Key Word Analysis
To the reader of this work up to this point, a separate chapter for the word Amen may seem a bit out of place. The previous chapters have dealt with multiple words or phrases, examining them in depth. This single word may not seem worthy of the same attention.
While this may be one of the most common words in the modern church, Amen was not used that often in the days of Jesus or in the Old Testament. Its use at the end of this passage is significant and purposeful. It is not just a word to close the passage. It is used to validate all that preceded it. It is used only forty seven times in the entire Bible.[i] Given its common use today, that number indicates a word of much deeper significance in biblical times.
Amen/ ἀμήν in verbal use was spoken at both the beginning and the end of a discourse.[ii] At the end of a phrase, it indicated that the preceding words were of importance or of significant truth. It was most commonly used at the beginning of a phrase. When used at the end, it indicated that something highly significant had been declared. The disciples would have been familiar with the word but because of its less than common use, it would have indicated that the words just spoken were very significant. When used at the beginning of a phrase, it indicates that words of importance are to follow.
Jesus used the word fifty times in the New Testament at the beginning of a phrase. It is only used once by Jesus, at the end of this passage. It is used only here at the end of the prayer’s doxology. Since the doxology of the prayer is not recorded in the later New Testament version, the word’s use here may be suspect by some scholars. For this work, we are accepting the prayer’s version in the NASB as the authority, so the analysis of this word here at the end of this passage is included.
It was translated as in faith, surely, truly, may it be fulfilled or it is done. It was sometimes repeated to show even more emphasis on the words to come.
“For truly I say to you”, Matthew 5:18
“Truly I say to you”, Matthew 5:26
“Truly I say to you”, Mark 3:28
“Truly I say to you”, Mark 14:30
“Truly I say to you”, Luke 4:24
“truly I say to you”, Luke 12:37
“Truly, truly I say to you”, John 1:51
“Truly, truly I say to you”, John 13:21
“For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen”, Matthew 6:13
The disciples would have seen the words of Jesus as even more significant with the addition of Amen at the end. They would also have heard the word based on their perspective from the Old Testament uses studied in their culture and upbringing.
Historical Theology Analysis
Of the biblical uses of this word, about half are in the Old Testament and half in the New Testament. It was used most commonly at the end of a phrase in the Old Testament. This is in contrast to its use at the beginning of phrases in the New Testament. In both cases, it indicates the significance of the words that follow or precede it.
“And the woman shall say Amen. Amen.” Numbers 5:22
“And all the people shall answer and say, Amen.” Deuteronomy 27:15
“And the people shall say Amen.” Deuteronomy 27:16
“And all the assembly said “Amen!””, Nehemiah 5:13
“And all the people answered “Amen, Amen!””, Nehemiah 8:6
“And may the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen and Amen.” Psalms 72:19
“Blessed be the Lord forever! Amen and Amen.” Psalm 89:52
“Then I said, “Amen, O Lord.”” Jeremiah 11:5
“Amen! May the Lord do so”, Jeremiah 28:6
The disciples would have been familiar with Amen but would have also understood it as an uncommon ending to important teachings. The last word of Jesus in this setting would have given even more significance to what he has just shared.
Contemporary Theology Analysis and Summary
The last word of the passage gives a clear teaching in our journey of understanding both the prayer and life implications of the words of Jesus on that day. It ends with a unique word in this application.
Despite our daily use of Amen it is only used once in the Bible at the end of a prayer, this prayer. It gives a completely unique ending to a completely unique passage. The total impact of this passage is “more than the sum of its parts.”[iii] Although toward the beginning of the ministry of Jesus, it foretold of things to come. It is a “collect passage.”[iv]
It is a passage that collects all the thoughts and needs of those that came before it and summarizes them all in one place. In this case, it was the beginning of the summary of the ministry of Jesus, telling the disciples both the collection of teachings from their culture and upbringing that were useful in their walk with The Father and the teachings of Jesus that were to come.
In the end, it was concluded with the word available that would give those words the highest level of credibility and significance. This last word also gives an ending of “the voice of a confident faith.”[v] It is so. If we live and pray the contents of the passage with confidence, with faith, it will be so. Faith teaches that it is already so, if we believe.
It is or mission to understand, live and pray, then claim the passage to make it so in our lives.
[iii]Nicholas Ayo, The Lord’s Prayer, (London, England: University of Notre Dame Press, 1992), 205.
[v]Tho. Hooker, “A Brief Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer”, Benjamine Allen’s Popes Head Alley Shop Printings, William H. Gross Theological Website, http://www.onthewing.org, March 2012, Accessed January 29, 2016.