The root of the word comes from Hebrew aman, which means to nourish and make strong. Emunah (faithfulness) also comes from aman. The ancient Greeks used the word (AMHN) from Hebrew to mean 'truth', 'surely', 'absolutely'. It is one of just a few Hebrew words which have been imported unchanged into Church liturgy. The current meaning of Amen and its pronunciation is pretty much the same in any modern language and religion.
Christians say either 'Ahh-men' or 'Ay-men'.
The 'Ahh-men' pronunciation tends to be a bit more formal and used in liturgy, choral music, etc. An example can be heard in the closing part of Handel's Messiah 'Worthy is the Lamb'2. The Ahh-men in the final chorus is repeated dozens of times, runs to six pages in a typical choral score, and usually takes around 3 minutes 40 seconds to sing.
The 'Ay-men' pronunciation is often associated with evangelical Christians and gospel singing. Unlike Handel's Messiah, the gospel chorus 'Amen' has only five words, all the same (Ay----men, Ay----men, Ay----men, Ay-men, Ay--men.) yet can take much longer to perform as it is repeated over and over again, bringing the congregation into harmony.
For Jews, Amen is also an acronym for El Melech Ne'eman, which means "Mighty, Faithful King".
Muslims use Amen (Amin or Ameen) in the same way as Christians and Jews, even though the word does not appear in the Qur'an. Muslims say it after reciting Surah al-Fatihah, after completing their prayers, at the end of letters, etc.
Buddhists and Hindus
Many Buddhists and Hindus also use Amen at the end of prayers and as concurrence in the same way as the other religions.
But where did it all begin?
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.
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.
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 Bible3 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.
Some people are protective of things and believe Amen is a Biblical word which is also found in the Tanakh and in Islam, and happens to be the same four letters as 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:
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.
The Hebrew word mistranslated as ‘amen’ in English Bible versions is spelled with the letters, Aleph, Mem, and Nun. The correct pronunciation of the word is Aw-mane. Technically, ‘amen’ is a failed attempt to transliterate the word, rather than a translation of the word. Translated, the Hebrew Aw-mane is literally reflected as the phrases, “Surely,” “Truly,” or “So be it.” - (see Strong’s # 543) So instead of ‘amen,’ the proper translation of the Hebrew Aw-mane would best be, “So be it.” And if the word is to be transliterated rather than translated, then it must retain the phonetic pronunciation by remaining as “Awmane” - not ‘amen.’ Now let’s look at the Greek word translated as ‘amen.’
The Greek word mistranslated as ‘amen’ in English Bibles, is spelled with the letters, Alpha, Mu, Eta, and Nu. The correct pronunciation of the word is Ahmane (nearly identical to the Hebrew, Aw-mane). Once again, the word ‘amen’ was a failed attempt to transliterate the word, rather than a translation of the word. When translated, much as the Hebrew word from which it is derived, Ahmane is literally reflected as, “Surely,” “Verily,” and “So be it.” - (see Strong’s # 281) The use of ‘amen’ came about later as an mispronunciation of both the Hebrew Awmane, and the Greek Ahmane. Amen became widely accepted and used without consideration for the integrity of the Hebrew and Greek pronunciations, and without consideration of the origin, and much older use of ‘amen’ - the name of the Egyptian god, Amen.
Now some of you may be saying, “Who cares, so it’s ‘Awmane’ instead of ‘Amen.’ God knows what I mean. Besides, what’s the big difference?” Well, the difference is that one word, Awmane, is the biblically inspired word, whereas the other word, amen, is the name of a pagan god, and using his name in a closing to a prayer is disobeying the Word of God. Does the slight difference in pronunciation really make a difference? You bet. What if we slightly changed the pronunciation of sin, to son. Now Christ has come to cleanse away our sons. I know that example is a little ridiculous, but I’m just trying to make a point. We are supposed to obey the Word of God. He tells us not to invoke the names of other gods. So can you really convince yourself that using the name of an ancient pagan god to close all your prayers is okay with God? Would it be okay if we said, “… and we ask this in your holy name, Zues.”?
When we did it in ignorance, maybe God looked past that - but now that you know the truth, what will you do? Will you continue to use the name of a pagan god to close your prayers because “it’s too hard to change that now” or because you’ve been using the ‘amen’ tradition since you were saved? Will you rationalize and justify why you can keep on invoking the name of the Egyptian god, Amen? Will you find a pastor or teacher to reassure you that “it’s okay to say ‘amen’ - don’t worry about that technical stuff.” ? - Or … will you give thanks to God for revealing His truth and stop using the name of a pagan god, and begin using what God wrote in His Word? - The very word spoken by our Savior. It’s up to you. You now know the truth. What are you going to do with it? - Abide by it, or disregard it and justify it away? I hope you have been truly blessed by this brief study.
Quote: What's the deal with the pronunciation of "amen", at least in AmE? When I was growing up, and I was raised Catholic, my understanding was that Catholics said "ay-men" /eI'mEn/, Protestants said "ah-men", and Jews said "oh-main" /oU'meIn/, rhyming with lo mein. Let's focus on the ay-men vs. ah-men thing. Is there indeed a Catholic/Protestant split of this sort? Seems too simple, and, moreover, whenever one hears AmE "amen" in a non-religious context (e.g. "Amen to that!"), it's always "ay-men", and there must be lots of Prots saying "ay-men to that", and none saying "ah-men to that". I can definitely think of contexts (e.g. religious settings attended by a mixture of known Catholics and Prots) where it was definitely the case that the Catholics all said "ay-men" and the Prots all said "ah-men". However, there may have been other factors at work (geography, social class, sect of Protestantism, regional or ethnic variety of Catholicism). I can well believe that many American Protestants must say "ay-men". But are there numerous American Catholics who say "ah-men" in religious contexts, and they've just been under my radar all this time?