I’ll be teaching a modular class on New Testament Introduction this April, and just submitted my lineup of required and recommended texts:
Introduction: Köstenberger, Andreas J., L. Scott Kellum, and Charles L. Quarles. The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2009. Many valuable NT introductions are available, but I appreciate the readability, thoroughness, and conservative stance of this work.
Backgrounds: Ferguson, Everett. Backgrounds to Early Christianity, 3d ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003. The standard “one-stop shop” for backgrounds, this is a revision of a time-tested volume by an acclaimed master of NT backgrounds.
History of interpretation: Neill, Stephen and Tom Wright. The Interpretation of the New Testament 1861-1986, 2d ed. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1988. A helpful work which introduces one to many of the unstated assumptions and ideologies which underlie many works on the NT.
(Recommended texts — helpful secondary texts worth having to support the above required texts)
Lea, Thomas and David Alan Black. The New Testament: Its Background and Message. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2003. A concise yet thorough introduction; this is the one to recommend to the layperson in your church who wants to dig deeper.
Carson, D. A. and Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament, 2d ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005. A standard conservative introduction, valuable, though not as readable as some.
Hubbard, Moyer V. Christianity in the Greco-Roman World: A Narrative Introduction. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2010. Innovative approach, extremely readable.
Evans, Craig A. & Stanley E. Porter, eds. Dictionary of New Testament Background. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 2000. Recent compendium of scholarly thought and research regarding NT backgrounds.
Barrett, C. K. The New Testament Background: Writings from Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire That Illuminate Christian Origins, rev. ed. New York: HarperCollins, 1989 … or … Harding, Mark. Early Christian Life and Thought in Social Context: A Reader. London/New York: T&T Clark, 2003. Both volumes organize selections of valuable primary source material from the NT era, opening the NT student’s eyes to the historical and cultural context of the NT; Barrett is a standard work, but Harding is more recent — choose one or the other.
Barnett, Paul. Jesus & the Rise of Early Christianity: A History of New Testament Times. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 2002. This recent work is considered the successor to F. F. Bruce’s New Testament History (New York: Doubleday, 1983).
History of Interpretation:
Baird, William. History of New Testament Research, 2 vols. (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992, 2002). Very thorough, and easier on the eyes than Neill & Wright.