Original Research

Righteousness and identity formation in the Sermon on the Mount

Francois P. Viljoen
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 69, No 1 | a1300 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v69i1.1300 | © 2013 Francois P. Viljoen | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 10 July 2012 | Published: 13 March 2013

About the author(s)

Francois P. Viljoen, Faculty of Theology, North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus, South Africa


Righteousness is an important term in the first gospel and has a significant concentration in the Sermon on the Mount. The argument in this article is that the first gospel has a community building function. Matthew intentionally uses the word ‘righteousness’ in the Sermon on the Mount as an instrument to define the identity of his community. Though righteousness can be used in a soteriological sense, it is argued that Matthew mainly uses it in an ethical sense. By righteousness Matthew refers to the proper behavioural norms and attitudes for his community. Commitment to Jesus forms the central focus of the community’s identity. Their discipleship is demonstrated by doing the will of God as defined and interpreted by Jesus. Doing the will of God in such a manner is what Matthew regards as the distinguishing mark of this community. Thus they would surpass the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees.


Righteousness; ethics; justice; identity; sermon


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