As one of the primary preparations for a NT (or Patristics) PhD, I recommended focusing on primary text background sources. I got an email question about which specific sources I would recommend, in order of importance. These are the lists that I drew up. Am I missing anything? Would you recommend a different order? Other thoughts?
- OT Apocrypha
- OT Pseudepigrapha (esp. 1 Enoch)
- Josephus: Jewish Antiquities, Jewish War
- Philo: ??? (Recommendations on 2-3 works on where to start?)
*Need it be said that you read the OT itself first (possibly even from the LXX): Deuteronomy, Isaiah, Daniel, etc.?
- Cicero: De Natura Deorum, De Finibis (both read like a 3 views on theology and ethics, respectively)
- Plato: Timaeus, Phaedo, Symposium (longer works like The Republic will also repay attention given)
- Epictetus and/or Seneca
- Histories: Herodotus, Suetonius, Tacitus
- Homer (which was the “Bible” of Hellenism)
- Rhetorical handbooks by Quintillian or Aristotle
Mike Bird has a list here which has a similar focus, but also points to key secondary sources.
- Apostolic Fathers
- NT Apocrypha
- Nag Hammadi
- Justin Martyr and Irenaeus