The word amen (// or //)[a] (Hebrew אָמֵן, Greek ἀμήν, Arabic آمِينَ) is a declaration of affirmation found in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. It is found in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim worship as a concluding word or response to prayers. Common English translations of the word amen include "verily" and "truly". It can also be used colloquially to express strong agreement, as in, for instance, amen to that.
In English, the word amen has two primary pronunciations, ah-men (/ɑːˈmɛn/) or ay-men (/eɪˈmɛn/), with minor additional variation in emphasis (the two syllables may be equally stressed instead of placing primary stress on the second).
In anglophone North America the ah-men pronunciation is used in performances of classical music, in churches with more formalized rituals and liturgy and in liberal to mainline Protestant denominations, as well as almost every Jewish congregation, in line with modern Hebrew pronunciation. The ay-men pronunciation, a product of the Great Vowel Shift dating to the 15th century, is associated with Irish Protestantism and conservative Evangelical denominations generally, and is the pronunciation typically used in gospel music.
The usage of Amen, meaning "so be it", as found in the early scriptures of the Bible is said to be of Hebrew origin; however, the basic triconsonantal root from which the word was derived is common to a number of languages, such as Aramaic, in the Semitic branch of the Afroasiatic languages. The word was imported into the Greek of the early Church from Judaism. From Greek, amen entered the other Western languages. According to a standard dictionary etymology, amen passed from Greek into Late Latin, and thence into English. Rabbinic scholars from medieval France believed the standard Hebrew word for faith emuna comes from the root amen. Although in English transliteration they look different, they are both from the root aleph-mem-nun. That is, the Hebrew word amen derives from the same ancient triliteral Hebrew root as does the verb ʾāmán.
Grammarians frequently list ʾāmán under its three consonants (aleph-mem-nun), which are identical to those of ʾāmēn (note that the Hebrew letter א aleph represents a glottal stop sound, which functions as a consonant in the morphology of Hebrew). This triliteral root means to be firm, confirmed, reliable, faithful, have faith, believe.
Popular among some theosophists, proponents of Afrocentric theories of history, and adherents of esoteric Christianity is the conjecture that amen is a derivative of the name of the Egyptian god Amun (which is sometimes also spelled Amen). Some adherents of Eastern religions believe that amen shares roots with the Hindu Sanskrit word, Aum. Such external etymologies are not included in standard etymological reference works. The Hebrew word, as noted above, starts with aleph, while the Egyptian name begins with a yodh.
The Armenian word ամեն (amen) means "every"; however it is also used in the same form at the conclusion of prayers, much as in English. In French, the Hebrew word amen is sometimes translated as Ainsi soit-il, which means "So be it."
The linguist Ghil'ad Zuckermann argues that, as in the case of Hallelujah, the word Amen is usually not replaced by a translation due to the speakers’ belief in iconicity, their perception that there is something intrinsic about the relationship between the sound of the signifier (the word) and what it signifies (its meaning).:62
The word first occurs in the Hebrew Bible in Numbers 5:22 when the Priest addresses a suspected adulteress and she responds “Amen, Amen”. Overall, the word appears in the Hebrew Bible 30 times.
Three distinct Biblical usages of amen may be noted:
- Initial amen, referring back to words of another speaker and introducing an affirmative sentence, e.g. 1 Kings 1:36.
- Detached amen, again referring to the words of another speaker but without a complementary affirmative sentence, e.g. Nehemiah 5:13.
- Final amen, with no change of speaker, as in the subscription to the first three divisions of Psalms.
There are 52 amens in the Synoptic Gospels and 25 in John. The five final amens (Matthew 6:13, 28:20, Mark 16:20, Luke 24:53 and John 21:25), which are wanting in certain manuscripts, simulate the effect of final amen in the Hebrew Psalms. All initial amens occur in the sayings of Jesus. These initial amens are unparalleled in Hebrew literature, according to Friedrich Delitzsch, because they do not refer to the words of a previous speaker but instead introduce a new thought.
The uses of amen ("verily" or "I tell you the truth", depending on the translation) in the Gospels form a peculiar class; they are initial, but often lack any backward reference. Jesus used the word to affirm his own utterances, not those of another person, and this usage was adopted by the church. The use of the initial amen, single or double in form, to introduce solemn statements of Jesus in the Gospels had no parallel in Jewish practice.
In the King James Bible, the word amen is preserved in a number of contexts. Notable ones include:
- The catechism of curses of the Law found in Deuteronomy 27.
- A double amen ("amen and amen") occurs in Psalm 89 (Psalm 41:13; 72:19; 89:52), to confirm the words and invoke the fulfillment of them.
- Amen occurs in several doxology formulas in Romans 1:25, 9:5, 11:36, 15:33, and several times in Chapter 16. It also appears in doxologies in the Psalms (41:14; 72:19; 89:53; 106:48). This liturgical form from Judaism.
- It concludes all of Paul's general epistles.
- In Revelation 3:14, Jesus is referred to as, "the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's creation." The whole passage reads as "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;".
- Amen concludes the New Testament at Rev. 22:21.
Although amen, in Judaism, is commonly stated as a response to a blessing, it is also often used as an affirmation of any declaration.
With the rise of the synagogue during the Second Temple period, amen became a common response, especially to benedictions. It is recited communally to affirm a blessing made by the prayer reader. It is also mandated as a response during the kaddish doxology. The congregation is sometimes prompted to answer 'amen' by the terms ve-'imru (Hebrew: ואמרו) = "and [now] say (pl.)," or, ve-nomar (ונאמר) = "and let us say." Contemporary usage reflects ancient practice: As early as the 4th century BCE, Jews assembled in the Temple responded 'amen' at the close of a doxology or other prayer uttered by a priest. This Jewish liturgical use of amen was adopted by the Christians. But Jewish law also requires individuals to answer amen whenever they hear a blessing recited, even in a non-liturgical setting.
The Talmud teaches homiletically that the word amen is an acronym for אל מלך נאמן (ʾEl melekh neʾeman, "God, trustworthy King"), the phrase recited silently by an individual before reciting the Shma.
The use of "amen" has been generally adopted in Christian worship as a concluding word for prayers and hymns and an expression of strong agreement. The liturgical use of the word in apostolic times is attested by the passage from 1 Corinthians cited above, and Justin Martyr (c. 150) describes the congregation as responding "amen" to the benediction after the celebration of the Eucharist. Its introduction into the baptismal formula (in the Eastern Orthodox Church it is pronounced after the name of each person of the Trinity) was probably later.
In Isaiah 65:16, the authorized version has "the God of truth" ("the God of amen" in Hebrew). Jesus often used amen to put emphasis to his own words (translated: "verily" or "truly"). In John's Gospel, it is repeated, "Verily, verily"(or "Truly, truly"). Amen is also used in oaths (Numbers 5:22; Deuteronomy 27:15–26; Nehemiah 5:13; 8:6; 1 Chronicles 16:36) and is further found at the end of the prayer of primitive churches (1 Corinthians 14:16).
In some Christian churches, the "amen corner" or "amen section" is any subset of the congregation likely to call out "Amen!" in response to points in a preacher's sermon. Metaphorically, the term can refer to any group of heartfelt traditionalists or supporters of an authority figure.
Amen is also used in standard, international French, but in Cajun French Ainsi soit-il ("so be it") is used instead.
ʾĀmīn (Arabic: آمين) is the Arabic form of Amen. In Islam, it is used with the same meaning as in Judaism and Christianity; when concluding a prayer, especially after a supplication (du'a) or reciting the first surah Al Fatiha of the Qur'an (salat), and as an assent to the prayers of others.
- "Amen". Catholic Encyclopedia. 1912. Archived from the original on 5 September 2007.
- Harper, Douglas. "amen". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2007-08-20.
- Microsoft Encarta Dictionary Tools. Retrieved 20 August 2007
- "amen - definition of amen in English from the Oxford dictionary". oxforddictionaries.com. Retrieved 2 September 2015.
- Paul Joüon, SJ, A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew, trans. and revised by T. Muraoka, vol. I, Rome: Editrice Pontificio Instituto Biblico, 2000.
- "Amen". Jewish Encyclopedia. Archived from the original on 16 February 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-19.
- "Amen". American Heritage Dictionary. Archived from the original on 21 April 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-26.
- "King James Bible Strong's Hebrew Dictionary". Archived from the original on 13 February 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-26.
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- The Origin of the Word Amen, Ed. by Issa & Faraji, Amen Ra Theological Seminary Press. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 3 February 2010. Retrieved 2010-02-16. as quoted in the Lexington Herald-Leader, "Scholar traces origins of 'Amen' He says word is of African, not Hebrew, origin", December 2007, 
- "Assembly of Yahweh, Cascade (an Assembly of True Israel, of the Diaspora) – Words and Definitions critical to the correct understanding of the Scriptures and Christianity". Archived from the original on 26 February 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-12.
- "Amen". The Assembly of IaHUShUA MaShIaChaH. 15 December 2005. Archived from the original on 6 February 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-13.
- Yogananda, Paramahansa. Autobiography of a Yoga, 1946, chapter 26.
- Sri H.W.L Poonja, 'The Truth is', Published by Samuel Weiser, 2000, ISBN 1-57863-175-0
- Mandala Yoga Archived 22 December 2015 at the Wayback Machine.
- "Hindu Culture - Omkar and Swastika". hindubooks.org. Retrieved 2 September 2015.
- Erman, Adolf & Grapow, Hermann: Wörterbuch der ägyptischen Sprache, Im Auftrage der Deutschen Akademien, Berlin: Akademie Verlag (1971), p.85
- Zuckermann, Ghil'ad (2003), Language Contact and Lexical Enrichment in Israeli Hebrew. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 9781403917232 / ISBN 9781403938695 
- "Amen", Encyclopedia Biblica
- "Amen". Jewish Encyclopedia. Archived from the original on 16 February 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-22.
- "Amen". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-17.
- "Bible Dictionary: Amen". eastonsbibledictionary.com. Retrieved 2 September 2015.
- cf. John L. McKenzie, SJ, "Dictionary of the Bible", New York: MacMillan Publ. Co., Inc., 1965. Entry: "Amen," p. 25)
- Orach Chaim 56 (amen in kaddish); O.C. 124 (amen in response to blessings recited by the prayer reader); O.C. 215 (amen in response to blessings made by any individual outside of the liturgy).
- Tractate Shabbat 119b and Tractate Sanhedrin 111a
- To Pray as a Jew: A Guide to the Prayer Book and the Synagogue Service, Hayim Halevy Donin
- Among certain Gnostic sects, Amen became the name of an angel.
- Hovda, Robert W. (1983). "The amen corner". Worship. 57 (2): 150–156.
- Wycliffe. "Matthew 6:9–15". Wycliffe Bible.
- Hastings, James (2004) . A Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels: Volume I. The Minerva Group, Inc. p. 52.
- Glassé, Cyril (2003). The New Encyclopedia of Islam. Stacey International. p. 48.
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