I find one of the best handbook introductions to the "History, Culture and Background" of the New Testament is Everett Ferguson's Backgrounds of Early Christianity, Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1993 (second edition). Succinct, but lots of relevant information (I used it in teaching NT Intro).
Surprisingly helpful also is IVP's New Bible Dictionary, Downers Grove, IVP 1982 (second edition). Some people might not like the fact that it is an evangelical publisher, but the articles are generally very helpful and tend to cover the range of scholarship on that issue up to the point of publication. Of course, it covers OT as well as NT stuff, so you get two for the price of one...
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