Wischmeyer, Oda. "Chapter Two: Reconstructing the Social and Religious Milieu of James: Methods, Sources, and Possible Results." in Van de Sandt, Huub & Zangenberg, Jürgen K. (editors). Matthew, James, and Didache: Three Related Documents in their Jewish and Christian Settings." Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature, 2008, 33-41.
Wischmeyer describes "milieu" as an overarching category into which a wide variety of factors can be gathered (Wischmeyer 2008, 33). A difficulty of considering a social and religious milieu is that there is some assumed homogeneous category, but that within the diversity of a social group it is stable enough to be identified. Finding the appropriate characteristics is challenging at best (Wischmeyer 2008, 34). In studies of James this has involved analysis of vocabulary used to describe groups and of the way readers are addressed. Wischmeyer lists a number of terms he thinks important in James, largely addressing people who are in a community, dispersed from Jerusalem but existing as a recognizable community which interacts and assembles (Wischmeyer 2008, 35). The actual group in mind is not clearly identified. They come from various walks of life and different economic backgrounds. The author addresses them as an outsider, looking into their community. There is an ethical tone underlying the community, but not a specific problem. The author seeks to deal with the ethic which undergirds any present problems (Wischmeyer 2008, 36).
Wischmeyer moves on to discuss the nature of a religious milieu (Wischmeyer 2008, 37). While he could look for information about particular rites and ritual behavior, he rather chooses to ask why James would speak about religious markers to any extent. The religious markers Wischmeyer focuses on are the Old Testament theme of where sin comes from and how God brings people to life using truth from above (Wischmeyer 2008, 38). The religious and mythic language is focused on concepts from the Septuagint, not from elsewhere. There is no development of an overall Christology, presumably because the author and readers are assumed to be united by a Christianity on which they agree (Wischmeyer 2008, 39).
Of note to Wischmeyer is the fact that the only religious practice James speaks of as reserved for elders is that of anointing the sick, a practice mentioned elsewhere only in Mark 6:13 (Wischmeyer 2008, 40). In sum, Wischmeyer takes James to be intended primarily to reinforce an ethic, rather than to develop ritual practice or a Christology. The author bears authority, but he does not make clear what his authority is (Wischmeyer 2008, 41). The assumption is that everyone recognizes it, as well as many other features of theology they hold in common.