack knowledge about basic things that most Christians take for granted And we deprive ourselves of both the structure and the opportunities for reflection that come with a regular liturgical calendar.

Eric Huntsman has spent much of his career as a scholar and BYU religion professor helping Latter-day Saints understand these liturgical traditions. In 2011, Huntsman published two exceptionally useful books designed to introduce his co-religionists to these parts of the Christian Tradition with his signature blend of deep devotion and rigorous scholarship. God So Loved the World explores the biblical accounts of Christ’s final seven days on earth—which most Christians refer to as Holy Week. And Good Tidings of Great Joy highlights the month-long Christian celebration of Christ’s birth known as Advent.   

In Greater Love Hath No Man, Huntsman has teamed up with Trevan Hatch, the author of A Stranger in Jerusalem: Seeing Jesus as a Jew, to dramatically expand his earlier book on Holy Week. Together, Huntsman and Hatch have pulled off something remarkable.

First, they have produced a beautiful book. And I mean that aesthetically. It has the production value of a high-end art book, with glossy paper and high-resolution images. And the artwork is astounding. Not counting maps and photographs and other images, I count 94 different paintings in the book, covering a wide range of artists. These include some of the standard church paintings (Carl Bloch, Harry Anderson, and Del Parsons), other innovative Latter-day Saint artists (Minerva Teichert, J. Kirk Richards, Liz Lemon Swindle, Jorge Coco), and some of the greatest masters of all time (Rembrandt, Ruebens, Michelangelo). And it even has the one painting that I consider indispensable for the Easter Season. In every respect, Greater Love Hath No Man is a feast for the senses.

But it is also a feast for the mind and the soul. The book works on at least five levels to take us from reading to understanding. It moves us chronologically from Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday, with plenty of prefatory and appendix material thrown in. The main five levels that we see in each chapter go like this:

Level 1: The Text 
The beginning of every discussion is the text of the New Testament itself. The book uses the King James Version of the Bible on its printed pages. However—and this is important—one of the authors, Eric Huntsman, has made available his own original translation of the text specifically designed to go with the book. You can access the translation here or download it at the end of the review. (Or at the beginning; we really don’t want you to miss this). Huntsman’s translations are magnificent. They are accessible, faithful to the original, and deeply aware of the power of language to move us closer to God. I highly recommend them to readers of this book or just to Latter-day Saints who want to understand the Easter Season better.

Level 2: Contemporary Context and Background 
Understanding the New Testament requires more understanding of its context than most Latter-day Saints bring to the table. It happened in a world very different than our own, but it also happened in the bright light of history. Roman Palestine is a knowable context, and both Huntsman and Hatch know it well. Interspersed throughout the text and commentary are a dozen or so helpful discussions of things like the temple hierarchy (42-45), the conventions of the Passover pilgrimage (58-59), and the Roman governance of Judea (151-53).

Level 3: Interpretation and Application
A substantial portion of the book is commentary—close reading of the scriptures and discussions of their doctrinal applications. This is harder than it looks. Traditional scriptural commentary moves through a single book, highlighting recurring themes, symbols, genres, and major arguments. To give the scriptural foundations of Holy Week, Huntsman and Hatch have to keep track of four very different books at the same time. And they must keep each author’s uniqueness in mind while building their own narrative around the points of intersection. They make it look easy because they are excellent scholars and talented writers. But (trust me on this) it was not easy.

Level 4: Explanation of the Christian Tradition Latter-day Saints have a real blind spot here. (I still live in shame of the time that I told a student who had just come from an Ash Wednesday service that her forehead was dirty). But the traditions of Holy Week are at the center of historical Christianity, and we will never convince anybody else that we are Christians until we all understand that Maunday Thursday does not describe two days of the week. Greater Love Hath No Man guides us through the ways that other Christians celebrate each day of Holy Week.

Level 5: Suggestions for Latter-day Saint Worship 
Along with explaining how much of the Christian world celebrates Holy Week, each chapter of Greater Love Hath No Man offers concrete suggestions to help Latter-day Saints incorporate elements of the Easter Tradition into our personal and family devotions. This is important because Christ and the Atonement are at the center of how we define ourselves, and the scriptures and celebrations surrounding Holy Week can enrich our spiritual lives in surprising ways.

And there is more, too. The authors provide hundreds of recommendations for further reading and musical settings, activities, and scripture readings that incorporate the different elements of the Easter story. It functions as a one-stop-shopping center for Latter-day Saints who want to celebrate Holy Week in ways that respect the Christian tradition that we claim without sacrificing the unique gospel principles that we cherish.

And this, ultimately, is the strength of the book. Latter-day Saints who want to learn more about Holy Week have plenty of options. We have never been a people shy about making books. But Huntsman and Hatch don’t want to teach us about Holy Week; they want to teach us how to DO Holy Week—to make it the basis of concrete actions that deepen our engagement with the scriptures and the story. Those who take them up on their offer, I think, will find themselves rewarded with greater connections to the scriptures, to the larger Christian world, and to their Savior.

Greater Love Hath No Man will be released Monday, February 20, though, for those fortunate enough to live near a Deseret Bookstore, copies have already been sited in the wild. 


  1. I’ve loved Huntsman’s work ever since I first read a series of blog posts from him on Holy week. That got my family started celebrating Holy week in 2011 and it’s become a very special time for us. My kids were ages 6 through 1 when we started and I had to check out a non-member book on holy week for kids from our library just to get some more ideas. Eventually Huntsman made a lot of free information available on his website and then published the book God so loved the world that you mention above. I also found some wonderful ideas from families online who had great ideas for celebrating.
    We now have a core set of traditions we do every year on each day, things we tried and liked enough to keep coming back to, much like our family Christmas traditions. I’ve spoken about it and encouraged it a few different times in the wards I’ve lived in. I believe it’s been a real blessing to my family to remember the Savior in this way.

  2. Thank you, Michael, for a careful and generous review of our new book. Trevan and I hope that it will be a good resource, both to those wanting to celebrate the Easter season more fully and those wanting a deeper dive into engaging the New Testament Gospels in their portrayal of the Passion and Resurrection.

    And thank you, D and others, who have found value in worshiping with heart and mind. I am grateful the effort has blessed you and your families.

  3. I’m rather ignorant of the liturgical tradition spoken of. But the daily topic concept pretty much sounds like the come follow me manuals? Although those are more weekly liturgical if I used the term correctly. Is that right?

    I do enjoy the translation linked to. Sadly, all the footnotes ruin the read, but I understand their utility. Made me think a reader version of the gospel app might be nice. Hide all footnotes and verse numbers with a click.

  4. This is lovely. Does Huntsman’s work discourage continuation of common established traditions such as Easter baskets, Easter bunny lore, and Easter egg hunts? I have wondered about this and whether I would be able to continue some cherished traditions while incorporating his ideas. Does his work discourage continuance of these traditions? Does he recommend we alter them?

  5. Anon, Personally I do not have a problem with traditional customs. As with Christmas, filling the holiday with fun adds to its joy, especially for children. I just suggest that as much as possible we use them to teach principles (regardless of the traditions’ original history!) and that more clearly scriptural and spiritual activities take place first. For instance, in the book we wrote:

    “Traditional Easter activities, such as egg hunts and gathering Easter candy are not out of harmony with the spirit of Easter so long as the spiritual focus comes first and the fun second. Explain some Easter symbolism, such as eggs representing the tomb, the new birth of resurrection, and so forth.” (p. 302)

    In our family, for both Christmas and Easter mornings, we always had a simple but focused family devotional first thing in the morning that ended with prayer. We then opened our Christmas gifts, gathered our Easter candy, etc.

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