What does the term “Amen” mean?

Amen

The term “Amen” is one of the few words of Scripture which is written in its original Hebrew form. This Hebrew word is derived from the root [aman], which means to be firm or solid in the sense of permanency or faithfulness (Deuteronomy 7:9). In Hebrew usage, this word gave a confirmatory and emphatic answer to the saying of another person. Strong’s Concordance, Bible dictionary, defines English translation of the Hebrew word amen as “verily, truly, or so be it.”

Saying this word at the end of a prayer shows a person’s affirmation that what was just said is true and that he agrees with the prayer. This word is also used to confirm a statement (i.e., when the pastor says something out of the Word of God, and members of the congregation assent to it. Deuteronomy 27:15,16 gives an example of that is the verse: “Cursed is the one who makes a carved or molded image, an abomination to the Lord, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and sets it up in secret.’ “And all the people shall answer and say, ‘Amen!’”

Old Testament

This word first occurs in the Hebrew Bible in Numbers 5:22 when the Priest addresses a suspected adulteress and she says, “so be it.”  Overall, the word appears in the Hebrew Bible 30 times. Three distinct Biblical usages of this word may be noted:

  1. Initial Amen, referring back to words of another speaker and introducing an affirmative sentence. Example: “And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada answered the king, and said, Amen: the Lord God of my lord the king say so too” (1 Kings 1:36 – King James).
  2. Detached Amen, again referring to the words of another speaker but without a complementary affirmative sentence. Example: “Then I shook out the fold of my garment and said, “Also I shook my lap, and said, So God shake out every man from his house, and from his labour, that performeth not this promise, even thus be he shaken out, and emptied. And all the congregation said, Amen, and praised the Lord. And the people did according to this promise” (Nehemiah 5:13 – King James).
  3. Final Amen, with no change of speaker, as in the subscription to the first three divisions of Psalms.

New Testament

There are 52 references of this word in the Synoptic Gospels and 25 in John. However, they are missing in certain manuscripts. But they give the effect of the same word in the Hebrew Psalms. In the Greek words, it means “firm,” “established,” or “sure.” The same usage is seen in 1 Corinthians 14:16. It is also frequent at the close of doxologies (Romans 1:25; Galatians 1:5; etc.).

Many of the Lord Jesus’ speeches are introduced by the phrase, “Verily I say unto you” (Matthew 6:2, 5, 16; etc.). Matthew records Jesus using a similar affirmation “For assuredly, I say to you” (Matthew 5:18). Also, the Gospel of John presents the same phrase, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee” (John 3:3, 5, 11; etc). Of all New Testament writers only John doubles the word, as here. He does so altogether 25 times, in each instance quoting Jesus Christ.

This Hebrew word is also used as a title for the Lord, who is the author of the epistles to the seven churches. Revelation 3:14 says, “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God. This word may be understood as an announcement that Christ is the truth (John 14:6) and the coming Savior (Revelation 22:20).

The application of this word to the Lord may be compared with Isaiah 65:16, where, in Hebrew, the Lord is called “the God of Amen,” that is, “the God of faithfulness.” The LXX reads “the genuine God,” thus contrasting Him with the pagan deities.

The Talmud

The Hebrew religious teachers placed great importance on this word. For example, they wrote: “Greater is he who answers, Amen, than he who says the blessing” (Talmud Berakoth 53b, Soncino ed., p. 325). “He who responds ‘Amen’ with all his might, has the gates of Paradise opened for him” (ibid. Shabbath 119b, Soncino ed., p. 589). “He who responds, ‘Amen, May His great Name be blessed,’ with all his might, his decreed sentence is torn up.”

If the word was used without proper consideration, it was called an “‘orphaned’ Amen” (ibid. Berakoth 47a, Soncino ed., p. 284). And the practice of saying this word was frequent in the synagogue by the early Christian church (see Justin Martyr First Apology 65; Tertullian De Spectaculis 25).

Ancient Egyptian Deity

On a different note, the word Amen (Amun) was the name of an Egyptian god known as “king of the gods.” After the unity with the sun god “Ra” to become Amun-Ra, this god became the only god for worship in the New Kingdom of Egypt.  This period was under the rule of Akhenaten which took place from 16th to 11th centuries BC.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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