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Amen

Amen [N] [E] [S]

In current usage, the term "amen" has become little more than a ritualized conclusion to prayers. Yet the Hebrew and Greek words for amen appear hundreds of times in the Bible and have several uses. Amen is a transliteration of the Hebrew word amen [em'a]. The verb form occurs more than one hundred times in the Old Testament and means to take care, to be faithful, reliable or established, or to believe someone or something. The idea of something that is faithful, reliable, or believable seems to lie behind the use of amen as an exclamation on twenty-five solemn occasions in the Old Testament. Israel said "amen" to join in the praises of God ( 1 Chron 16:36 ; Neh 8:6 ; and at the end of each of the first four books of Psalms, 41:13 ; 72:19 ; 89:52 ; 106:48 ).

Amen is never used solely to confirm a blessing in the Old Testament, but Israel did accept the curse of God on sin by it (twelve times in Deut. 27, and in Neh 5:13 ), and once Jeremiah affirms God's statements of the blessings and the curses of the covenant with an amen ( Jer 11:5 ). It can also confirm a statement made by people ( Num 5:22 ; 1 Kings 1:36 ; Neh 5:13 ). These kinds of uses lie behind the popular, basically correct, dictum that amen means "So be it."

Amen has other uses. Jeremiah mocks the words of a false prophet with an amen (28:6). Because God is trustworthy, Isaiah can call him "the God of amen, " in whose name his servants should invoke blessings and take oaths ( Isa 65:16 ; see also Rev 3:14 ). But Jesus' use of amen is the most striking innovation.

Jesus introduces his teaching by saying amen lego humin [ajmhvnlevgwuJmi'n], that is, "truly I say to you, " on nearly seventy occasions in the Gospels (thirty times in Matthew, thirteen in Mark, six in Luke, and twenty in John, where the amen is always doubled). Where the prophets often said, "Thus says the Lord, " Jesus often says, "Amen I say to you." Although some scholars see the formuLam merely as a method of giving emphasis to a statement, in actuality it constitutes a significant part of Jesus' implicit teaching about himself. We ought to consider Jesus' use of the term "amen" alongside his other implicit claims to deity, such as his claim of the right to forgive sins and to judge humankind, and his custom of performing miracles on his own authority. No mere human has the right to forgive sins, yet Jesus forgave sins. God is the judge of humankind, yet Jesus judges. God's agets ascribe the will and the glory to God when they perform miracles, yet Jesus performed miracles on his own authority. Likewise, prophets never spoke on their own authority. They say, "Thus says the Lord." Or, like Paul, they say they received a revelation from heaven. But Jesus says, "Truly I say to you" dozens of times, asserting that his words are certainly true because he says them.

Jesus often uses the formuLam when he corrects errors or is engaged in disputes. When Jesus instructed Nicodemus, for example, he appealed not to Scripture but to his own authority, saying "Amen, amen, I say to you" (John 3:3, 5; see also Matt 6:2, 5, 16; 18:3; Luke 13:35; John 5:19, 24, 25; 6:26, 32, 47, 53). Amen lego humin also punctuates the teaching of truths unknown in the Old Testament, and seasons startling sayings for which Jesus offers no proof other than his own authority. Here the amen implies that Jesus' words, like the Father's, are true merely because he utters them (Matt 24:34; 26:13; Mark 3:28; Luke 12:37; John 10:1). So in Matthew 5 Jesus comments on the Old Testament or Jewish interpretations of it six times in the chapter, saying, "You have heard that it was said , but I tell you." He concludes the first section with the amen in 5:26, and by so doing asserts that his authority exceeds the Jewish interpreters', and even brings a revelation that surpasses that of the Old Testament law itself.

In this way, whenever Jesus says "amen lego humin" [ajmhvnlevgwuJmi'n], he shows awareness of his authority, his deity. This evidence of Jesus' messianic self-consciousness is important because it resists skeptical attacks on the faith. Critics try to exclude many texts that present Christ's deity on the grounds that they are unauthentic. But implicit claims to deity, whether they be Jesus' use of the amen or other ones, appear in virtually every paragraph of the Gospels, and cannot be explained away.

Paul's use of amen returns to the Old Testament world, except that he utters amen only to bless, not to curse. Many times Paul's letters burst into praise of God the Father or God the Son and seal the confession with the amen (Rom 1:25; 9:5; 11:36; Gal 1:3-5; Eph 3:21; Php 4:20; 1 Tim 1:17; 6:16; 2 Tim 4:18). A doxology appears at or near the end of several letters, and all close with the amen. Other letters end with a blessing on his readers, again completed with amen (1 Col 16:23-24; Gal 6:18). Paul also invites his readers to say amen to the promises of God (2 Col 1:20; see also Rev 22:20). Amen also closes spontaneous doxologies in Revelation; there, however, the object of praise is more often the Son than the Father (1:6-7; 5:14; 7:12; 19:4). In all this Paul and Revelation resemble the Jewish custom of the day, in which Jews said amen when they heard another bless the Lord whether in private prayer (Tobit 8:8) or in worship. But they surpass it in the sheer spontaneity and enthusiasm of their praises.

Several other New Testament epistles follow Paul by praising God and/or calling on him to bestow the grace the readers need (Heb 13:20-21; 1 Pet 4:11; 5:10-11; 2 Pet 3:17-18; Jude 24-25; Rev 22:21). As in Paul, these final words often recapitulate the main themes of the letter, which the writer seals with the amen that both declare and pleads, "So be it! May God indeed be praised for bestowing the gifts his people need."

Daniel Doriani

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by Walter A. Elwell
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of
Baker Book House Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan USA.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

For usage information, please read the Baker Book House Copyright Statement.


[N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
[E] indicates this entry was also found in Easton's Bible Dictionary
[S] indicates this entry was also found in Smith's Bible Dictionary

Bibliography Information

Elwell, Walter A. "Entry for 'Amen'". "Evangelical Dictionary of Theology". . 1997.

Amen [N] [B] [S]

This Hebrew word means firm, and hence also faithful ( Revelation 3:14 ). In Isaiah 65:16 , the Authorized Version has "the God of truth," which in Hebrew is "the God of Amen." It is frequently used by our Saviour to give emphasis to his words, where it is translated "verily." Sometimes, only, however, in John's Gospel, it is repeated, "Verily, verily." It is used as an epithet of the Lord Jesus Christ ( Revelation 3:14 ).

It is found singly and sometimes doubly at the end of prayers ( Psalms 41:13 ; 72:19 ; 89:52 ), to confirm the words and invoke the fulfilment of them. It is used in token of being bound by an oath ( Numbers 5:22 ; Deuteronomy 27:15-26 ; Nehemiah 5:13 ; 8:6 ; 1 Chronicles 16:36 ). In the primitive churches it was common for the general audience to say "Amen" at the close of the prayer ( 1 Corinthians 14:16 ).

The promises of God are Amen; i.e., they are all true and sure ( 2 Corinthians 1:20 ).

These dictionary topics are from
M.G. Easton M.A., D.D., Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition,
published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain, copy freely.

[N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
[B] indicates this entry was also found in Baker's Evangelical Dictionary
[S] indicates this entry was also found in Smith's Bible Dictionary

Bibliography Information

Easton, Matthew George. "Entry for Amen". "Easton's Bible Dictionary". .

Amen

Dependable; faithful; certain.

And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the AMEN, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. ( Revelation 3:14-15 )

Source: A King James Dictionary. (Used with permission. Copyright © Philip P. Kapusta)

Bibliography Information

"Entry for 'Amen'". A King James Dictionary.

Amen, [N] [B] [E]

literally "true" and used as a substantive, "that which is true," "truth," ( Isaiah 65:16 ) a word used in strong asseverations, fixing, as it were, the stamp of truth upon the assertion which it accompanied, and making it binding as an oath. Comp. ( Numbers 5:22 ) In the synagogues and private houses it was customary for the people or members of the family who were present to say "amen" to the prayers which were offered. ( Matthew 6:13 ; 1 Corinthians 14:16 ) And not only public prayers, but those offered in private, and doxologies, were appropriately concluded with "amen." ( Romans 9:5 ; 11:36 ; 15:33 ; 16:27 ; 2 Corinthians 13:14 ) etc.


[N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
[B] indicates this entry was also found in Baker's Evangelical Dictionary
[E] indicates this entry was also found in Easton's Bible Dictionary

Bibliography Information

Smith, William, Dr. "Entry for 'Amen,'". "Smith's Bible Dictionary". . 1901.

AMEN

a-men' (in ritual speech and in singing a-men', a'men) ('amen; amen, = "truly," "verily"):

Is derived from the reflexive form of a verb meaning "to be firm," or "to prop." It occurs twice as a noun in Isaiah 65:16, where we have (the King James Version, the Revised Version (British and American)) "God of truth." This rendering implies the pointing 'omen or 'emun i.e. "truth," or "faithfulness," a reading actually suggested by Cheyne and adopted by others. "Amen" is generally used as an adverb of assent or confirmation--fiat, "so let it be." In Jeremiah 28:6 the prophet endorses with it the words of Hananiah. Amen is employed when an individual or the whole nation confirms a covenant or oath recited in their presence (Numbers 5:22; Deuteronomy 27:15; Nehemiah 5:13, etc.). It also occurs at the close of a psalm or book of psalms, or of a prayer.

That "Amen" was appended to the doxology in the early church is evident both from Paul and Rev, and here again it took the form of a response by the hearers. The ritual of the installation of the Lamb (Revelation 5:6-14) concludes with the Amen of the four beasts, and the four and twenty elders. It is also spoken after "Yea:

I come quickly" (Revelation 22:20). And that Revelation reflects the practice of the church on earth, and not merely of an ideal, ascended community in heaven, may be concluded from 1 Corinthians 14:16, whence we gather that the lay brethren were expected to say "Amen" to the address. (See Weizsacker's The Apostolic Age of the Christian Church, English translation, II, 289.)

James Millar


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'AMEN'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915.