Yahweh, The God of Amen

One of the most interesting tittles of Christ in the New Testament in found in Revelation 3:14. In this text, Christ addresses himself to the church of Laodicea as “The Amen”:

“And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the origin of God’s creation” (Revelation 3:14).

The title of Jesus, “the Amen” indicates that he is “the faithful and true” witness of God. In the book of Revelation the words “faithful and true” refer to the word of God (Revelation 21:5) and to the one who bearS witness to the word of God (Revelation 21:6). Because Christ is a true and faithful witness of God, Paul says that in him, all of God’s promises find fulfillment. Paul wrote, “For in him every one of God’s promises is a ‘Yes.’ For this reason it is through him that we say the ‘Amen,’ to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 1:20).

According to Smith (2016: 80), when Jesus refers to himself as “the Amen,” this statement reflects an important truth which Jesus is trying to communicate to the believers in Laodicea, that is, that he “is to be trusted because of his unique identification and sharing of identity with God.” The biblical background for Jesus calling himself a faithful witness goes back to the notion that God and Israel being the ‘faithful witnesses’ to the new creation in Isaiah 43:10-12. In addition, as God’s “Amen,” Jesus is as reliable as his Father who is the God of “Amen.”

The word “Amen” is a Hebrew word that was associated with the worship of Israel. In the Old Testament, the word is used in a liturgical context, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen and Amen” (Psalm 41:13). The word “amen” is used as a response, to agree with what has been said: “Cursed be anyone who misleads a blind person on the road. All the people shall say, ‘Amen!’” (Deuteronomy 27:18). In addition, the word “Amen” “typically appears at the close of commands, blessings, curses, doxologies, and prayers” (Chilton 1992: 1:184).

The English word “amen” derives from the Hebrew word ’āman, a word which means “to be faithful,” “to be reliable.” Several other Hebrew words derive from the word ’āman.

The Hebrew word ’emuna means “true” and carries with it the idea of reliability. The word ’emuna appears forty-nine times in the Hebrew Bible. Of these, twenty-four times the word is used to refer to God. The word is used to describe God as a true and faithful God. The word is also used to describe God’s nature and the way he relates to people. The psalmist calls God’s word “word of truth” (Psalm 119:43).

Another word that derives from the word ’āman is the word ’emet, a word which means “truth,” “faithfulness.” This word is also used to describe one aspect of God’s character. In his revelation to Moses on Mount Sinai, God said that he is a God who abounds in “steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6).

In his explanation of this aspect of God’s character, Cross (1995: 13) wrote,

The word ’emet comes from the root ’amen (like our familiar amen) which has the meaning, to be firm, sure. Different aspects of this meaning can be recognized in the uses of the term: (1) faithfulness, that which is reliable, trustworthy; (2) constancy, that which does not change, but persists and abides; (3) truth, that which has substance and is real, in contrast with the false, which is nothing. The God of ’emet is faithful, constant, and true: his word is sure, his actions are trustworthy, and his inner nature does not change.

There are two places in the Bible where the word “Amen” is used as a proper noun. In the New Testament Jesus is called “Amen” in Revelation 3:14. In the Old Testament, Yahweh is called ēlōhê ʼāmēn (Isaiah 65:16), “the God of Amen” or “the God Amen.” The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, translates the divine title as “the True God.” Most English translations either emend the text or follow the Septuagint.

For instance, the NRSV translates the divine name as “the God of faithfulness”:

Then whoever invokes a blessing in the land shall bless by the God of faithfulness, and whoever takes an oath in the land shall swear by the God of faithfulness; because the former troubles are forgotten and are hidden from my sight (Isaiah 65:16 NRSV).

The Jewish Publication Society Bible (TNK) translates the divine title as “the true God”:

For whoever blesses himself in the land Shall bless himself by the true God; And whoever swears in the land Shall swear by the true God. The former troubles shall be forgotten, Shall be hidden from My eyes (Isaiah 65:16 TNK).

The NIV translates the divine name as “the God of truth”:

Whoever invokes a blessing in the land will do so by the God of truth; he who takes an oath in the land will swear by the God of truth. For the past troubles will be forgotten and hidden from my eyes (Isaiah 65:16 NIV).

The only translations that comes close to translating the divine name as it appears in the Hebrew text is The Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition:

In which he that is blessed upon the earth, shall be blessed in God, amen: and he that sweareth in the earth, shall swear by God, amen: because the former distresses are forgotten, and because they are hid from my eyes (Isaiah 65:16 DRA).

Blenkinsopp (1995: 396) said that “It has been the common practice to emend “the God Amen” to “the God of truth” (RSV) or something similar. But Jewish and early Christian writers did not find it implausible. See 2 Corinthians 1:17-20; Revelation 3:14.” Following the traditions of the early Christians writers, Blenkinsopp (2003: 28) translated the divine title as “the God whose name is Amen.”

The one who blesses himself in the land will do so by the God whose name is Amen, and the one who swears an oath in the land will do so by the God whose name is Amen, for the former troubles are forgotten and are hidden from my sight.

According to Jespen (1974: 322), in the Old Testament, the word “amen” is associated with blessing (Nehemiah 8:6) and curse (Numbers 5:22). This is also the reason the God of Amen is associated with blessing and curse. According to Jespen, this means that “blessing and curse should be uttered by the God who confirms blessing and cursing, because he always says “Amen” to his own words and stands by it.”

The text in Isaiah 65:13-16 speaks about two groups of people who lived in the Persian community: those who forsake Yahweh to practice a form of syncretistic religion and the servants of Yahweh, a group of faithful believers known as “the tremblers” or those who tremble at Yahweh’s words (Isaiah 66:5). According to the prophet, when those who have rejected Yahweh die, they will leave their name behind as a curse: “You shall leave your name to my chosen to use as a curse” (Isaiah 65:15).

However, the followers of Yahweh will use a new name by which they will bless rather than curse. When the members of the faithful community in the Persian period bless or make an oath, they will invoke the name of Yahweh whose name is Amen. This name indicates that the God Amen will give reliable warranty to the blessing and to the oath as he has given in the past.

The faithful followers of Yahweh will bear the name of the God Amen and for this reason they will be known as the Amen people, a people who say “Yes” to God (Blenkinsopp 2003: 282).

Claude Mariottini
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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BIBLIOGRAPHY

Blenkinsopp, Joseph, “The ‘Servant of the Lord’ in Third Isaiah: Profile of a Pietistic Group in the Persian Period.” Pages 392-412. In The Place Is Too Small for Us: The Israelite Prophets in Recent Scholarship. Edited by Robert P. Gordon. Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1995.

Blenkinsopp, Joseph, Isaiah 56-66. The Anchor Bible. New York: Doubleday, 2003.

Chilton, Bruce, “Amen,” ed. David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 1: 184–186.

Freedman, David Noel, “God Compassionate and Gracious,” Western Watch 6 (1995): 6-24.

Jespen, A., ̕āman, Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament. Volume 1. Pages 292-323. Eerdmans, 1974.

Smith, Brandon, “The Identification of Jesus with YHWH in the Book of Revelation: A Brief Sketch.” Criswell Theological Review 14 (2016): 67-84.

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