I have been wondering about something that David Stern does in the Complete Jewish Bible. He identifies a Hebraism at work and attempts to translate it as such. It is the phrase, Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω (e.g. from Jn 3.3), which we translate “In truth I tell you,” exclaimed Jesus."
Stern believes that this Greek phrase is a calque of a familiar Jewish cultural expression. In his preface, he says that the proper translation of Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν is "Amen! Amen!" and that λέγω begins a new sentence. The gist of the meaning is something like, "How true! And let me add..."
Let's take the same verse as an example. John 3:2,3 would read:
[Nicodemus] said to him: “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one could give such signs as you are giving, unless God were with him.”
“Amen, amen!” exclaimed Jesus. “What's more, unless a person is reborn, they cannot see the kingdom of God!”
In effect, I want to say, "Amen, amen!" to what has been translated so far, and add my own "And furthermore," by suggesting we accept David Stern's report on Jewish culture at face value. Does anybody have evidence that what he is saying about his culture is not true?
In other words, I'm suggesting going through and changing the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew word amen into an English transliteration of it, namely amen, and modifying what follows to harmonize. I think it will both enhance the OEB and provide more faithful translation for the reader.
Just fyi, the Catholic New American Bible does this too.
An interesting question of how to translate a phrase. My thoughts: "Amen, amen" is not exactly common language outside of religious cultures in the US. The word itself was greek, to latin, then used in English.
So maybe best to fully translate it into common english, used beyond religious sub-cultures if possible.
Different attempts by translators of taking "amen, amen" as a phrase into modern English include:
"I tell you the solemn truth," (Mounce)
"Truly, truly, I say to you," (ESV)
"I assure you:" (HCSB)
"I tell you the truth," (The Voice)
"You are absolutely right, take it from me:" (The Message)
Do any of those inspire other ideas?
This post was updated on .
I work as a Spanish interpreter, so I know that 60% of the words in Spanish are at least vaguely similar to English words. This makes learning Spanish easier than Hebrew.
Hebrew has two words in common with English. "Hallelujah" and "Amen."
The difficulty is not in how to translate "Amen." John chose not to translate it. I suggest the OEB follow his lead. Why would we want to translate a term that the author chose not to translate? It makes more sense to leave it untranslated.
The difficulty is in translating what follows. It is usually λέγω ὑµῖν. But a simple "But I say" is sometimes not a fluid or intuitive translation. For example, John 13:14-16 translates it as In truth I tell you. If we keep it as simple as possible, it reads,
If I, then — ‘the Master’ and ‘the teacher’ — have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet; for I have given you an example, so that you may do just as I have done to you. Amen! Amen! I tell you, a servant is not greater than their master, neither is a messenger greater than the one who sends them.
Researching this a little bit more, looking for examples, I find Mark 11:23. That gives me another idea. In Greek, it says,
ἀμὴν γὰρ λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι ὃς ἂν εἴπῃ τῷ ὄρει τούτῳ, ἄρθητι καὶ βλήθητι εἰς τὴν θάλασσαν...
The current OEB reads, “Have faith in God!” replied Jesus. “I tell you that if anyone should say to this hill ‘Be lifted up and hurled into the sea!’, without ever a doubt in his mind, but in the faith that what he says will be done, he would find that it would be."
I think he is saying something like this:
“Have faith in God!” replied Jesus. “Amen, I tell you! Because if anyone should say to this hill ‘Be lifted up and hurled into the sea!’, without ever a doubt in his mind, but in the faith that what he says will be done, he would find that it would be."
That gives me the thought that maybe the idiom is not Amen!, but Amen, I tell you! Sort of gives you a glimpse into Jesus thinking out loud, in the Mark passage.
The reason Stern's comment impressed me so much when I first read it was because it reminded me of the way Jewish people talk. They do actually use "Amen" like this.
We have a contemporary Gentile idiom that says the same thing: Am I right? For Amen, amen! it would be Am I right, or am I right? Another one you hear in the Southern preaching tradition is Can I get an amen? The trick is having a translation that gets that feeling across.
0281 GK0297 amEn (24) amen/ amain HEB
The Hebraism is used 24 different times by our apostle Paul, in his 13 epistles; and I like your idea of just leaving it untranslated, because even Paul, when addressing a group of all Greeks (may not be exact, but I liked the alliteration) ...when addressing a Greek audiance, still included this Hebraism, expecting them to get it ...
That is, an Ellipsis of sorts, where when Paul uses this, his audiance is expected to mentally add ...
"Amen ... I tell you!"
"Amen ... Am I right!
"Amen ... Can I get an amen!"
Am I right, am I right? Of course, we'd have to show the reader our choice of Elipsis in brackets, so that they would know that this was only our editorial enhancement ..." Amen [Am I right!] " ....
Ro 1:25 "...which [One] He be, blessable into the eons. Amen."
Ro 9:5 "...the [One] on all [things] being a blessable God for the eons. Amen."
Ro 11:36 "...unto Same the glory into the eons. Amen."
Ro 14:26/16:27 "...unto Which [be] the glory into the eons. Amen."
Ro 15:30 "Yet the God of the peace [be] with all of you. Amen."
Ro 16:24 "The grace of Yeshua Anointed, the Lord of us, of [be] with all of you. Amen."
1Co 14:16 "14:16* Since if-ever you unto the spirit should bless,
how-else the [one] to the place of the layman up-fulfilling,
to the “Amen” will he utter at yours, the thanking,
since-definitely to what you say, he has had perceived not?"
That is, "Can I get an Amen? ...
Certainly Not! For crying out loud ... NADA!
Our nada who art in nada, nada be thy nada ...
1Co 16:24 "The love of me [be] with all of you, in Anointed Yeshua. Amen."
2Co 1:20 "For as-many-as promises [be] of God, in Same [be] the Yea,
also in Same [be] the Amen
towards aglory unto the God through us."
2Co 13:13/13:14 "...and the sharing of the sanctified spirit [be] with every [one] of you. Amen."
Gal 1:5 "...unto Which the glory, into the eons of the eons. Amen!"
Gal 16:18 "...Yeshua Anointed [be] with the spirit of you, brethrened. Amen."
Eph 3:21 "...in Anointed Yeshua for’ all the generations of the eon of the eons. Amen."
Eph 6:24 "...to the Lord of us, to Yeshua Anointed loving in incorruption. Amen"
Phi 4:30 "Yet unto the God and Father of us, the glory into the eons of the eons, Amen"
Phi 4:23 "The grace of the Lord Yeshua Anointed [be] with all of you. Amen"
Col 4:18 "...Be you remembering the bonds of mine. The grace [be] with you. Amen."
1Th 5:28 "The grace of the Lord of us, Yeshua Anointed, [be] with you. Amen."
2Th 3:18 "The grace of the Lord of us, of Yeshua Anointed [be] with all [ones] of you. Amen."
1Ti 1:17 "...only God, [be] honor and glory for’ the eons of the eons. Amen."
1Ti 6:16 "...unto Which [be] honor and eonian might. Amen."
1Ti 6:21b "...The grace [be] with you. Amen."
2Ti 4:18 "...unto Which [be] the glory into the eons of the eons. Amen."
2Ti 4:22 "...The Lord Yeshua Anointed [be] with the spirit of you. The grace [be] with you. Amen."
Tit 3:15 "...The grace [be] with all of you. Amen"
Plm 1:25 "The grace of the Lord of ours, Yeshua Anointed, [be] with the spirit of you. Amen."
You know, now that I'm looking closer, it is, indeed, an of Elipsis, and being such, God must have had His act together, and actually intended us, the readers and hearers of His word, His words, to have a head on our shoulders and be able to think ... that is, the figure is an Elipsis, an intentional omission, intended to attract our attention and focus, to actively engage us, in other words, in what is being said ... by His not saying anything more, after "Amen," it's up to us to then engage mentally with a "Yes! Let it be so
I tell you...Am I right? Am I right? Can I get an amen?
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