The list author says: "What is Christianity? Where did the Church come from? How was the Bible compiled? Who chose what to believe? How does Judaism fit in with all of this? The following books take you back to the beginning to get some perspective on these issues."
"White provides a rather even and clean introduction to the ancient history behind the early movement, and manages to encapsulate the entire early textual tradition, from Paul to the Church Fathers, in well-organized chapters. Helpful info boxes give potential dates and settings for each text."
"The introduction gives a perspective on the role of oral tradition in building the "Jesus movement", one form of which would later become Christianity. The fresh translation of the gospels is worth a look, although the voted & coded judgment calls on which statements Jesus did or did not make are notoriously controversial."
"At this point, pick up a solid introduction to the scholarship surrounding the New Testament, including an introduction to the critical method. A textbook like this will help you understand text and history, as well as the academic terminology used in New Testament studies."
"Pagels takes a look at Gnostic Christians, and shares how they challenged literal interpretation and questioned the authority of Church Christianity. She doesn't use this to criticize modern orthodox Christians, but instead opens up a rival ancient perspective."