I don’t know anything at all about The Jesus Blog. But Brian LePort at NearEmmaus, listed this in his weekly recommended reading list today. I am a fan of Oxford’s Very Short Introduction series. There are almost 300 books in this series. Most books are about 110-150 pages, many are less than $6 on kindle (this one is $5.84), they are lendable if you have a kindle. But most important, they are written for a lay person by a serious scholar in the field. My favorite is Protestantism by Mark Noll and I also recommend the Reformation, but recommend skipping the Bible. I have also picked up Augustine, but have not read it yet.
The series is not just religious. It is includes everything from String Theory to Probability and a wide range of historical topics.
The Very Short Introduction series put out by Oxford University Press aims to package important subjects in slim, concise books written by experts. Richard Bauckham’s recent introduction to Jesus hits exactly this mark. Bauckham takes one of the most traversed topics in history and religion and offers a thoroughly sane and balanced treatment. He begins by discussing the cultural history of Jesus in the western world and ends by discussing the implications of Jesus’ impact for Christian theology. But the torso of this book is an introduction to Jesus as an historical figure. Bauckham introduces Jesus’ culture including his (ethnic/religious/national) Jewishness, his political context in Roman occupied Jewish Palestine, and his contemporaries. He discusses the source material (inside and outside the Christian canon) that historians generally use to reconstruct his life and teaching.