Men was born in Moscow to a Jewish family on 22 January 1935. He was baptized at six months along with his mother in the banned Catacomb Church, a branch of the Russian Orthodox Church that refused to cooperate with the Soviet authorities.
When Men was 6 years old, the NKVD arrested his father, Volf Gersh-Leybovich (Vladimir Grigoryevich) Men (born 1902). Volf spent more than a year under guard and then was assigned to labor in the Ural Mountains. His son Alexander entered college in Moscow in 1955 and transferred to Irkutsk a few years later but was expelled in 1958 due to his religious beliefs. In the same year, he was ordained a deacon, and in 1960 a priest upon graduating from the Leningrad Theological Seminary. In 1965, he completed studies at Moscow Theological Academy.
Alexander Men became a leader with considerable influence and a good reputation among Christians both locally and abroad, among Roman Catholics and Protestants, as well as Orthodox. Starting in the early 1970s, Men became a popular figure in Russia's religious community, especially among the intelligentsia. Men was harassed by the KGB for his active missionary and evangelistic efforts. In the late-1980s, he utilised the mass media to spread the message of Christ (he was offered to host a nationally televised program on religion); his days and nights were full of teaching and lecturing at packed lecture halls. Men was one of the founders of the Russian Bible Society in 1990; that same year he founded the Open Orthodox University and "The World of the Bible" journal. His strenuous efforts in educating the Russian populace in the basics and dynamics of the Orthodox faith has garnered him the label as a modern-day apostle to the Soviet people, who were benighted by seventy years of Communist atheistic rule.
On Sunday morning, 9 September 1990, he was murdered while walking along the wooded path from his home in the Russian village of Semkhoz to the local train platform. He was on his way to catch the train to Novaya Derevnya to celebrate the Divine Liturgy. Men had served at the parish in Novaya Derevnya for 20 years. His assailant's or assailants' use of an axe indicated a possible revenge motive. The murder occurred around the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union, and despite orders from within the Soviet (and later the Russian) government that the case be further investigated, the murder remains unsolved. His funeral was held on the day in the Orthodox calendar which commemorates the beheading of John the Baptist.
Since his death, Men's works and ideas have been seen as controversial among the conservative faction of the Russian Orthodox Church, citing his strong tendencies towards ecumenism which his books advocate. Nonetheless, Men has a considerable number of supporters, some of whom argue for his canonization. His lectures are regularly broadcast over Russian radio. His books are published freely in Russia nowadays. During his lifetime, they had to be printed abroad; mainly in Brussels, Belgium by the publishing house Foyer Chrétien Oriental and circulated in secret. Several key Russian Orthodox parishes encourage following his example as one who faithfully followed Christ. Two Russian Orthodox churches have been built on the site of his assassination and a growing number of believers in both Russia and abroad consider him a martyr.
In conjunction with the 25th year Commemoration of Memory, the Moscow Patriarchate Izdatel'stvo publishing house has begun a project to publish Fr. Men's "Collected Works" in a series of 15 volumes.
Men's son, Mikhail Men, is a Russian political figure who from 2005 to 2013 served as the Governor of Ivanovo Oblast and now as Minister of Construction Industry, Housing and Utilities Sector in Dmitry Medvedev's Cabinet. He is also a musician known outside Russia for the Michael Men Project.
Alexander Men's greatest work is his History of Religion, published in seven volumes under the title In Search of the Way, the Truth, and the Life (volumes 1-6, Brussels, 1970—1983; 2nd edition Moscow, 1991—1992) and including as the seventh volume his most famous work, Son of Man (Brussels, 1969; 2nd edition Moscow, 1991). Because of the persecution in the Soviet Union at the time, the Brussels editions were published under a pseudonym.
An English translation of Son of Man by Mormon author Samuel Brown was completed in 1998 but is now out of print, as are several other works in English translation. In 2014, a new translation project was announced which will translate the entire History of Religion, bringing the other six volumes into the English language for the first time.
Recent works of Alexander Men in English translation include:"An Inner Step Toward God: Writings and teachings on Prayer", (2014)ISBN 978-1612612386;
"Russian Religious Philosophy: 1989-1990 Lectures" (2015)ISBN 978-0996399227 (in 25th Year Memory Commemoration)
Many other works by Alexander Men have been published in Russian, most notably:Heaven on Earth (1969), published abroad under pseudonym, later reissued in Russia;
"Where Did This All Come From?" (1972), published abroad under pseudonym, later reissued in Russia;
"How to Read the Bible?" (1981), published abroad under pseudonym, later reissued in Russia;
"World Spiritual Culture" (1995);
"The History of Religions" (Volumes 1-2, 1997);
"The First Apostles" (1998);
"Isagogics: Old and New Testaments" (2000);
"Bibliological Dictionary" (Volumes 1-3, 2002).