As every author and editor knows, books have their own stories. This book began with an informal faculty reading group which began meeting on a biweekly basis four years ago to read and reread the texts that have survived from the earliest centuries of Christian writing and teaching. I was both surprised and thrilled to see how many of my colleagues at Brigham Young University shared my feeling that a rethinking of early Christianity from the Latter-day Saint perspective was overdue, and that by reading through those texts together, we might be able to see important influences and developments that would help us understand better what actually happened in those first centuries to produce a Christian tradition that was so different from the original church and teachings established by Jesus.
After two years, we knew we had both information and insights that we wanted to share with the larger LDS community, and we organized a private conference to present papers and to get critical feedback from a wider range of our colleagues at BYU. Encouraged by the enthusiastic reception of that first effort, we undertook to produce the separately authored chapters that comprise this volume. I wish to express my deep appreciation to my fellow faculty members at Brigham Young University who participated in this process and contributed their thinking and their encouragement in the development of the papers that eventually found their way into the book.
Good critics are essential to progress in academic research and thinking, and the present volume has been significantly improved as it has been filtered and refiltered through a series of critical reviews. I am most grateful to a number of colleagues and anonymous peer reviewers who helped us revise and strengthen our presentations and arguments. They have also helped me to see why some chapters I had thought earlier to include would not fit that well with the present collection.
Even after all that, this book would not be completed today had it not been for the strong support and editorial management that Alison Coutts and her editorial and production staff brought to bear on it. I am particularly indebted to Alison, who compensated repeatedly for my inattention due to other, more urgent projects. Don Brugger helped in the early stages as staff editor. Jacob Rawlins did the typesetting. Shirley Ricks and Geniel Empey assisted in copyediting. Paula Hicken managed the sourcechecking and proofreading, assisted by Linda Sheffield, Sandra Thorne, David Solorzano, and Jennifer Messick. As director of research for FARMS, Jerry Bradford managed the peer-review process. To all of these I express my sincere thanks.
Noel B. Reynolds Provo, Utah May 2005