Author: Ron Graham
Where did the word “Amen” come from, why do we say it, and what does it mean?
Definition: Amen is an exclamation acknowledging the genuineness or veracity of a statement, petition, benediction, or doxology. Amen means "truly", or "fair dinkum".
Note: One of God’s names is "The Amen, the Faithful and True Witness" (Revelation 3:14).
Greek References: ameen translated by Luke as aleethos, truly (Mark 9:1, Luke 9:27).
The word “Amen” 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 (Num 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 be 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". (Num 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.
The word “Amen” probably goes back a long way. Some imagine it is of pagan origin, there being an Egyptian god called Amen-Ra. They say that Moses introduced this name into the worship and religious language of the people he led out of Egypt. If Moses had done such a stupid thing, God would have been so angry! Instead, in the Bible, we first found the word “Amen” commanded by the Lord (Num 5:22). It is not credible that God would invoke the name of a false pagan god.
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 “Amen” appears therefore to be the fitting last word for solemn utterances made before God.
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 “Amen”), but Luke has translated it using the word "Truly". (Mark 9:1, Luke 9:27). This shows us that the underlying meaning of the word “Amen” is 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".
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.