You read the word “amen” quite often in the Scriptures and hear it but what exactly does the word amen mean?
What is the Hebrew Form of Amen?
The Hebrew word used for amen in the Old Testament is “ei men” and means “so be it, verily, true,” or “truly” (literally “truth”) and is a declaration of your affirmation of what was just spoken or written. It is like the pastor saying “Jesus is God” and some in the congregation say “amen” or “truly.” Amen is frequently used at the end of a prayer or a statement that is true. You could say “The Word of God is the inspired Word of God” and those who agree would say “amen” or “truly it is.” In Psalm 41:13 is says “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! Amen and Amen.” What David concludes in this psalm about the graciousness of God is not only one amen but he repeats it twice and in the Jewish literature, this is the greatest of emphasis possible. The only greater emphasis that is possible in Jewish literature is to say it or write it three times and that is only reserved for God where it is said that He is “holy, holy, holy” in Isaiah 6 and a few other places. If we read it according to what this word means, we could read it as; “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! Truly and verily.”
What is the Greek Form of Amen?
The Greek word for amen is “ἀμήν” which is very similar to what it means in Hebrew and that is “so it is” or “truly” and even “true” and “yes” depending upon what the sentence structure is. Paul uses it in Romans 1:25 in writing “because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” So you can literally translate “amen” in Romans 1:25 as “because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! And so it is” or “truly.”
The Roots of Amen
The word amen has roots in the Semitic word “truth” so even today when amen is spoken, it is like saying “yes, true,” or “that is true.” We should never say amen just because others are saying it, instead we should only say amen if we are in personal agreement with what was just said because we are acknowledging what was just spoken is absolutely true. More than that, it is a willingness to submit oneself to that statement and believe the implications of what preceded “amen.”
Jesus frequently used the word “amen” but He would sometimes do it at the beginning of His sentences like when He said “truly, truly I say to you” or “most assuredly” like in John 5:24 “ Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” What Jesus is emphasizing is “most certainly” or “truthfully, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” Since Jesus says it twice or repeats it, He is giving the greatest emphasis possible to whatever He has said so that we can know for a certainty that what He said is absolute truth. What He wants the listener and the reader to know is that “Hey, listen to this statement for it is very, very important.” We know that everything Jesus said was true and important since Jesus is God and we know that God cannot lie (Heb 6:18; Num 23:19) but when Jesus precedes a statement by saying “truly, truly” or “most assuredly” He is literally saying “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” The repeating of the word truly, truly or most assuredly (amen, amen) is like an underlined statement or one that is in bold print if we wanted to make the same emphasis. We might even put the sentence in italics or put an exclamation point at the end of the sentence.
You should never say “amen” to anything that you are not certain about or are not in complete agreement with because to do so is to be speaking with hypocrisy. If you have repented and trusted in Christ, then you can say “amen” to this statement of Jesus: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life” (John 6:47). To this I can most certainly say “amen” and “this is true” because I believe this is an objective truth that cannot ever be wrong. Not only can’t it be wrong because Jesus is God and God cannot lie but I believe that everything Jesus said was true. If you believe this, then you already possess eternal life and if indeed you believe this, then you shall never perish (John 3:16). Amen and amen to that!
Another Reading on Patheos to Check Out: What Did Jesus Really Look Like: A Look at the Bible Facts
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon