This book originated as an attempt to supplement the early Christian texts collected in The New Testament and Other Early Christian Writings: A Reader and After the New Testament: A Reader in Early Christianity. The goal has been to extend into the fourth and fifth centuries of the Christian era these earlier volumes focus on the rich primary literature that can help students of early Christianity understand this complex and diverse religious history. Our reasons for choosing these specific texts, from among the welter of early Christian writings, are explained further in Chapter 1. Briefly, we have chosen texts that are representative of the ideas and cultures of early Christianity, without narrowly confining the possibilities for interpretation and analysis. Most of the texts exist in current, readable translations and are reproduced here with the permission of authors and publishers. Other texts have been translated for this edition by Andrew Jacobs. Language usage—spelling, punctuation, and so forth—has been made consistent throughout. Short introductions have been provided for the chapters and the texts.
The intended audience is the student of early Christianity, in the broadest possible sense: the reader in the undergraduate classroom, graduate seminar, public or private university, or seminary or the inquisitive reader who wants to know more about this significant period of religious history. Much of what we think of as "natural" about politics, religion, and culture and the intersections between them emerged from this period of Mediterranean and Near Eastern history. To understand more fully why we think the way we do about church and state, body and soul, the mundane and the celestial, it is necessary, we believe, to look to this formative period.
The idea for this volume arose at an academic conference, a place where the concerns of scholars, teachers, and students should intersect and become productive. The editors would like to thank Andrew McGowan and Stephen Shoemaker, who were present at the genesis of this project and have continued to provide advice along the way. In addition, we would like to thank our research assistants: Carl Cosaert at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, who tirelessly sought out the copyrights and permissions that make such a volume possible, and Megin Freaney at the University of California, Riverside, who diligently tracked down the texts from libraries far and near and provided clean copies to work with. In addition, we would like to thank scholars from across the world of early Christian studies who provided comments and suggestions on issues large and small: Caroline T. Schroeder, Rebecca Krawiec, Susan Ashbrook Harvey, H. A. Drake, and Birgitta Wohl. Special thanks also to our editor at Oxford University Press, Robert Miller, for his guidance and foresight. This volume is dedicated to Elizabeth A. Clark, teacher, mentor, and good friend.
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