Amen is one of the few words of scripture which is written in its original Hebrew form. This Hebrew amen is derived from the root [aman], which means to be firm or solid in the sense of permanency or faithfulness. Strong’s Concordance defines the word as “verily, truly, amen, or so be it.” Saying “amen” at the end of a prayer states our affirmation that what was just said is true and that we are in agreement with the prayer. Amen is also used to confirm a statement (i.e., when the pastor says something powerful out of the Word of God, and members of the congregation say Amen.
The word first occurs in the Hebrew Bible in Numbers 5:22 when the Priest addresses a suspected adulteress and she responds “Amen, Amen.” Overall, the word appears in the Hebrew Bible 30 times. Three distinct Biblical usages of amen may be noted:
- Initial amen, referring back to words of another speaker and introducing an affirmative sentence, e.g. 1 Kings 1:36.
- Detached amen, again referring to the words of another speaker but without a complementary affirmative sentence, e.g. Nehemiah 5:13.
- Final amen, with no change of speaker, as in the subscription to the first three divisions of Psalms.
There are 52 amens in the Synoptic Gospels and 25 in John. The five final amens (found in Matthew 6:13, 28:20, Mark 16:20, Luke 24:53 and John 21:25), which are wanting in certain manuscripts, simulate the effect of final amen in the Hebrew Psalms. All initial amens occur in the sayings of Jesus. These initial amens are unparalleled in Hebrew literature because they do not refer to the words of a previous speaker but instead introduce a new thought.
In His service,