Meier has attempted to add context to the early life of Jesus through information derived from the Gospels, the writings of Josephus and Tacitus, early Christian leaders, and surviving Jewish texts. He also attempts to establish approximate dates for Jesus' birth, mission, and death. A substantial amount of background information regarding peasant life in Galilee, Judea, Greece, and Rome allows the author draw general conclusions regarding the topics of virgin birth, illegitimate birth, place of birth, family members, occupation, perspective, and personality.
Although the reading is at times fascinating, Meier ultimately drowns the reader in a sea of detail. Most of these details do not progress Meier's argument regarding the specific topic being addressed. In speaking of detail, I am not even including the footnotes, which comprise between 30% and 40% of the book. However, Meier is excellent in distinguishing the various perspectives of the Gospel writers and the messages they attempt to deliver.
Having said this, I look forward to reading Volume 2 of the series. With the Gospels focused primarily on the last three years of Jesus' life, Meier has much more biblical information to analyze, compare, and contemplate. My favorite "historical Jesus" book remains "Rabbi Jesus: An Intimate Biography" by Bruce Chilton. Chilton is willing to draw more daring and insightful conclusions than Meier, who seems content with a more cautious, traditional approach (maybe as a result of his Catholic background and faith).