Author: Ron Graham
The Last Word, “Amen”
—Its origin, use, and meaning
Where did the word “Amen” come from, why do we say it, and what does it mean? In this lesson we define and study the word as it occurs in the Bible.
Definition: Amen means "truly", or "fair dinkum". It is an exclamation acknowledging the genuineness or veracity of a statement, petition, benediction, or doxology.
Note: One of God’s names is "The Amen, the Faithful and True Witness" (Revelation 3:14).
Greek References: αμην ameen translated by Luke as aleethos, αληθος truly (Mark 9:1, Luke 9:27).
1 What is the Origin of “Amen”
The word makes its first appearance in the Bible under the most solemn circumstances. When a husband accused his wife of adultery, and she protested her innocence, and she had not been caught in the act, the matter was settled by God under the test of bitter water (Numbers 5:12-31).
The woman was taken to the priest, and the priest put her under oath. She submitted to a ceremony in which she drank some water containing dust from the tabernacle floor. If she had committed adultery, she was cursed with a wasting disease, but if she did not get sick, then she was proven innocent and her husband was proven wrong.
During the ceremony, when the priest pronounced the curse, the woman was required by God to say, "Amen, Amen". (Numbers 5:22). That is the first occurrence of the word in scripture. The Lord commands it to be said by a person who is yielding herself to examination by him in his presence.
Egyptian god Amen-ra?
The word “Amen” probably goes back a long way. Some say it goes back to an Egyptian god called Amen-Ra, and that Moses introduced this name into the worship and religious language of the people he led out of Egypt.
However, in the Bible we first found the word “Amen” commanded by the Lord (Numbers 5:22). It is not credible that God would invoke the name of an Egyptian god when he regarded himself as the only true God and his own name as above all names. “I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other...” (Isaiah 42:8).
2 Why do we say “Amen”?
The word is almost always used to end a solemn statement, as in the example cited earlier. We find the word “Amen” as the last word in several instances in the Bible.
- The word is found in the last verses of the Bible (Revelation 22:20-21).
- The first three books of Psalms end with Amen (Psalms 41:13, Psalms 72:19, Psalms 89:52).
- Most books of the New Testament end with it (KJV).
- In the land of Israel, when a prayer or prophecy was made, or a law of God was read, "All the people said, “Amen”" (Nehemiah 5:13, 8:6).
- The Lord’s example prayer ends with “Amen” (Matthew 6:13).
- Paul uses the word seven times in his letter to the Romans at the end of doxologies or benedictions (Romans 1:25, Romans 9:5, Romans 11:36, Romans 15:33, Romans 16:20,24,27)
- Paul implies that people should say “Amen” at the end of a prayer in church (1Corinthians 14:16).
The word “Amen” appears therefore to be the fitting last word for solemn utterances made before God.
Note —A doxology is a statement of praise to God, a benediction is a statement of blessing, and a salutation is a statement of greeting.
3 What Does “Amen” Mean?
Oddly, to get a scriptural answer to what “Amen” means, we go to a place where it is used not as the last word but the first word. Jesus would often start a solemn statement by saying "Verily" or "Truly".
In John's gospel (eg John 3:3) Jesus is recorded as using the word twice in succession, "Verily, verily, I say to you...". This is actually the word “Amen”.
When we compare an instance of this in Mark, with the same statement in Luke, we find Mark has left the word untranslated (just as αμην ameen, “Amen”), but Luke has translated it using the word αληθος alethos, "Truly". (Mark 9:1, Luke 9:27).
That inspired translation shows us the underlying meaning of the word “Amen”. It means truth and verity. It is a solemn affirmation. When we say, “Amen” we are saying, “Yes before God I agree with that; I believe that to be true; I want that to be so; I am genuine and earnest in my prayer.”
Bible quotes for Amen
Other interesting and helpful passages also show us that the word “Amen” is a solemn affirmation of truth, a special word that we can use whenever we have said (or heard) something that is true before God.
- Instead of saying, "Amen, Amen" Jeremiah paraphrased the second Amen in his statement, "Amen, the Lord do so" (Jeremiah 28:6).
- One of God’s names or titles is "The God of Truth". If we left the last word untranslated, the title would read, "The God of Amen" (Isaiah 65:16).
- Paul uses the word as an affirmation when he says of Christ, "For as many as may be the promises of God, in him they are 'yes' and in him 'Amen' " (2Corinthians 1:20).
- One of the names of Jesus is "The Amen, the Faithful and True Witness" (Revelation 3:14).
- When the exiles returned from Babylon, "Ezra praised the LORD, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, 'Amen, Amen!' " (Nehemiah 8:6).
- Some Psalms use the word twice together. For example, "Praise be to the LORD forever! Amen and Amen." (Psalm 89:52).