“The Origin of ‘Alpha and Omega'”

David Lincicum has the latest article in the Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism, “The Origin of “Alpha and Omega” (Revelation 1.8; 21.6; 22.13): A Suggestion.” Lincicum takes his point of departure from the fact that

[Some] scholars have suggested that the title ‘Alpha and Omega’ in Revelation arose through reflection on the Greek form of the divine name, ΙΑΩ. This note takes up and extends that evidence to put forth the possibility that John ‘exegeted’ the divine name, in light of Isaiah 40–48 and emerging scribal practices of abbreviating the nomina sacra, as a reference to Jesus as the Alpha and Omega (Lincicum 128).

In particular, Lincicum concludes that

Steeped in the already considerable Christian tradition of identifying Yahweh’s predicates and actions with those of Jesus, often by means of the Greek translation of Yahweh as ‘Lord’ (κύριος), John wondered what it might mean to identify Jesus by means of that alternative rendering of the tetragrammaton into Greek, ΙΑΩ. He held ΙΑΩ in his mind while reading or hearing Isaiah 40–48 and the temporal merisms there applied to Yahweh, ‘the first and the last’ and ‘the beginning and the end’. Knowing by Christian conviction that ΙΑΩ ultimately was to be referred to Jesus, he was struck by the alphabetical merism, that is, the alpha and omega, included in the divine title, and with how well this might express and stand in continuity with the other two merisms derived from Isaiah. This left the initial iota unaccounted for; might this have been a divinely ordained reference to the initial letter of Jesus’ name? Thus: Jesus is the Alpha and Omega (Lincicum 132–33).


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