Last night, before bed, I saw a piece of news I thought was the newest headline from the Babylon Bee, but it was not. When I woke up this morning, had my coffee, and opened my phone to see what the latest social media craze was, I started laughing.
Apparently, the headline was true. Senator Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri has closed a prayer with the words, “Amen and A-women.” What I thought was a joke, was real.
While some celebrated his wording, the educated laughed at his pandering of the people. The chances are Senator does not even know the meaning of the word, “Amen.” If the Senator knew the meaning, he would not have said it in the way he did.
However, without knowing the meaning, the Senator was simply pandering to people and trying to be a “cool Senator.”
The Importance of the Word “Amen”
Let me begin by saying I believe the Senator may not be the only individual without a knowledge of the word, “Amen.”
For years, many have closed their prayers without knowing the definition of the word they are using. Whether it be a Christian or a non-Christian, it is crucial that we understand the meaning of words. Without an understanding, we might say words we do not know. Words matter.
The word “Amen” is rich in religious tradition. Not only is this word used after prayers, but you might hear a member of the congregation say it during a Bible class or a lesson to a point of agreement. In the religious world, the word “Amen” is important and meaningful.
A Few Bible Dictionaries/Resources on “Amen”
There are many Bible Dictionaries and other resources one may use to define words contained in the Bible or words associated with religion. It is important to be sure you also look at language resources to see the definition of the word.
Here are a few resources and the definitions they give:
Brown-Driver-Briggs (BDB) Hebrew Definitions provides definitions and numbers based on Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. BDB says the definition of the Hebrew word, אמן’ rendered “âmên” is “verily, truly, amen, so be it.” (Strongs Number H543)
Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Definitions (Strongs) published in 1890, provides definitions related to James Strong’s publication, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. Strongs says the definition of the Hebrew word, אמן’ rendered “âmên” is “amen, so be it, truth.” (Strongs Number H543)
Strongs notes that it comes from the Hebrews wordָ אָמַן ‘ rendered, âman (Strongs H539). The definition of this word is, to build up or support.”
Easton’s Bible Dictionary, by M. G. Easton, public in 1987 and now public domain, says the following regarding the word, “Amen”,
This Hebrew word means firm, and hence also faithful (Rev 3:14). In Isa 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 (Rev 3:14).
It is found singly and sometimes doubly at the end of prayers (Psa 41:13; Psa 72:19; Psa 89:52), to confirm the words and invoke the fulfillment of them. It is used in token of being bound by an oath (Num 5:22; Deu 27:15-26; Neh 5:13; Neh 8:6; 1Ch 16:36).
In the primitive churches it was common for the general audience to say “Amen” at the close of the prayer (1Co 14:16).
The promises of God are Amen; i.e., they are all true and sure (2Co 1:20).
Smiths’ Bible Dictionary, published in 1863, by Dr. William Smith states the following definition and use of the word “Amen”,
A’men. Literally “true” and used as a substantive, “that which is true”,. “truth”, Isa 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. Compare Num 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. Mat 6:13; 1Co 14:16. And not only public prayers, but those offered in private, and doxologies, were appropriately concluded with “Amen”. Rom 9:5; Rom 11:36; Rom 15:33; Rom 16:27; 2Co 13:14; etc.
Lastly, the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, a scholarly resource used for years and edited by James Orr says,
ā-men´ (in ritual speech and in singing a-men’, a’men) (אמן, ‘āmēn; ἀμήν, amḗn, = “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 Isa 65:16, where we have (the King James Version, the Revised Version (British and American)) “God of truth.” This rendering implies the pointing ‘ōmēn or ‘ēmūn 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 Jer 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 (Num 5:22; Deu 27:15; Neh 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 (Rev 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” (Rev 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 1Co 14:16, whence we gather that the lay brethren were expected to say “Amen” to the address. (See Weizsäcker’s The Apostolic Age of the Christian Church, English translation, II, 289.)
As you can see through a few Bible dictionaries and resources, the word “Amen” means, “so be it, truth.”
Bible Passages with Amen
The word “amen” is used through the Bible; both in the Old and the New Testament. A quick search of the English Standard Version shows that the word “amen” is found in 50 verses with 56 occurrences. The King James Version shows the word “amen” to be used in 72 verses and 78 occurrences.
You can see the word “amen” is rooted in scripture and has meaning to God’s followers of the past and to God’s followers in the present. This small word helps to provide hope to the Christian. Consider two passages where the word “amen” is found: one in the Old Testament and one in the New Testament.
Isaiah 65.16 – The “God of Amen”
“…so that he who blesses himself in the land shall bless himself by the God of truth, and he who takes an oath in the land shall swear by the God of truth; because the former troubles are forgotten and are hidden from my eyes.” (Isaiah 65:16; ESV; Emphasis Mine, CMG)
“That he who blesseth himself in the earth shall bless himself in the God of truth; and he that sweareth in the earth shall swear by the God of truth; because the former troubles are forgotten, and because they are hid from mine eyes.” (Isaiah 65:16; KJV; Emphasis Mine, CMG)
In this passage, the words, “God of truth” can be rendered “God of amen” because the word for truth is the Hebrew word, “אמן’ rendered “âmên” and defined as “verily, truly, amen, so be it.” (Strongs Number H543)
The reason for the translation of the word truth, is because the words “amen” does mean truth as we see in earlier definitions, but also because the Lord is full of truth (Psalm 86.15). Further, we know through Scriptures that the truth of the Lord endures forever (Psalm 117.2). Digging into the Psalms more you will see that the words of the Lord are truth (See Psalm 119.114-160).
The New Testament further states the words of God are truth in John 17.17 – “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. (John 17.17; ESV)
2 Corinthians 1.20 – The Promises of God are Amen
“For all the promises of God find their Yes in Him. That is why it is through Him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.” (2 Corinthians 1:20; ESV; Emphasis Mine, CMG)
“For all the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” (2 Corinthians 1:20; KJV; Emphasis Mine, CMG)
One of the differences you see in the Old Testament and the New Testament is the languages used in their writing. The Old Testament was primarily written in Hebrew and the New Testament was written primarily in Greek. However, the definitions of the word “amen” remain constant. (See the definitions of the dictionaries above to examine further.)
As Paul writes his second letter to the Corinthians church, he uses the word “amen” in the beginning. This word translated by Strongs is ἀμήν (amēn). According to Strongs, this word has it origins in the Hebrew word we defined earlier. (Strongs number H543). The definition given by Strongs is “firm, trustworthy.”
Thayer’s Greek Definitions, published in 1886, 1889, which utilizes the numbers of Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, defines this word as follows, “ἀμήν (amēn) meaning (1) firm and (2) verily, amen.
The definition of (1) firm is “metaphorically faithful.” The sub definition of (2) verily, amen is “at the beginning of a discourse – surely, truly, of a truth at the end – so it is, so be it, may it be fulfilled. It was a custom, which passed over from the synagogues to the Christian assemblies, that when he who had read or discoursed, had offered up solemn prayer to God, the others responded Amen, and thus made the substance of what was uttered their own.
The Word Amen in the Gospel of John
As mentioned, several times earlier, the word “amen” may also be translated “verily” as in the King James Version. The English Standard Version uses the word “Truly.”
In the gospel of John, the word “amen” or verily” was used to emphasize a point that the listener needed to hear. I would encourage you to read through the gospel of John and see the emphasis that Jesus is given to His words for the benefit of the hearers.
Here are a few examples to read:
- John 1:51 – And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
- John 3:3 – Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
- John 3:5 – Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
- John 3:11 – Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony.
- John 5:19- So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.
- 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.
- John 5:25 – “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.
- John 6:26 — Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.
- John 6:32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.
- John 6:47 – Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.
- John 6:53 – So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.
- John 8:31 – So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples,
- John 8:34- Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.
- John 8:51 – Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”
- John 8:58 – Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”
- John 10:1 – “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber.
- John 10:7 – So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.
- John 12:24 – Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
- John 13:16 – Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.
- John 13:20 – Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”
- John 13:21 – After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”
- John 13:38 – Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.
- John 14:12 – “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.
- John 16:20 – Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.
- John 16:23 – In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.
- John 21:18 – Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.”
Whether or not you are shocked by the use of this word, you should examine the word and its usage.
Remember, words matter.
This misuse of the word “amen” is appalling to some, but what should be more appalling is the fact that Representative Cleaver is an “United Methodist Pastor” and still does not know the meaning or the word, “Amen.”
This man, claiming to be a “pastor” and misusing a Biblical term during a prayer, needs to be informed of his ignorance concerning the word, “Amen.” He further needs to be acknowledged as someone how does not know what he is saying.
Let this be a lesson to many, pandering to people and making up words is not truth. It is this blatant disregard for truth that has many people lost in this world.
I would encourage you to pray for Representative Cleaver, but also write him and let him know that his prayer and the use of the term “Aman and A-woman” was unjustifiable. The website for Representative Cleaver is found here.
Personally, I will be sending a copy of this article will be emailed to Representative Cleaver.
Lastly, if you would like a one-page study of the word “Amen” click here for a PDF copy.
Just my thoughts,
Additional Note: The Electronic Version of E-sword was used in this article to defined words through the sources mentioned and also to provide scriptures references to you.