Carson, D.A., and Douglas Moo An Introduction to the New Testament - Second Edition. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005. "New Testament Letters" Carson & Moo pp. 331-353
“James” Carson & Moo pp. 619-635
James is considered the first of the “catholic” epistles - those written to the whole church as opposed to a single congregation. Rather than speaking to a specific issue in a specific congregation, James has a body arranged around four main themes: trials and maturity, Christian faith resulting in works, dealing with dissensions, and what a Christian view of the world implies. The author is poorly identified, simply as “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (1.1). Since James is a very common name it is difficult to decide who could have written the lettter. Carson and Moo suggest James the son of Zebedee, James “the Lord’s brother,” James the son of Alphaeus, and James the father of Judas. Of those, the one identified as “the Lord’s brother” is, in Carson and Moo’s estimation, the best candidate.
As with the author, it is also very difficult to determine where the letter was written or when. There may be some wisdom in suggesting that the letter was written fairly early, possibly before Paul’s writings were well known, as James seems to look at the relationship of faith and works in a slightly different way than Paul, but does not address any of Paul’s statements directly. The addressees are Jewish Christians (the twelve tribes) who are scattered. Again, we do not know the nature of this scattering. The letter is in a fairly clear, generally Attic style, addressing its topics in a straightforward manner, though using metaphors freely.
James may have had an influence on some late first century works. Though the letter was well known, it was not cited as Scripture until Origen. By the time of Eusebius the book seems to be considered Scripture, but was still apparently disputed.
In recent study scholars have found themes of liberation theology and a social gospel particularly focused on the hard work of showing our faith. Yet Carson and Moo observe that it is inappropriate to say that James views salvation as being by works while Paul views works in a negative light. Rather, the two authors both see salvation being by grace through faith, but James has a greater emphasis on showing our faith by our good works.