Why We Say Amen

In the opening prayer of the 117th Congress of the United States of America on January 3, 2021, prayed by Missouri Representative Emanuel Cleaver, he ended his prayer with “Amen” and “Awomen”. This opened up a subject as to why we end our prayers with “Amen.” Hint: it has nothing to do with gender. It is Latin for “So be it.”

Dictionary.com defines “Amen” as follows:

“Amen” is commonly used after a prayer, creed, or other formal statement. It is spoken to express solemn ratification or agreement. It is used adverbially to mean “certainly,” “it is so,” or “so it be.” Amen can be used in formal prayers within a prescribed script. But it is also used to punctuate personal prayers as well.

Amen can also be used as an affirmation outside of religious settings. If you call out, “We need access to quality education for all children,” there are those who might respond, “Amen!” (Quote source here.)

Thus, assigning a gender to the term, “Amen,” as to include a gender designation in association with it, is incorrect. There is no gender assigned to the word, “Amen.” In Latin, it simply means, “so be it.”

According to the Editors of the Encyclopaedia Britannica:

Amen” [is an] expression of agreement, confirmation, or desire used in worship by JewsChristians, and Muslims. The basic meaning of the Semitic root from which it is derived is “firm,” “fixed,” or “sure,” and the related Hebrew verb also means “to be reliable” and “to be trusted.” The GreeOld Testament usually translates amen as “so be it”; in the English Bible it has frequently been rendered as “verily,” or “truly.”

In its earliest use in the Bible, the amen occurred initially and referred back to the words of another speaker with whom there was agreement. It usually introduced an affirmative statement. For emphasis, as in solemn oaths, the amen was sometimes repeated. The use of the initial amen, single or double in form, to introduce solemn statements of Jesus in the Gospels (52 times in the Synoptic Gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke—and 25 times in the Gospel According to John) had no parallel in Jewish practice. Such amens expressed the certainty and truthfulness of the statement that followed.

Use of the amen in Jewish temple liturgy as a response by the people at the close of a doxology or other prayer uttered by a priest seems to have been common as early as the time of the 4th century BC. This Jewish liturgical use of amen was adopted by the Christians. Justin Martyr (2nd century AD) indicated that amen was used in the liturgy of the Eucharist and was later introduced into the baptismal service.

A final amen, added by a speaker who offered thanksgiving or prayers, public or private, to sum up and confirm what he himself had said, developed naturally from the earlier usage in which others responded with the amen. Use of the final amen is found in the Psalms and is common in the New Testament. Jews used amen to conclude prayers in ancient times, and Christians closed every prayer with it. As hymns became more popular, the use of the final amen was extended. (Quote source here.)

Even the pagan origins of the word “amen” do not assigned a gender designation to the word. In an article published on June 1, 2017, titled, The Pagan Origins of the Word Amen (True or False),” the article states under the section titled “Pagans”:

From old Egyptian texts, we can see that people regarded the Sun as the emblem of the Creator. They called the Sun Ra, and all other gods and goddesses were forms of the Creator. One of these gods was Amen; a secret, hidden and mysterious god named variously Amen, Amon, Amun, Ammon and Amounra.

For the first eleven dynasties (c. 3000-1987 B.C.) Amen was just a minor god, but by the 17th dynasty (c. 1500 B.C.) he had been elevated to be the national god of southern Egypt. This position gave Amen the attributes and characteristics of the most ancient gods, and his name became Amen-Ra, that is, a supreme form of God the Creator. By the 18th Dynasty (1539-1295 B.C.) a college had been established to study Amen-Ra and as a focal point for worship.

For the first eleven dynasties (c. 3000-1987 B.C.) Amen was just a minor god, but by the 17th dynasty (c. 1500 B.C.) he had been elevated to be the national god of southern Egypt. This position gave Amen the attributes and characteristics of the most ancient gods, and his name became Amen-Ra, that is, a supreme form of God the Creator. By the 18th Dynasty (1539-1295 B.C.) a college had been established to study Amen-Ra and as a focal point for worship.

The Jews settled in Egypt for around 400 years4 from 1847 B.C. and during this sojourn, there is no doubt they would have been fully exposed to the worship of Amen-Ra. By the time of their exodus from Egypt in 1447 B.C., Amen would certainly be in their language even if it was not their god. It would be a word that had associations with reverence and majesty.

This is not difficult to understand. People still talk about Moses, Jesus, Mohammed and Buddha, and often use those names completely out of context as expletives. Amen was seen as a powerful god and the name continued, out of context, as an exclamation or salutation; a classic example of language evolution. From the Jews, the word was adopted by Christians, Muslims and others.

People still talk about Moses, Jesus, Mohammed and Buddha, and often use those names completely out of context as expletives. Amen was seen as a powerful god and the name continued, out of context, as an exclamation or salutation; a classic example of language evolution. From the Jews, the word was adopted by Christians, Muslims and others.

It would be a word that had associations with reverence and majesty. This is not difficult to understand. People still talk about Moses, Jesus, Mohammed and Buddha, and often use those names completely out of context as expletives. Amen was seen as a powerful god and the name continued, out of context, as an exclamation or salutation; a classic example of language evolution. From the Jews, the word was adopted by Christians, Muslims and others.

Amen was seen as a powerful god and the name continued, out of context, as an exclamation or salutation; a classic example of language evolution. From the Jews, the word was adopted by Christians, Muslims and others.

So Amen was originally the name of a Pagan god, who was considered a form of God the Creator. But he was certainly not considered God, or Christ. Interestingly, most Pagans today tend not to use the word, preferring instead to say “So mote it be”, an old Anglo-Saxon term. Perhaps they see the word Amen in the Bible and the Tanakh and don’t want to be associated with Christianity or the like. Indeed, in the Bible we see Jesus Christ referred to as “The Amen”. Christ is God’s Amen to all that he has spoken. Thereby the name used for an old Egyptian god is replaced by the same name used for Christ.

Like many other words used in religion, (or art, mathematics, medicine, etc) it’s easy to believe that our ancestors saw no point in creating new vocabulary when existing and familiar words could be recycled. Yet some people are vehemently protective of things and believe Amen is a Biblical word which is also found in the Tanakh and in Islam and happens to sound like the name of a Pagan god. Others believe it is an Islamic word that can also be found in the Bible and Tanakh. And so on. The whole issue is hotly debated and any Pagan link denied by many. Who knows how many accidental or deliberate mistranslations have crept in over the centuries.

Those who believe that God is the Great Mathematician will no doubt point to the numeric value of Amen:

“Finally, we may note that the word Amen occurs not infrequently in early Christian inscriptions and that it was often introduced into anathemas and gnostic spells. Moreover, as the Greek letters which form Amen according to their numerical values total 99 (alpha=1, mu=40, epsilon=8, nu=50), this number often appears in inscriptions, especially of Egyptian origin, and a sort of magical efficacy seems to have been attributed to its symbol.”

Nowhere in the Bible, the Tanakh or the Qur’an can we find words to suggest one can be redeemed by merely uttering a magic word.

Whether Amen is magic, rooted in a Pagan deity, originally a Christian word, a Muslim word, a Jewish word, or anything else, the question is the same: So what? When Christians, Jews and Muslims say “Amen,” they do not invoke any god or any power just by saying that word or indeed any other word. Amen does not even make other words more sincere. But Amen, like all the other language we use, helps us to focus on what we mean in our hearts.

And that is the answer to “So what?” What really matters is what is said by the heart. (Quote source here.)

So, what truly matters when we say “Amen” is, as the last sentence above states, what is said by the heart. Do we truly believe in whatever we are praying when we end it with “Amen”? Jesus modeled for us how to pray in Matthew 6:5-15, and in the KJV and NKJV, the prayer ends in verse 13 with, “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen” (KJV and NKJV).

“Amen” has nothing to do with gender, but everything to do with matters of the heart. And for Christians it means–For Yours [God] is the kingdom and the power and the glory…

Forever . . .

Amen . . .

So be it . . . .

YouTube Video: “Amen” by Micah Tyler:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here