Below is my recommended list of non-specialist accessible books, authors, and tools for reading the Bible in context; note that I have not read everything completely, nor does inclusion mean I agree with everything therein. Resources with an asterisk are available from Logos. Things I’d buy first are listed first (a combo of accessibility for non-specialists, price, utility.)
Other more specific recommendations can be found here.
I am an Amazon affiliate, all the Amazon links below are affiliate links, and purchases made may generate a small amount of Amazon credit for me.
Authors I like (favorites in bold)
Alistair McGrath (history of religion, science), Amy-Jill Levine, Ben Witherington III, Carol Newsom, David Bentley Hart, David Noel Freedman, Jacob Milgrom, James Kugel, Jon Levenson, John Barton, John Walton, Joseph Fitzmeyer, Karen H. Jobes, Kenton Sparks, Luke Timothy Johnson, Marc Zvi Brettler, Mark Goodacre, Mark S. Smith, Michael Coogan, Nahum Sarna, NT Wright (AKA Tom Wright), Peter Enns, Robert Alter, Raymond Brown, Scot McKnight, Richard E. Friedman, Tikva Frymer-Kensky, Tremper Longman,
Biblical Archaeology Review (and it’s now-defunct sister-magazine, Bible Review)
- *IVP Bible Dictionary series
- Protestant, accessible/academic, 8 volumes available individually in print, or a package in Logos.
- *Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible
- Expensive in print now, much cheaper in Logos.
- *Anchor Bible Dictionary
- Ecumenical, academic, 6 volumes, 1992.
- Also now quite expensive in print, much cheaper in Logos.
- *Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism
- *Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical and Post-Biblical Antiquity
Bible Translations (See my page on Latter-day Saints and the Bible)
- David Bentley Hart, The New Testament
- Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary (focused on literary aspects of the text)
Study Bibles (include extensive notes, essays, maps, etc.)
- The New Testament: A Translation for Latter-day Saints (Deseret Book)
- *NRSV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible (Available with the NRSV, NIV, and NKJV translations, but NRSV is my recommendation)
- *Jewish Study Bible and similar Jewish Annotated New Testament
- *Faithlife Study Bible (electronic-only, free with Logos 8 Basic)
- Harper-Collins Study Bible
- New Oxford Annotated (Elder Holland has apparently been working through this one, although the REB version, not the NRSV version.)
- *NET Bible (free, netbible.org)
Other general resources
- *Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary (NT and OT sets or individual volumes)
- *Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament
- * New Testament Text and Translation Commentary: Commentary on the Variant Readings of the Ancient New Testament Manuscripts and How They Relate to the Major English Translations
- This compares English translations and explains which translational differences are based on different Greek textual variants.
- Ancient Texts for the Study of the Hebrew Bible
- Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies: A Guide to the Background Literature
- Ancient Israelite Literature in its Cultural Context
- *ANET (old but newly updated!) and *COS (new, 3 volumes)
- These are collections of ancient texts in English translation with minimal commentary. COS is expensive and out of print, but Logos has it.
- New interpreter’s Bible One-volume Commentary (and 10 volume *New Interpreters Bible Commentary )
- *New Testament for Everyone
- Light pastoral/application commentary from N.T. Wright
- *JPS Torah Commentary
- Jewish interpretive commentary, great series. The print has English and Hebrew.
- *NIV Application Commentary
- Evangelical, interpretive/application
- Women’s Bible Commentary
- *Word Biblical Commentary
- Protestant, Semi-technical
- *Anchor (Yale) Bible Commentary
- Ecumenical, technical
- *New International Commentary
- Evangelical, semi-technical
- *Socio-Rhetorical Commentary Series
- *Sacra Pagina
- The New Testament Library
- The Old Testament Library
- *Continental Commentary