Assuming the author was James, the brother of Jesus, the epistle cannot be dated later than a.d. 62, the year of his martyrdom. As a brother of Jesus, James experienced exposure to him to a far greater degree than any person outside the home of Mary and Joseph. We may reasonably assume that Jesus shared his understanding of Scripture with other members of the family in years prior to his public ministry. As he ordered his life in keeping with his sense of God as Father, he explained to them the guiding principles of his life. These insights were brought to maturity as he embarked on his teaching ministry. In reality, Jesus' family, James included, were his first listeners for more than a decade.
A fair number of the sayings of Jesus, notably those included in the Sermon on the Mount, are echoed in this epistle. “The parallels between the ethical precepts of the Epistle and the dominical sayings,” observes Tasker, “are not so close as to suggest direct quotation from any document. Rather does it seem that James is giving fresh expression to truths he had often heard from the life of Jesus himself, before they became treasured documentary possessions of the Christian Church” (TNTC, 28).
It would not be unreasonable, therefore, to suggest a date for the epistle within a few years after the resurrection appearance to James. With the thoughts of Jesus indelibly impressed upon his mind, brother James, now convinced of Jesus' lordship by his resurrection, became a protagonist in the synagogue for a revitalized expression of the Hebrew faith, invigorated by the teaching of Jesus. The homiletical character of the epistle suggests a setting like that of a synagogue. This “unofficial” setting may account for the fact that the letter was not known in wider circles in the Christian church until the third century.