"To be able to survive, every social or religious movement must create structures and norms of life and organization that enable its survival so that it may accomplish what it has set out to do. The numerical development and geographic expansion of Christianity forced Christian communities to be very creative. The church, separated from its Jewish matrix and from its original environment and, influenced by new conditions of life according to the regions into which it was expanding, slowly and progressively developed many institutions. These are affected by and sometimes are inspired by the social environment in which they arise, and hence their diversity in different regions. The present volume intends to offer a panorama of their birth and development in both their variety and complexity."
-From the introduction, page xvi.