From its earliest days as a renegade religion in the Roman Empire through its various schisms and splits to present-day disagreements between Eastern Orthodox followers, Roman Catholics, and hundreds of different Protestant denominations, Christianity has been a source of great controversy--most of it centered on the reading of Scripture. There are those Christian conservatives who view the Bible as the literal word of God and the events detailed therein as historical fact. Other, more liberal Christians see the Good Book primarily as literature, a metaphor for how people should live. Mine the pages of the Biblical Archeological Review and you'll find scientists trying to prove or disprove the historical reality of Old and New Testament events and structures--everything from the Ark of the Covenant to King David's palace. In An Introduction to the New Testament, author Raymond E. Brown, a Catholic priest, ignores the swirl of conflict surrounding the Bible as historical artifact, concentrating instead on the message it contains.
Father Brown analyzes each of the 27 books in the New Testament, devoting painstaking attention to sources, dates, and authorship, as well as commentary on the spiritual, historical, and thematic aspects. He believes that modern-day Bible readers can only interpret it within its historical context. An Introduction to the New Testament, read with a Bible in hand, can only enrich and deepen your understanding of that germinal religious text. [via]