More than once I have come across the assertion that saying “Amen” at the end of a prayer is actually a throw back to the ancient Egyptians and acknowledges the god Amun-ra. My understanding is that “Amen” is a supplication meaning ‘let is be so’ or as Jean Luc Picard would say, ‘Make it so!’ Basically a request for prayers to be heard and answered. I can not find evidence of the Egyptian link (admittedly, I haven’t looked too hard), but has anyone else come across this? Does anyone know where this idea is coming from? And what would be your response to people who so confidently assert this? Thanks.
Hi @Keith_Moore, that’s interesting!
Are there any commonalities among the people who make this assertion? For instance, are they all members of the same religion? Also, have you ever asked them what evidence they have for their assertion?
In Hebrew, the word is very simply: אָמֵ֥ן
Aleph - Mem - Nun. The transliteration and pronunciation as ‘amen’ makes sense.
As Eerdmans Dictionary explains under its entry for “AMEN (Heb. ʾāmēn; Gk. amḗn )”:
“Transliteration of a Hebrew root implying truth, veracity, steadfastness. In both the OT and NT it accompanies weighty statements such as royal or divine pronouncements.”
Similarly, in Mounce’s Expository Dictionary:
amēn is a transliteration of the Heb. word ʾāman , which means “to show oneself dependable, know oneself to be secure, have faith.” In general amēn means “certain[ly]” or “true[ly].”
In the NT amēn is primarily a strong affirmation of what is stated. In the Gospels amēn is found only in the mouth of Jesus, generally in the phrase, “Amen, I say to you” Sometimes amēn is translated with “truly” (9:27) or “in truth” (4:24). John uses a double amēn 25x, either for liturgical reasons or to emphasize the amēn . By using amēn to introduce his words, Jesus labels them as certain and reliable and makes them binding on himself and on his hearers.
Linguistically, it is an English transliteration of a Hebrew word. We would need a strong argument to believe that what was really intended was the worship of an Egyptian god. After all, in the Pentateuch, there is a dramatic confrontation with the Egyptian gods, and the point of the story is that YHWH is totally in charge. Pharaoh, his sorcerers, and their gods are absolutely humiliated in the exchange.
Thanks Carson. This was useful. It has cropped up maybe two or three times. The people who say this also say that Christianity is a copy of pagan religions and Jesus’ resurrection was ‘inspired’ by the story of Osiris etc. I haven’t asked what evidence they have, although that is the obvious question I should have asked!
@Keith_Moore It is common for skeptics to try to argue that ancient religion was the source of Judeo-Christian theology. However, in my experience, when you go read the original texts from the ancient religion it bears little resemblance to the Bible at all. Many of the supposed ‘similarities’ are simply lies and twisting of information. So it is very important to never trust the word of those who make these claims and to investigate the original texts themselves. I do not mean to say all skeptics are dishonest, but the ones who spread these particular ideas have certainly failed to do their homework and participated in a good deal of wishful thinking.
Below are what I thought were good explanations of how skeptics present the argument and of how it falls short once examined. I also included a short excerpt from an article on ‘Amen’ being compared to the ancient egyptian deity amun - they happen to sound similar, but there is no relation beyond their sound. May the Lord grant you wisdom as you share Christ with these individuals and discernment as you encounter various truth claims!
Shallowness of Similarities Between Jesus and Ancient Deities
“On closer examination, Horus isn’t much like Jesus after all. It’s not unusual for the characteristics of ancient pre-Christian deities to be exaggerated in an effort to make them sound like Jesus. The first step in refuting such claims is to simply investigate the attributes carefully. Beyond this, we must also recognize the expectations and yearnings people have related to the existence of God. The Bible rightly describes this yearning and the innate knowledge each of us has related to God’s existence (Romans 1:18-20 and 2:12-16). We shouldn’t be surprised ancient people (created in the image of God) would think deeply about the nature of this God. Many alleged similarities between pre-Christian mythologies and Jesus are extremely general in nature and would be expected from anyone considering the existence of a Divine Creator. Primitive cultures interested in God’s nature reasoned He would have the ability to perform miracles, teach humans and form disciples. These universal expectations fail to invalidate the historicity of Jesus. As Paul recognized on Mars Hill (Acts 17:22-31), men thought deeply about the nature of God prior to His arrival as Jesus. Sometimes they imagined the details correctly, sometimes they didn’t.”
The Use of ‘Amen’
“The term “amen” is a very biblical word and concept used inclusively in the Bible. The fact that it is similar in spelling and sound to the name of a long-forgotten Egyptian sun god (at least for all practical purposes) is of no consequence unless one were using it in some kind of cult for the worship of this ancient false god who was no god at all. As Christians use the term “amen,” it is not used as a name, but as an expression of agreement, a strong affirmation of a truth, or at the close of a prayer.”