This book would not have been possible without the help and encouragement of friends and colleagues. Professor William Brinner offered early guidance by helping me to wend my way through the maze of problems and issues inherent in the study of Isrā'īliyyāt, and continued to offer suggestions and comments throughout. Very helpful comments on parts of all of this work have been offered by Professors Gordon Newby, Marilyn Waldman, Steven Wasserstrom, Jacob Lassner, Robert McChesney, and Ross Brann. They alerted me to a number of errors and stylistic difficulties as well as questions regarding my interpretation of the material, thereby greatly strengthening the book. I am particularly indebted to Professor Bayly Winder, whose passing has been a tremendous loss for the study of the Middle East. And Professor F.E. Peters, who served in many respects as mentor throughout my studies at New York University and beyond, deserves special thanks for his encouragement and willingness to impart some of his tremendous creativity and incisive thinking. This book would have been unthinkable without the patience, support, and encouragement of my wife Ruth, whose own professional and family responsibilities made her support of this enterprise no simple matter.