Ben Witherington III, “New Testament History: A Narrative Account”

What a find!  I stumbled onto this book in the stacks at the public library; it would be worth buying as a reference and re-reading.

The author starts with Alexander the Great and ends with the late first/early second century.  The basic idea is to put the New Testament texts in their historical context.

The author is a well-regarded Methodist — a conservative scholar, but one who does not accept Scripture uncritically (though he accepts most of it, and is pretty conservative — relatedly — regarding authorship, and when he’s not he makes a thoughtful case for accepting the text as Scripture anyway).

Here’s a good quote (51):

It is also fair to say that no one living in the early first century A.D. would have guessed that the birth of a carpenter from Nazareth just before the turn of the era was ultimately going to prove of more importance historically than the birth of Octavian or any of the emperors who followed him.  To say that the period we are chronicling in this chapter  is one of the most important periods in all of human history is to say too little.  At the very least, for those who are the offspring of so-called Western culture, this is the inception of the most important and formative period in all of human history in terms of politics, religion, and culture.

The discussion of the Resurrection is especially good; he draws not only on his own (extensive) past scholarship, but on others’.