At various times in the gospels, Jesus introduces a statement using phrases such as “Verily, I say” or “Truly, I say this to you.” In the Gospel of John, Jesus frequently uses the phrase “Truly, truly” (ESV) or “Verily, verily” (KJV) or “Very truly” (NIV). These expressions all use the Greek word amēn, taken directly from the Hebrew word āˈmēn. This word has different implications depending on how and where it is used. Jesus’ application of the term is noticeably different from prior uses.
In modern use, the word amen is typically used at the end of a prayer. It may also be spoken to show agreement with some statement or idea. This is slightly different from, but closely related to, the original use of the term as seen in the Old Testament. The Hebrew word āˈmēn literally means “so be it.” The term is an expression of complete and total agreement. In passages such as 1 Chronicles 16:36 or Deuteronomy 27:15–26, this is how the term is used. Placing the word amen at the end of a statement is a way of accepting, agreeing, or endorsing what came before.
Jesus, however, was fond of saying, “Amen,” before making a statement or giving a message. When used in this way, the word amen has slightly different implications. Leading off with amen not only implies that what follows is true but also that the person making the statement has firsthand knowledge and authority about it. Saying, “Verily, verily,” before making a statement is a strong claim to truth, presented from an almost audacious attitude. Speaking on worldly or secular matters, saying, “Verily, verily,” would imply that what follows is that person’s own original idea.
So, when Jesus leads off with the words verily, verily in verses such as Matthew 18:3, Mark 3:28, Luke 23:43, and John 8:51, He is not merely saying, “Believe me, this is true.” He is actually saying, “I know this is true firsthand.” Since many of these comments are on heavenly, spiritual, or godly issues, Jesus’ use of verily, verily is part of His consistent claim of divinity. Jesus is not merely aware of these truths: He is the One who originated them!
The disciples and others listening to Jesus’ words would have understood His use of these phrases in exactly that way. So, when we read Jesus’ words and see statements beginning with “verily,” “truly,” or some variation, we should recall the deeper meaning. Those claims are not only Jesus’ opinion on the truth. Those are ideas about which He has intimate, personal, firsthand knowledge.