Sunday, 15 April 2012
“Amen” — its Origin, Use, and Meaning
There's a word at the end of every prayer, the word “Amen”. Where did this word come from, why do we say it, and what does it mean? It still remains a myth. So here it is. As you read and traverse through the end, you have a clear understanding about it.
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 think it is of pagan origin (there was an Egyptian god called Amen-Ra). Perhaps that ancient usage reflects an even earlier existence of the word. As to its use in the Bible, however, we first encounter the word in this commandment spoken by the Lord (Num 5:22).
The word “Amen” is almost always the last word of a solemn statement. In the first example, it was said by the woman at the end of the priest's pronouncement of the curse and of her taking the oath. 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 (Rev 22:20-21).
· The first three books of Psalms end with Amen (Psa 41:13, Psa 72:19, Psa 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”" (Neh 5:13, 8:6).
· The Lord’s example prayer ends with “Amen” (Mtt 6:13).
· Paul uses the word seven times in his letter to the Romans at the end of doxologies or benedictions (Rom 1:25, Rom 9:5, Rom 11:36, Rom 15:33, Rom 16:20,24,27)
· Paul implies that people should say “Amen” at the end of a prayer in church (1Co 14:16).
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 Jhn 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 “Amen”), but Luke has translated it using the word αληθος "Truly". (Mark 9:1, Lke 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".
In some other interesting and helpful passages...
· Instead of saying, "Amen, Amen" Jeremiah paraphrased the second Amen in his statement, "Amen, the Lord do so" (Jer 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" (Isa 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'" (2Co 1:20).
· One of the names of Jesus is "The Amen, the Faithful and True Witness" (Rev 3:14).
These passages 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.