How does one learn about the historical background of any given text in scripture or of any book of scripture? For example, history and culture wise what was going on when the book of Isaiah was being written? What other counties existed and what was their impact on Israel? Any cultural influences? Are there any books you would recommend? web sources? cdS? software?
I don’t know specifically, but a lot of Bibles, like the New American Bible (NAB) give a couple-page summary of the text before each book, much of which includes historical backdrop. Also useful is the Navarre Study Bible for this, as I recall.
The best source I have found is The Bible Timeline study by Jeff Cavins/Great Adventure.
I have hosted this study in my home twice and so I speak from first hand experience. It will give you exactly what you are looking for, or a great start if you want to go deeper.
$400 is above my pay grade
Our parish uses the Great Adventure/Jeff Cavins studies. The Church pays for the DVD’s and the individual students buy the study guides. We have about a dozen studies going at any one time. Great Adventure flew two people from Minneapolis to Atlanta to train small group facilitators. They are a wonderful organization and will work with your parish. It is worth doing.
The DVD’s would be about $34 per person if you could find a dozen people to chip in and then the DVD’s could be reused for other studies. I’m telling you first hand, this is exactly what you are looking for. I encourage you to pray for a way to make it happen.
You might want to also buy something like Manners and Customs in the Bible by Victor Harold Matthews.