There's some good conversation budding below Matt Sevans' post on "Synagogue" in James 2:2, and I wanted to ask this follow up question over here. Does James' contrast between places to sit (in 2:3 - "a good place" versus "here by my footstool") offer any clues as to whether his readers were expected to meet in a home setting or inside a 'traditional' Synagogue?
It may be impossible to say, largely because we can't even say all Synagogues (assemblies) met in a Synagogue (building). Not hardly. As I noted somewhere here previously, about Nazareth's Synagogue, it's likely the architectural form was less important before the Temple's destruction, and we have plenty of evidence that Jews gathered in open areas, by rivers, gates and in personal houses. At least, I think I recall reading that archaeologists date most extant Synagogues after 70 AD, for whatever that's worth.
Still, I've often thought about this question in conjunction with Jesus' words about Jews who loved to sit in the "chief seats". Before I knew more about Synagogue history, I used to lean pretty heavily on that thought, supposing that . I still think James was most likely writing to Christian-Jews who still went to their Synagogues. (Actually, my personal theory is that James' Epistle was good public relations, sent to the entire Diaspora on behalf of those Jewish Christians, for the express purpose of showing that Christ's followers were (or at least, could be) still Jews first. And really good Jews at that. But I digress...)
Getting back to my point about furniture. Whether in a home setting or 'Synagogue', the likelihood of having "good" seats may have been better among congregations that had been established for decades (if not centuries). Likewise, such mature congregations would also have more corporate awareness of budgetary realities, and be more tempted to court the affection of rich visitors. In both points, it's also fair to suggest James was writing about something he'd seen happen generally (assuming the letter's points were general admonitions to a wide assortment of congregations). In all of these cases, I think it more likely James wrote to Jewish congregations.