Is the word 'Amen' the same as the Egyptian 'Amun'?

Amen     © Rae West 1999

Is the word 'Amen' derived from the Egyptian 'Amun'?

and other amen-related issues



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Jews as usurpers: amusing modern example.
Left: 'Tutankhamun' mask. Right: faked orientalised version (ITV, 2016)
What is the origin of "Amen"? Looking through a sample of my downloaded rationalists, Ingersoll, Mangasarian, McCabe, Wheless,and A D White, I found, surprisingly, that not one of them considers this question anywhere. Let's examine it...
Concise Oxford Dictionary & Websters agree: "Hebrew Amen adopted into Greek". There's no comment on a possible Egyptian or Babylonian (or other) origin. "Hebrew = certainty, truth." or 'verily!'. A Biblical Dictionary agrees: true, truly. So be it. The gist is that 'amen' is the last word in truth.

A friend of mine (who shall remain nameless, but who knows some Hebrew) thinks Amen is formed on the acronym principle from three words (or syllables?) meaning God, King, and something else. This theory seems likely to be a retrospective fix-up.

A brief survey reveals there are be surprisingly few mentions in the OT. Psalms has some; and Deuteronomy has a long list along the lines of: 27:16: "Cursed be he that setteth light by his father or his mother. And all the people shall say, Amen." You can say that again!

But almost all (or all?) books in the NT contain 'Amen': e.g.: Corinthians 1 14:16: Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?

A few other samples:
Chaucer:
As seith my lord, so make us alle goode men,
And brynge us to his heighe blisse. Amen.

'Shakespeare': always uses it in an emphatic but not very religious sense, e.g.-
To cry amen to that, thus we appear.
My amen to't!
Count, take of me my daughter, and with her my fortunes: his grace hath made the match, and all grace say Amen to it.

Borrow's Romany Rye has something (but my copy is warehoused, so I can't check).

Typical modern constructions, used in assorted ceremonies from military to culinary, generally express unthinking assent, related to the traditional use as a device to show that the multitude are willing to be sheeplike:
For what we have received we thank the Lord. Amen.
For what we are about to receive may the Lord make us truly thankful. Amen.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
In nomine patris et filii et spiritu sancti. Amen.

There's considerable variation in the spelling of Egyptian words. In 1922, when Howard Carter, working for Lord Carnarfon, first saw the 'solid bullion' in the tomb, he spelt the mummified inhabitant Tut-ankh-amen. The spelling 'Ammon Ra' was common then, too. By the 1930s Breasted wrote Tutankhamon. And by 1972, the British Museum presented the 'Treasures of Tutankhamun'. Websters spells Amun 'Amon'. This suggests - as might be expected from a language very long dead - that the pronunciation is largely guesswork, with the vowels more questionable than the consonants. 'Amun' and 'Amen' on this test could clearly be the same word.

On Egyptian influence, computer searching reveals miscellaneous points:

"The story in the Gospel of Luke, the first and second chapters is," says Malvert, "a reproduction, 'point by point,' of the story in stone of the miraculous birth of Amunothph."

Tuthmoses (also written Tut-Moses, Tuthmosis) is one suggestion of Jewish influence - whatever that means. Another example of this is in David Rohl, who uses Nile inundation records to try to find 'fat' and 'lean' years, and identifies the Amenemhat III Labyrinth and the Bahr Yussef canal as other evidences of 'Joseph'. This is one obvious possible route of transmission from Egypt of the word 'Amun'.

Everyone agrees Amun (or Amon) was originally the Egyptian god of the reproductive forces and, later as amalgamated with Ra (or Re) to form a superior Amun, the king of the gods. Quite a number of Pharaohs include Amun as part of their name: without worrying too much about spelling, or who these people were, I found with a search: Amenmesse, several Amenhoteps including Amenhotep IV who renamed himself Akhenaton, but apparently was defeated by the priests (who ritually defaced his mummy) in his attempt to make Aton the true and only god. Ary-mery-Amun, Amenimnisu, Amenemope, a collection of Amenemhets, and the famous Tutankhamun.

Could there be an Indian influence? There's a suggestion that 'amen' came into Christianity from India, 'Om being the traditional first name of god'. I have no idea whether there's anything in this.
The Egyptian 'Temple of Ammon' is etymologically related to the Greek for sand. (Says Holmyard). Alexander of Macedon - ["Alexander killed more Greeks than Persians; but don't say that to any Greek"] - was 'declared' a god by divine generation, by the Pagan Oracle of Jupiter Ammon. Alexander supposedly wanted to be buried in the Egyptian oasis (west of 'Alexandria') where this oracle, of 'zeus-ammon' (or Jupiter-Ammon) was. Alexander appears in the Quran as the 'two horned one', after a ram the supposed father of Ammon. Edom, Ammon, and Moab. Ammonites and lots on children of Ammon.
So there's convincing evidence for the existence of the name 'Amun' for thousands of years in Egypt; and for cultural contact which might have spread it. I don't know whether it's known whether the priests of Ammon Ra and Jupiter Ammon and the rest chanted "Amun" at any point in their proceedings - though they must surely have mentioned it occasionally. No doubt the conventional meaning in such Hebrew writings as exist now use 'amen' to as a confirming device. Whether they always did, and if so whether the meaning was the same I have no idea. However, one suspects the word must always have been a special, isolated word, not used in ordinary senses, but reserved for incantations.
So I conclude there's a strong a priori case for "Amen" simply being the name of the God Amun. It's amusing to contemplate the idea of people using a word for a couple of thousand years without realising its meaning.
Tailpiece: Most frivolous quasi-derivation? Irma Kurtz, when young, thought "A-men" in the US pronunciation was something to do with men.

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HTML Rae West (randomised color technique). First uploaded 1999-02-12. Standalone file uploaded 5 Aug 2016. 'Tutankhamun' mask and prop 9 Nov 2016
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