There is a tendency for writing about the Bible to fall into two disjoint camps: there are the literalists who take the naïve view that the text is to be read without concern for its original context or creation, who end up reducing Biblical studies to an absurdity since the literal reading is untenable, not just in reading the creation account, but in dealing with the frequent inconsistencies that have resulted from the texts having been compiled from a variety of traditions and intentions. On the other side of the coin, the textual critics will consider the origins and context of the Biblical texts, but seem to have forgotten that this is the foundational text of much Western religion. One pole of this can be found in the Jesus Seminar which denied the historicity of the eschatalogical in the Gospels and was skeptical of the miracles.
Bird takes a different tack here, looking to understand the Gospels in context, but at the same time never forgetting their religious significance. Bird supplements the historical-critical perspective of the Gospels that I’d encountered elsewhere with information from the early Church Fathers do help provide full understanding and context for how the canon was formed and why we ended up with the four Gospels that we have. Perhaps had I had a less eclectic education in matters theological, this would be familiar ground, but this served as an excellent introduction to being able to better understand how to approach the Gospels.