Alpha and the Omega

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Origin

The term Alpha and Omega comes from the phrase "I am the alpha and the omega" (Koiné Greek: "ἐγὼ τὸ Α καὶ τὸ Ω"), an appellation of Jesus in the Book of Revelation (verses 1:8, 21:6, and 22:13). The first part of this phrase ("I am the Alpha and Omega") is first found in Chapter 1 verse 8, and is found in every manuscript of Revelation that has 1v8. Several later manuscripts repeat "I am the Alpha and Omega" in 1v11 too, but it does not receive support here from most of the oldest manuscripts, including the Alexandrine, Sinaitic, and Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus. It is, therefore, omitted in some modern translations. Scholar Robert Young stated, with regard to "I am the Alpha and Omega" in 1v11, that the "oldest [manuscripts] omit" it.

Definition

  • 1: the beginning and ending
  • 2: the principal element

Description

Alpha and Omega (alpha (Α or α) and omega (Ω or ω)), are the first and the last letters of the Greek alphabet and are an appellation of Christ or of God in the Book of Revelation. These couple of letters are used as Christian symbols, and are often combined with the Cross, Chi-rho, or other Christian symbols.

This symbol was suggested by the Apocalypse, where many believe that Christ, as well as the Father, is "the First and the Last" (ii, 8); "the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end" (cf., xxii, 13; i, 8). Clement of Alexandria (2nd century, philosopher and commentator on pagan and Christian information) speaks of the Word as "the Alpha and the Omega of Whom alone the end becomes beginning, and ends again at the original beginning without any break" (Stromata, IV, 25). Tertullian (lawyer, theologian) also alludes to Christ as the Alpha and Omega (De Monogamiâ, v), and from Prudentius (Cathemer., ix, 10) we learn that in the fourth century the interpretation of the apocalyptic letters was still the same: "Alpha et Omega cognominatus, ipse fons et clausula, Omnium quae sunt, fuerunt, quaeque post futura sunt." It was, however, in the monuments of early Christianity that the symbolic Alpha and Omega had their greatest vogue.

This phrase is interpreted by many Christians to mean that Jesus has existed for all eternity. The phrase "alpha and omega" may signify that God is eternal. The symbols were used in early Christianity and appear in the Roman catacombs.[1]