The word Amen
; "So be it; truly") is a declaration of affirmation
found in the Hebrew Bible
and New Testament
. Its use in Judaism
dates back to its earliest texts. It has been generally adopted in Christian
worship as a concluding word for prayers
. In Islam
, it is the standard ending to Dua
(supplication). Common English translations of the word amen
include: "Verily", "Truly", "So be it", and "Let it be". It can also be used colloquially to express strong agreement, as in, for instance, amen to that.
Amen, meaning so be it, is of Hebrew origin. The word was imported into the Greek of the early Church from the Jewish synagogue.. 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.
The Hebrew word ’amen derives from the Hebrew verb ’aman, a primitive root. Grammarians frequently list ’aman under its three consonants (’mn), which are identical to those of ’amen . This triliteral root (’mn) means to be firm, confirmed, reliable, faithful, have faith, believe. Two English words that derive from this root are:
a. amen, from Hebrew ’amen (=truly, certainly);
b. Mammon, from Aramaic mamona, probably from Mishnaic Hebrew mamôn, probably from earlier *ma’mon (=? “security, deposit”).
derive from Hebrew ’aman
(=to be firm).
The Talmud teaches homiletically that the word Amen is an acronym for אל מלך נאמן (’El melekh ne’eman, "God, trustworthy King"), the phrase recited silently by an individual before reciting the Shma.
Popular among some theosophists and adherents of esoteric Christianity is the conjecture that amen is a derivative of the name of the Egyptian god named Amun (which is sometimes also spelled Amen). Some adherents of Eastern religions believe that amen shares roots with the Sanskrit word, aum. There is no academic support for either of these views.
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; Revelation 22:20.
- Detached Amen, again referring to the words of another speaker but without a complementary affirmative sentence, e.g. Nehemiah 5:13; Revelation 5:14 (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:16).
- Final Amen, with no change of speaker, as in the subscription to the first three divisions of the Psalter and in the frequent doxologies of the New Testament Epistles.
Amen in Judaism
requires an individual to say Amen
in a variety of contexts.
Liturgically, amen is a communal response to be recited at certain points during the prayer service. 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 (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.
Jews usually pronounce the word as it is pronounced in Hebrew: "aw-MÉN" (Ashkenazi) or "ah-MÉN" (Sephardi). These are transcribed in IPA as [ɔ'mɛɪn] and [a'mɛn] respectively.
The most common context in which an amen
is required by halakhah
is after one hears a blessing
recited. In fact, it is prohibited to willfully refrain from responding amen
when it is indicated.
The source of this requirement is the verse in Deuteronomy 32:3:
- "כי שם ה׳ אקרא הבו גדל לאלוקינו"
- "When I proclaim the name of Hashem, give glory to our God."
This mandate refers to the mention of the Tetragrammaton, which was only pronounced at certain specific times within the confines of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Whoever heard this special name of God mentioned was obliged to respond with Baruch shem kavod malchuso l'olam va'ed (ברוך שם כבוד מלכותו לעולם ועד, "Blessed be the Name of His glorious kingdom for all eternity"). With the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, however, pronouncing the Tetragrammaton was prohibited, and was replaced with the pronunciation Adonai. Although this term bears significant holiness (and is in fact one of the seven names of God) and may not be pronounced without purpose, it may be pronounced when appropriate in prayer and blessings. The aforementioned response for the Tetragrammaton, however, is not warranted when one hears Adonai pronounced.
The Talmudic Sages therefore mandated that one must answer amen at the completion of a blessing outside of the Temple, comparable to the baruch shem that was used in the Holy Temple. However, while "baruch shem is an expression of praise and honor, amen is an affirmation of belief. The Talmud teaches that the word Amen is an acronym for אל מלך נאמן (’El melekh ne’eman, "God, trustworthy King.") The word amen itself is etymologically related to the Hebrew word emunah (אמונה, "faith") asserting that one is affirming the fundamental beliefs of Judaism.
Although amen, in Judaism, is most commonly stated as a response to a blessing that incorporates God's name, amen is more generally an affirmation of any declaration. Accordingly, it is customary in some comunities to respond amen after each harachaman in Grace after meals and after a mi'shebeirach. When reciting amen, it is important that the response is not louder than the blessing itself. When trying to encourage others to respond amen, however, one may raise his voice to stir others to respond in kind.
Amen is also used when an individual wishes to fulfill his own obligation through another person’s recitation of a prayer or blessing, via the construct of shomea k'oneh.
Proper articulation when answering amen
When responding amen
, it must be pronounced in a proper manner, consistent with its significance in Jewish law
. There are a number of ways to respond amen
that are discouraged as being either disrespectful or careless:
The articulation of the alef
(א, first letter of amen
) and its proper vowelization must be clear. If the kametz
vowel is rushed and mispronounced as a the vowelization of a shva
, the amen
is termed an amen chatufa
, as chatufa
is synonym for the shva
Another type of amen chatufa is one that is recited prior to the completion of the blessing it is being recited to follow; this comes from the Hebrew word chatuf (חטוף, "snatched"). The impatient rush to respond amen before the blessing has even been completed is prohibited.
If insufficient stress is placed on the nun
(נ, the last letter of amen
) and the mem
(מ, the middle letter) drowns it out, this is termed an amen k'tufa
(אמן קטופה, "a cut amen
One must also not recite amen
too quickly; one should allocate enough time for the amen
as necessary to say ’El melekh ne’eman
. Saying an amen k'tzara
(אמן קצרה, "short amen
") recited too quickly shows a lack of patience.
Situations in which one may not recite amen
Although it is not prohibited to say the word amen
in vain, the Talmudic Sages
indicated particular circumstances in which it is improper to answer amen
An amen yetoma
(אמן יתומה, "orphaned amen
") is one such example of an improperly recited amen
. There is a dispute among the halachic authorities
as to exactly what constitutes an orphaned amen
- As amen is recited as an affirmation of what a blessing has just asserted, one who is unaware of which blessing was just recited can certainly not affirm its assertion with true conviction. Therefore, if someone just arrives in a place and hears others reciting amen to an unknown blessing, he or she may not respond amen together with them.
- The opposing view maintains a much narrower definition of amen yetoma. They assert that its application is limited to a situation in which someone is intending to hear another's blessing and respond amen with the intention of fulfilling his or her obligation to recite that blessing. In such a situation, should any member of the listening party miss hearing any of the words of the blessing, it would be equivalent to an omission of the recital of that word (in accordance with the principle of shomea k'oneh), and a response of amen would thus be prohibited, even though the listener knew which blessing was being recited.
- Another type of amen yetoma is when someone does not respond amen immediately after hearing the conclusion of a blessing, but rather pauses for a few seconds (toch k'dei dibur), thereby causing the amen to lose its connection to the blessing. Responding with such an amen is forbidden. If however some people are still responding amen to a blessing, one may begin to respond amen, even if this time interval has passed.
One may not respond amen
to a bracha l'vatala
(ברכה לבטלה, "blessing made for nought"). Thus, one should not respond amen
to a blessing made by someone who is merely reciting the blessing for educational purposes (i.e. to learn how to recite them).
Responding amen to one's own blessing
Because one cannot attest to one's own blessing any more than he or she already has by reciting it, responding amen
to one's own blessing is redundant and one may not do so. If the blessing is being recited on food, one who responds amen
to one's own blessing will either cause a hefseik
(הפסק, "prohibited interruption") or likely pronounce an amen yetoma
, depending on whether one responds immediately or waits until after one swallows some food or drink, respectively.
An exception to this rule is a situation in which an individual is reciting a series of blessings; in such a case, some authorities permit the individual to respond amen to the last blessing in order to signal the ending of the series. While there are many examples of series of blessings within the Jewish prayer services, Ashkenazi tradition dictates that amen is not recited at the conclusion of a series of blessings. The one exception to this is in Grace after Meals after the third blessing of Boneh Yerushalayim; in order to signify that the first three blessings are biblically mandated, as opposed to the fourth rabbinically-mandated blessing, the Talmud mandates that one recite amen at its closing.
When responding amen will constitute a prohibited interruption
When responding amen
will constitute a hefseik
(הפסק, "prohibited interruption"), one should not respond amen
. An example of this type of situation would be within the evening kiddush
on Jewish holidays
, when the blessing of sheheheyanu
is added within the kiddush
By listening intently and responding amen to each blessing of the kiddush prayer, all those present can effectively fulfill their obligation to recite kiddush, even though only one person is actually reciting it, via the principle of shomea k'oneh (שומע כעונה, "One who hears is the equivalent of one who recites").
While men either recite the sheheheyanu blessing in kiddush or dispense their obligation by listening to someone else recite it, women generally recite their sheheheyanu during candle lighting. Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank notes that anyone who lit candles should refrain from responding amen to the sheheheyanu blessing during kiddush because it would effectively be a interruption in their fulfillment of reciting kiddush, as they have already recited their sheheheyanu blessing.
Amen in Christianity
The uses of amen
("verily") 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. 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 Greek Orthodox Church it is pronounced after the name of each person of the Trinity) is probably later. Among certain Gnostic
became the name of an angel.
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"). In John's Gospel, it is repeated, "Verily, verily." Amen is also used in oath (Numbers 5:22; Deuteronomy 27:15-26; Nehemiah 5:13; 8:6; 1 Chronicles 16:36). "Amen" is further found at the end of the prayer of primitive churches (1 Corinthians 14:16).
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.
- The custom of closing prayers with amen originates in the Lord's Prayer at Matthew 6:13
- 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 Pss (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."
- Amen concludes the New Testament at Rev. 22:21.
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.
In English, the word "amen" has two primary pronunciations, ah-men (/aˈmɛn/) 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). The ah-men pronunciation is usual in British English, the one that is used in performances of classical music, in churches with more formalized rituals and liturgy and liberal Evangelical Protestant denominations. The ay-men pronunciation, a product of the Great Vowel Shift dating to the 15th century, is associated with Irish Protestantism and conservative Evangelical Protestant denominations generally, and the pronunciation that is typically sung in gospel music. Increasingly Anglophone Roman Catholics are adopting the "ay-men" pronunciation for speech, although the broad "ah" is usually retained for singing.
Amen is also used in standard, international French; however, in the Cajun French dialect, Ansi soit-il (literally, so be it), or the Québec French dialect, Ainsi soit-il, is used instead.
Amen in Islam
use the word "’Āmīn" (آمين) not only after reciting the first surah (Al Fatiha
) of the Qur'an
, but also when concluding a prayer or dua, with the same meaning as in Christianity. However not all Muslims share in this verbal tradition. The word "Amen" is not found anywhere in the Quran
(al-Amin) is one of the names of the Prophet Mohammed. The Islamic use of the word is the same as the Jewish use of the word.
Amen in Hinduism
Amen also has an equivalent in Hinduism, "astu", which is referred at end of prayers or teachings, and means "so be it". The use of the word is similar to usages in other religions.
"Tatha-astu" is used to bless someone meaning "tath" "astu" - Be It...