dianoigo blog
Showing posts with label Jesus. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jesus. Show all posts

Friday 17 January 2020

Did Jesus Raise Himself from the Dead?

St. Ignatius of Antioch, a Christian bishop who was martyred in the early second century, wrote the following concerning Jesus Christ in his Letter to the Smyrnaeans:
For he suffered all these things for our sakes, in order that we might be saved; and he truly suffered just as he truly raised himself—not, as certain unbelievers say, that he suffered in appearance only (it is they who exist in appearance only!). (Smyrn. 1.1-2.1)1
In this passage, Ignatius asserts that Jesus had raised himself from the dead. The statement occurs in a longer paragraph in which he praises the Smyrnaean church for their conviction in the concrete historical realities of Jesus' life: his descent from David, birth from a virgin, baptism by John, crucifixion under Pilate and Herod, and resurrection. The point that he is most keen to emphasise is that Jesus' suffering and resurrection 'truly' happened and not did not merely appear to happen. The causal agency of Jesus' resurrection is not a point he belabours; indeed, elsewhere in his writings—including in this same letter—Ignatius describes Jesus as having been raised by the Father.2 Thus, for Ignatius, 'he raised himself' is simply another way of describing Jesus' resurrection. That he provides no further comment or clarification suggests that he does not regard his statement as novel or controversial, but assumed that it would be acceptable to his Smyrnaean readers.

Now, throughout the New Testament literature (all or nearly all of which predates Ignatius), the normative way of referring to Jesus' resurrection is not 'Jesus raised himself from the dead' but 'God raised Jesus from the dead' or simply 'Jesus was raised from the dead,' a divine passive that implicitly identifies God as the subject of the action. The pre-Pauline credal formula quoted in 1 Cor. 15:3-4 uses such a divine passive, and throughout the Pauline corpus we consistently read that God raised Jesus from the dead (Rom. 4:24; 8:11; 10:9; 1 Cor. 6:14; 2 Cor. 4:14; Gal. 1:1; Eph. 1:20; Col. 2:12; 1 Thess. 1:10). The same language is used throughout Acts (2:24; 3:15; 4:10; 13:30, 34; 17:31) and also appears in 1 Peter (1:21). As for the Gospels, all four of them use divine passives, for instance in the post-resurrection narratives (Matt. 28:6-7; Mark 16:6; Luke 24:6, 34; John 21:14).

Juxtaposing the consistency of the New Testament in describing Jesus' resurrection as 'God raised Jesus' with Ignatius' seemingly uncontroversial statement that Jesus 'raised himself' leads to an obvious question: where did Ignatius (and presumably at least some of his contemporaries) get the idea that Jesus raised himself from the dead?

The most plausible answer is that Ignatius took the idea from the Gospel of John. Now, it is not certain that Ignatius knew the Gospel of John. Over a century ago, a committee of the Oxford Society of Historical Theology made a close study of literary dependence on the New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers. They gave a 'B' rating to Ignatius' knowledge of John, meaning they considered it 'highly probable,' but not 'beyond reasonable doubt,' that Ignatius knew the Fourth Gospel.3 A subsequent study by Walter J. Burghardt found that literary dependence of Ignatius on John's Gospel was the most plausible explanation of the affinity between the two, but that other forms of dependency (such as oral tradition or the influence of a post-apostolic 'Johannine school') could not be ruled out.4 Thus, we cannot take it for granted that Ignatius knew the text of the Gospel of John as we have it today, but it is almost certain that he was familiar with Johannine ideas in some form.

The Gospel of John does not state as explicitly as Ignatius that Jesus raised himself from the dead. However, there are also two passages in John that imply that Jesus raised himself from the dead. The first of these reads as follows:
19 Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 Therefore, when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they came to believe the scripture and the word Jesus had spoken. (John 2:19-22 NABRE)
John explains the temple metaphor that Jesus used in this saying: the temple refers to his body (cf. John 1:14, which says literally that the Logos 'tabernacled among us, and became flesh'). Thus, as v. 22 confirms, in saying 'Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up,' Jesus was foretelling his death and resurrection. The first-person statement, 'I will raise it up' (egerō auton) cannot be explained away as though necessitated by the temple metaphor. Jesus could easily have said, 'Destroy this temple and in three days it will rise again' or 'Destroy this temple and in three days it will be rebuilt.' Instead, he foregrounded his own agency. What is more, this statement parallels the fourfold statement of Jesus in John 6:39-54, 'I will raise him/it up on the last day' (although the latter uses a different verb, anastēsō). In that text, Jesus is clearly referring to his own future agency in raising the dead. Thus, we have every reason to think that the same idea is in view in John 2:19: Jesus foretold that he would raise his own body from the dead.5,6 We must emphasise that this notion is not opposed to the idea that Jesus was raised from the dead by God—to the contrary, the latter idea does appear in this very context (v. 22) through the use of a divine passive. (The same is true, as we noted already, in Ignatius' Letter to the Smyrnaeans). 

How could John have conceived of both God and Jesus raising Jesus from the dead? The answer lies in different levels of causal agency. The temple metaphor is helpful here: the Jerusalem temple, forty-six years in the making, was called Herod's Temple because it was Herod's project. However, Herod probably was not involved in the day-to-day construction operations and almost certainly did not do any of the heavy lifting. Thus it would be correct to say that Herod built the temple and it would also be correct to say that workers built the temple. The second Johannine text that implies Jesus' agency in his own resurrection provides more detail about the respective causal roles of the Father and the Son:
17 This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father. (John 10:17-18 NABRE)
Here, Jesus describes his death and resurrection in terms of laying down his life and taking it up again. Notice that he specifically emphasises his volition: 'I lay it down on my own.' He then declares, literally, 'authority I have to lay it down' (or, 'to give it up,' exousian echō theinai autēn), 'and authority I have to take it up again' (or, 'to take it back', exousian echō palin labein autēn). Word order in Greek conveys emphasis and here the word order squarely emphasises Jesus' own agency. According to this text, Jesus took back his life in the same willful sense that he gave it up. As Jerome H. Neyrey states, 'John 10:17-18 and 28-38 both assert that Jesus has God's eschatological power over death, both to raise himself and to raise his followers.'7 However, the text is not saying that this was done independently of the Father. The last clause stresses that the authority with which Jesus was to act was received from the Father.8

Other passages in John's Gospel shed further light on Jesus' role in the resurrection of others (already seen in John 6:39-54). In John 11:24-25, just prior to demonstrating his power to raise the dead by raising Lazarus, Jesus responds to Martha's faith in 'the resurrection on the last day' by declaring his own definitive role therein: 'I am the resurrection and the life'. However, the Gospel's most detailed material on Jesus' role in the resurrection comes in John 5:19-29. The overarching theme here is that, a son does not work independently of his father, and the Son is no different: the Father loves him and shows him all that he does, and the Son does likewise. Here we have precisely the kind of dual Father-Son agency that is implied in the above references to Jesus' involvement in his own resurrection. John 5:21-22 gives two concrete examples of how the Son imitates the Father: resurrection and judgment. 'just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes'. 'Taking back' his own life after giving it up (John 10:18) was just such a volitional act of the Son. Jesus goes on to declare that it is the voice of the Son that will give life to the dead in the resurrection (John 5:25, 28). Jesus says in v. 26 that 'just as the Father has life in himself, so also he gave to his Son the possession of life in himself.' 'Having life in oneself' appears to refer to self-existence, a divine attribute. We have then the paradoxical idea that the Son has received self-existence as a gift from the Father. That the Son 'has life in himself' helps to explain how, having died, he would still have authority to reclaim his life.

We can now understand a bold Christological move that was first made in the Fourth Gospel, and then taken up by Ignatius. Because the Father gave the Son to have life in himself, and authorised him to dispense life to whomever he wished—already during his lifetime, in the case of Lazarus, and ultimately 'on the last day'—why should the Son not also have exercised this agency in his own resurrection, by 'taking back' his life as deliberately as he had given it up? After all, Jesus' resurrection was not a separate event from the eschatological resurrection. It was, in Paul's words, the firstfruits of the same harvest (1 Cor. 15:20, 23). Or, to return to Ignatius, 'our Lord' was 'truly nailed in the flesh for us under Pontius Pilate and Herod the tetrach...in order that he might raise a banner for the ages through his resurrection for his saints and faithful people' (Smyrn. 1.2).9

What are the theological implications of the notion that Jesus raised himself from the dead? There are profound implications, not only for Christology—Jesus' divine authority over death is absolute—but also for anthropology. Clearly, in order to raise himself from the dead, Jesus must have still consciously existed while he was dead. This implies that death, for humans, is not the extinction of all existence.10


  • 1 Trans. Michael W. Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers: English Translations (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999), 186.
  • 2 'They abstain from the Eucharist and prayer, because they refuse to acknowledge that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins and which the Father by his goodness raised up' (Smyrn. 6.2, trans. Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers, 189); 'Be deaf, therefore, whenever anyone speaks to you apart from Jesus Christ, who was of the family of David, who was the son of Mary; who really was born, who both ate and drank; who really was persecuted under Pontius Pilate, who really was crucified and died while those in heaven and on earth and under the earth looked on; who, moreover, really was raised from the dead when his Father raised him up, who—his Father, that is—in the same way will likewise also raise us up in Christ Jesus who believe in him, apart from whom we have no true life' (Trall. 9.1-2, trans. Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers, 165).
  • 3 A Committee of the Oxford Society of Historical Theology. The New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers (Oxford: Clarendon, 1905).
  • 4 Walter J. Burghardt, 'Did Saint Ignatius of Antioch Know the Fourth Gospel?', Theological Studies 1(2) (1940): 130-56.
  • 5 Robert H. Gundry writes, 'Jesus' saying [in John 2:19] — with John's editorial comment — makes Jesus raise himself from the dead just as in John 10:17-18' ('Jesus' Blasphemy according to Mark 14:61b-64 and Mishnah Sanhedrin 7:5,' in Robert H. Gundry, The Old is Better: New Testament Essays in Support of Traditional Interpretations [Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2010], 109; previously published by Mohr Siebeck).
  • 6 Frederick Dale Bruner writes, 'Usually in the New Testament it is God who is said to raise Jesus. But John here, and notably in chapter 10 (vv. 17-18), records Jesus speaking of raising himself. Most of us are most comfortable with the majority New Testament representation: that God raised Jesus from the dead. But if John is so convinced of Jesus' full deity that he believes Jesus also contributed to his Resurrection, without any compromising of Jesus' true humanity (a true humanity that John, too, is deeply eager to maintain), then most of us have felt we can live with John's record as well, since in the final analysis, a Resurrection is mystery enough in itself' (The Gospel of John: A Commentary [Pillar New Testament Commentary; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012], 195).
  • 7 An Ideology of Revolt: John's Christology in Social-Science Perspective (Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2007), 79. Previously published by Fortress Press.
  • 8 Bruner again: 'Usually in the New Testament it is God the Father who is reported to have raised Jesus. But here Jesus speaks of raising himself — though, notice, he says he can both "lay down" and "take back" his life only because, as he continues immediately, "I have authority" to do so (from the Father)' (The Gospel of John, 765).
  • 9 Trans. Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers, 186.
  • 10 One could escape this implication by asserting that unless death for Jesus was a metaphysically different experience than death for the rest of humanity. This, however, would be a soteriologically dangerous claim to make, since it is precisely our relatedness to Jesus' death that gives us hope (see, e.g., Rom. 6:4-5; Heb. 2:9, 14).

Wednesday 17 August 2016

All the amēn sayings of Jesus in a table

I've lately being doing some analysis of Jesus' amēn sayings. Jesus' tendency in the Gospels to begin sayings with amēn legō humin ('Truly I say to you') is one of the most distinctive features of his teaching style, and undoubtedly historically authentic.1 There is scholarly debate over whether this saying formula was unique to Jesus,2 as well as its linguistic background. One intriguing hypothesis is that Jesus took it from the expression ē/ei mēn in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible)3 and translated it into Aramaic, whence it was transliterated back into Greek.4 New Testament scholars are generally agreed that the formula adds emphasis and solemnity to a saying.5 

I would not want to suggest that sayings of Jesus prefaced with the amēn formula are of a different order of importance from those prefaced simply with 'I say to you'. Nevertheless, in honour of this distinctive and majestic formula used by our Lord, I am reproducing in a single table all of the amēn sayings of the Gospels. I hope it may prove useful for further study. The sayings are quoted in the World English Bible, not because it is such a great translation but because the table was generated using a computer program, and the World English Bible is freely available in a text file format, which facilitated this.

There are 79 amēn sayings all together.6 Where an identical or nearly identical amēn saying occurs in multiple Gospels, it is quoted only once, but the parallel is noted.7 Hence there are 63 entries in the table. A few linguistic and statistical notes about the sayings are included beneath the table for those who may be interested.

Some think the amēn sayings are Christologically significant, telling us something profound about Jesus' self-understanding. I tend to agree. It is quite possible that the use of this emphatic formula contributed to the crowds' reaction to Jesus' teaching recorded in Matt. 7:28-29: 'And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.'

World English Bible Translation
Matt. 5:18
For most certainly, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not even one smallest letter or one tiny pen stroke shall in any way pass away from the law, until all things are accomplished.
Matt. 5:26
Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are with him in the way; lest perhaps the prosecutor deliver you to the judge, and the judge deliver you to the officer, and you be cast into prison. Most certainly I tell you, you shall by no means get out of there, until you have paid the last penny.
Matt. 6:2
Therefore when you do merciful deeds, don't sound a trumpet before yourself, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may get glory from men. Most certainly I tell you, they have received their reward.
Matt. 6:5
"When you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites, for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Most certainly, I tell you, they have received their reward.
Matt. 6:16
"Moreover when you fast, don't be like the hypocrites, with sad faces. For they disfigure their faces, that they may be seen by men to be fasting. Most certainly I tell you, they have received their reward.
Matt. 8:10
When Jesus heard it, he marveled, and said to those who followed, "Most certainly I tell you, I haven't found so great a faith, not even in Israel.
Matt. 10:15
Most certainly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city.
Matt. 10:23
But when they persecute you in this city, flee into the next, for most certainly I tell you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel, until the Son of Man has come.
Matt. 11:11
Most certainly I tell you, among those who are born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptizer; yet he who is least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he.
Matt. 13:17
For most certainly I tell you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see the things which you see, and didn't see them; and to hear the things which you hear, and didn't hear them.
Matt. 17:20
He said to them, "Because of your unbelief. For most certainly I tell you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will tell this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.
Matt. 18:13
If he finds it, most certainly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray.
Matt. 18:18
Most certainly I tell you, whatever things you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever things you release on earth will have been released in heaven.
Matt. 18:19
Again, assuredly I tell you, that if two of you will agree on earth concerning anything that they will ask, it will be done for them by my Father who is in heaven.
Matt. 19:23
Jesus said to his disciples, "Most certainly I say to you, a rich man will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven with difficulty.
Matt. 19:28
Jesus said to them, "Most certainly I tell you that you who have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on the throne of his glory, you also will sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Matt. 21:31
Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said to him, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Most certainly I tell you that the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering into the Kingdom of God before you.
Matt. 23:36
Therefore, behold, I send to you prophets, wise men, and scribes. Some of them you will kill and crucify; and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city; that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zachariah son of Barachiah, whom you killed between the sanctuary and the altar. Most certainly I tell you, all these things will come upon this generation.
Matt. 24:2
But he answered them, "You see all of these things, don't you? Most certainly I tell you, there will not be left here one stone on another, that will not be thrown down."
Matt. 24:47 (par. Luke 12:448)
"Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his lord has set over his household, to give them their food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his lord finds doing so when he comes. Most certainly I tell you that he will set him over all that he has.
Matt. 25:12
Afterward the other virgins also came, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open to us.' But he answered, 'Most certainly I tell you, I don't know you.'
Matt. 25:40
"The King will answer them, 'Most certainly I tell you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'
Matt. 25:45
"Then he will answer them, saying, 'Most certainly I tell you, inasmuch as you didn't do it to one of the least of these, you didn't do it to me.'
Mark 3:28
Most certainly I tell you, all sins of the descendants of man will be forgiven, including their blasphemies with which they may blaspheme; but whoever may blaspheme against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin"
Mark 8:12
He sighed deeply in his spirit, and said, "Why does this generation seek a sign? Most certainly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation."
Mark 9:1 (par. Matt. 16:28; Luke 9:279)
He said to them, "Most certainly I tell you, there are some standing here who will in no way taste death until they see the Kingdom of God come with power."
Mark 9:41 (par. Matt. 10:42)
For whoever will give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because you are Christ's, most certainly I tell you, he will in no way lose his reward.
Mark 10:15 (par. Matt. 18:3; Luke 18:17)
Most certainly I tell you, whoever will not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child, he will in no way enter into it."
Mark 10:29-30 (par. Luke 18:29-30)
Jesus said, "Most certainly I tell you, there is no one who has left house, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or land, for my sake, and for the sake of the Good News, but he will receive one hundred times more now in this time, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and land, with persecutions; and in the age to come eternal life.
Mark 11:23 (par. Matt. 21:21)
For most certainly I tell you, whoever may tell this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' and doesn't doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is happening; he shall have whatever he says.
Mark 12:43-44 (par. Luke 21:3-410)
He called his disciples to himself, and said to them, "Most certainly I tell you, this poor widow gave more than all those who are giving into the treasury, for they all gave out of their abundance, but she, out of her poverty, gave all that she had to live on."
Mark 13:28-30 (par. Matt. 24:32-34; Luke 21:29-32)
"Now from the fig tree, learn this parable. When the branch has now become tender, and puts forth its leaves, you know that the summer is near; even so you also, when you see these things coming to pass, know that it is near, at the doors. Most certainly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things happen.
Mark 14:9 (par. Matt. 26:13)
Most certainly I tell you, wherever this Good News may be preached throughout the whole world, that which this woman has done will also be spoken of for a memorial of her."
Mark 14:18 (par. Matt. 26:21; John 13:21)
As they sat and were eating, Jesus said, "Most certainly I tell you, one of you will betray me--he who eats with me."
Mark 14:25
Most certainly I tell you, I will no more drink of the fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it anew in the Kingdom of God."
Mark 14:30 (par. Matt. 26:34; John 13:38)
Jesus said to him, "Most certainly I tell you, that you today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times."
Luke 4:24
He said, "Most certainly I tell you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown.
Luke 4:25-2611
But truly I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land. Elijah was sent to none of them, except to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.
Luke 12:37
Blessed are those servants, whom the lord will find watching when he comes. Most certainly I tell you, that he will dress himself, and make them recline, and will come and serve them.
Luke 23:42-43
He said to Jesus, "Lord, remember me when you come into your Kingdom." Jesus said to him, "Assuredly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
John 1:51
He said to him, "Most certainly, I tell you, hereafter you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."
John 3:3
Jesus answered him, "Most certainly, I tell you, unless one is born anew, he can't see the Kingdom of God."
John 3:5
Jesus answered, "Most certainly I tell you, unless one is born of water and spirit, he can't enter into the Kingdom of God!
John 3:11
Most certainly I tell you, we speak that which we know, and testify of that which we have seen, and you don't receive our witness.
John 5:19
Jesus therefore answered them, "Most certainly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing of himself, but what he sees the Father doing. For whatever things he does, these the Son also does likewise.
John 5:24
"Most certainly I tell you, he who hears my word, and believes him who sent me, has eternal life, and doesn't come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.
John 5:25
Most certainly, I tell you, the hour comes, and now is, when the dead will hear the Son of God's voice; and those who hear will live.
John 6:26
Jesus answered them, "Most certainly I tell you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves, and were filled.
John 6:32
Jesus therefore said to them, "Most certainly, I tell you, it wasn't Moses who gave you the bread out of heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread out of heaven.
John 6:47
Most certainly, I tell you, he who believes in me has eternal life.
John 6:53
Jesus therefore said to them, "Most certainly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you don't have life in yourselves.
John 8:34
Jesus answered them, "Most certainly I tell you, everyone who commits sin is the bondservant of sin.
John 8:51
Most certainly, I tell you, if a person keeps my word, he will never see death."
John 8:58
Jesus said to them, "Most certainly, I tell you, before Abraham came into existence, I AM."
John 10:1
"Most certainly, I tell you, one who doesn't enter by the door into the sheep fold, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
John 10:7
Jesus therefore said to them again, "Most certainly, I tell you, I am the sheep's door.
John 12:24
Most certainly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.
John 13:16
Most certainly I tell you, a servant is not greater than his lord, neither one who is sent greater than he who sent him.
John 13:20
Most certainly I tell you, he who receives whomever I send, receives me; and he who receives me, receives him who sent me."
John 14:12
Most certainly I tell you, he who believes in me, the works that I do, he will do also; and he will do greater works than these, because I am going to my Father.
John 16:20
Most certainly I tell you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy.
John 16:23
"In that day you will ask me no questions. Most certainly I tell you, whatever you may ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.
John 21:18
Most certainly I tell you, when you were young, you dressed yourself, and walked where you wanted to. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you, and carry you where you don't want to go."

Further statistical and linguistic notes about the sayings
  • Matthew contains the most amēn sayings (31), followed by John (25), Mark (13) and Luke (10). 
  • The Johannine Jesus always uses a double 'amēn amēn'. This double formula doesn't occur outside John except as a textual variant in Matt. 6:2, Luke 4:24, Luke 18:17.
  • In Luke 9:27, 12:44 and 21:32, instead of amēn we find the adverb alēthōs, 'truly'.12 In Luke 4:25 we find ep' alētheias, 'of a truth'. These are the only instances where the (presumed) original Aramaic word אמן has been translated rather than transliterated. They help to confirm the meaning of amēn in the other sayings. I have still counted them as amēn sayings.
  • There are 70 cases where the pronoun 'you' is plural (humin), indicating Jesus is addressing a group, and nine cases where the pronoun 'you' is singular (soi), indicating Jesus is addressing an individual.13 The three individual people who have the distinction of being the addressee of a canonical amēn saying are Peter, Nicodemus, and le bon larron
  • The word order of the formula almost never changes. The only exceptions are Luke 9:27 (where alēthōs occurs at the end rather than the start of the formula - literally 'I say to you truly') and Luke 23:43 (where soi and legō are transposed - literally 'Truly to you I say').


  • 1 'There can be no doubt that the expression is a historically authentic expression of Jesus' (Aune, David E. (1983). Prophecy in Early Christianity and the Ancient Mediterranean World. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, p. 165.) I simply mean that historical Jesus is very likely to have actually used such a formula when teaching, while acknowledging that the term 'authentic' has now become very controversial in historical Jesus research. See, e.g., Keith, Chris (2016). The Narratives of the Gospels and the Historical Jesus: Current Debates, Prior Debates and the Goal of Historical Jesus Research. Journal for the Study of the New Testament, 38(4), 426-455.
  • 2 In Hebrew, אמן was generally used responsorially. However, Strugnell draws attention to a 7th century B.C. Hebrew potsherd where the word seems to introduce a saying. He translates: 'and all my brethren will answer for me (i.e., on my behalf), those who were harvesting with me in the heat of the sun, ALL my brethren will answer for me. Truly ('mn), I am innocent of gu[ilt; pray return] my garment' (Strugnell, John (1974). "Amen, I say unto you" in the Sayings of Jesus and in Early Christian Literature. Harvard Theological Review, 67(2), 177-190; here p. 178.) He is responding to other scholars who had claimed that amen is used responsorially here, i.e. 'my brethren will answer me "Amen."' The amēn I say to you formula also occurs in Recension A of the Testament of Abraham, a Jewish pseudepigraphic work. However, it is disputed whether the saying there is independent of Christian influence (Lee, Sang-Il. (2012). Jesus and Gospel Traditions in Bilingual Context: A Study in the Interdirectionality of Language. Berlin: de Gruyter, p. 352). Allison, for instance, thinks it is a Christian interpolation (Allison, Dale C. (2003). Testament of Abraham. Berlin: de Gruyter, p. 389).
  • 3 Both these Greek expressions mean something like 'surely'. For example, 'Say to them, As I live, saith the Lord: surely as ye spoke into my ears, so will I do to you.' (Num. 14:28 LXX, Brenton translation). LXX occurrences of ē mēn are Gen. 22:17; 42:16; Ex. 22:7, 10; Num. 14:23, 28, 35; Job 13:15; 27:3; Isa. 45:23. LXX occurrences of ei mēn are Job 1:11; 2:5; Ezek. 33:27; 34:8; 35:6; 36:5; 38:19.
  • 4 This is argued by Lee (op. cit.). A Septuagint background to the term was originally proposed by Berger, Klaus. (1970). Die Amen-wort Jesu. Berlin: de Gruyter.
  • 5 'There is a consensus that the ἀμήν-formula in the sayings by Jesus in the four gospels refers to emphasis and solemnity.' (Lee, op. cit., p. 356.)
  • 6 amēn occurs as a textual variant in the sayings of Luke 7:9, 7:28 and John 6:56, but since they are excluded in the NA28 critical text, I have not counted them. In Matt. 18:19, some manuscripts lack amēn, but NA28 retains it (albeit in square brackets indicating its dubious authenticity), so I have counted it.
  • 7 If an amēn saying has a parallel in which the word amēn is lacking, this parallel is not cited.
  • 8 NA28 has alēthōs rather than amēn here. However, this is semantically equivalent: alēthōs is a translation whereas amēn is a transliteration. See discussion below.
  • 9 Luke 9:27 has has alēthōs rather than amēn here. However, this is semantically equivalent: alēthōs is a translation whereas amēn is a transliteration. See discussion below.
  • 10 Luke 21:4 has alēthōs rather than amēn here. However, this is semantically equivalent: alēthōs is a translation whereas amēn is a transliteration. See discussion below.
  • 11 Luke 4:25 has ep' alētheias rather than amēn here. However, this is semantically equivalent: alēthōs is a translation whereas amēn is a transliteration. See discussion below.
  • 12 In Luke 9:27, alēthōs occurs at the end of the formula rather than the beginning, and some manuscripts insert hoti before the content of the saying, indicating that the adverb is part of the saying itself, rather than part of the introductory formula. However, NA28 does not retain this hoti, and given that Luke is here relying on Mark 9:1 as a source (where we find an amēn saying), alēthōs is probably playing the role of amēn. In Luke 12:44, some manuscripts have amēn instead of alēthōs. Hence, Luke 21:32 is the only case where we can say with certainty that alēthōs has taken the place of amēn.
  • 13 The nine individual instances are Matt. 5:26, 26:34, Mark 14:30, Luke 23:43, John 3:3, 3:5, 3:11, 13:38, 21:18.