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Was this phrase one that Jesus coined to emphasize His authority, or did He adopt it from the rabbinical schools? Was it a common phrase by the Greek orators, or the Roman poets?

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The phrase as quoted in Greek was more literally Amen, I tell you (ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν), which in Aramaic would have been close to what is in the Syriac Peshitta:

ܐܝܡܝܢ ܐܢܐ ܐܢܐ ܐܡܪ ܠܟܘܢ
amen ana ana amar lakhun

Literally: Amen, I [I again repeated for emphasis] say to you.

The same phrase appears around 75 times in the New Testament. In the Gospel of John, Jesus is even more emphatic: ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν - Amen, Amen I say unto you (25 times).


The use of "Amen" as a statement of affirmation would have been common among Jewish rabbis during the time of Jesus.* "Amen" is a Hebrew word (אָמֵן) that means "so be it," "verily," or "truly." Rabbis would use this term to affirm the truth of a statement or teaching.

However, Jesus' use of ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν or ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν was distinct in that he used it to preface his own teachings, emphasizing their importance and authority. In contrast, rabbis of the time would typically use "Amen" after making a statement or quoting Scripture to affirm the truth of what had just been said. The way Jesus used these phrases set his teachings apart, highlighting their significance and demonstrating his authority as a teacher. This usage was among what annoyed the Pharisees about Jesus.


* See, e.g., R.E. Brown, R. E., The Gospel According to John (I-XII) in The Anchor Yale Bible

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  • + 1 and thanks.... but I'd add rabbinical writings were not preserved until two centuries later. So we can't be certain that they accurately reflect the usage of Jesus' time. Apr 27, 2023 at 15:33
  • @DanFefferman, I'm thinking that the Jewish writings are likely to be more accurate than what the critics are saying. For example, according to the Mishna, it was the Jewish custom in the first century to memorize a Rabbi's teaching as a ritual of sorts. It was taught that a good pupil was like a "plastered cistern that loses not a drop." (Mishna Aboth, II.8.) That being said, the specific examples that R.E. Brown brings out from the Jewish tradition would be helpful to improve this post.
    – Jess
    Apr 28, 2023 at 22:20
  • @Jess I too lean toward the idea that the Mishna reflects 1st cent. usage... I merely point out that this is not certain. May 6, 2023 at 15:33
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"Amen" is a Hebrew word spoken to affirm the truth or veracity of what is being said. See Appendix below. It occurs 30 times in the OT, most often in Doxologies.

Many parts of the NT were written in a Bible-soaked culture of Jewry; thus it is unsurprising that "Amen" and many other Hebrew words appear in the NT.

However, "Amen, I say to you" is unique to Jesus and must be regarded as one His personal mannerisms or characteristics of His speech. Jesus is the only person to use this word at the beginning of a statement to show His personal authority. [Elsewhere it only occurs at the conclusion of what is said.]

APPENDIX - BDB entry for אָמֵן Amen

אָמֵן adverb verily, truly Deuteronomy 27:15,26 (12 t.) 1 Kings 1:36; Nehemiah 5:13; Jeremiah 11:5; Jeremiah 28:6 & doxologies 1 Chronicles 16:36 ( = Psalm 106:48); אָמֵן (ו) אָמֵן Numbers 5:22 (P) Nehemiah 8:6, & in the doxologies Psalm 41:14; Psalm 72:19; Psalm 8:9Psalm 48. ἀμήν = Amen: אֱלֹהֵי אָמֵן Isaiah 65:16 (twice in verse) God of Amen De Che RVm; compare Revelation 3:14, or God of faithfulness, God of truth (RV) (perhaps read אֹמֶן Che Di).

Note that the phrase cannot have come from Greek sources because it employs a transliterated Hebrew word, "Amen" which would not have been used by either orators or Greek writers. It is decidedly Hebrew and appears about 30 times in the OT.

However, it might have come from the Jewish Rabbis but we have no record of this.

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Various books state that there is no other parallel to this phrase, the word was used at the end of a curse or something for emphasis. Moulton's Grammar of NT Greek states that though it has no rabbinic literature parallel, it was well established among the Jews.

It is noteworthy, that this idiomatic phrase by Jesus makes it hard to defend the doctrine that Jesus' teachings were sarcastic or satirical, and should not be taken at face value to be obeyed. John 8:34 "Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin".

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