James, Jesus’ Brother, Leader of the Church of Jerusalem (particularly after Peter took to Missions – interesting to see how he went from leading doubter to aggressive promoter. Written from Palestine to Palestinians, probably A.D. 49 – in light of the battles that Paul fought, James’s battle must have been an early one, probably before the Acts 15 Jerusalem council.
The “12 tribes dispersed abroad” is probably referring to the post-Stephen persecution dispersion. Circulation was probably limited in scope to Jews of Palestine being that the dispersion was still in the early stages.
Garbled versions of the gospel of “grace” promoted laxity. Jews faced socio-economic persecution (1:2-4, 5:1-11), temptation to join the zealot movement (4:1-10).
Rich vs. Poor Harmony (2). Practical Faith – faithfulness in hardships, practice what you preach (2). Tame tongues (3-4). Harmony – non-prejudicial relationships between the poor/rich (2).
How to Read it
Look to make faith practical, not doctrinal. Read it as addressing holy community, not personal piety.
I. Trials at Hand (1:1-18) – read 2-5,13-14,17 maturing by trials, 9-10 rich vs. poor
Chapters 2-5 bounce between the topics of community & practice. Here’s my best attempt at clusters
II. Faith by Practice (1:19-27, 2) – read 1.22,26-27 tongue & deeds, 2.3-4 favoritism, 2.14,17,19,26,24 deeds
III. Community Maintenance (3-5) – read 3.4-6 tongue, 3.13-14 community deeds, 4.1-3 lack of community, 4.10,12 judging, 5:13-16 communal dependence
James 2 as the key chapter on faith evidenced by works; James 3 for taming the tongue, James 4-5 for its directives on prayer.