A couple of weeks ago I was reading J. Vernon McGee‘s book entitled “Revelation – Chapters 1-5,” when I came across the following passage in a larger explanation of Revelation 1:8 (below):
“I am Alpha and Omega.” This is quite a remarkable statement in the Greek language. The alpha and omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. From an alphabet you make words, and Jesus Christ is called the “Word of God” – the full revelation and intelligent communication of God. He is the only alphabet you can use to reach God, my friend. The only language God speaks and understands is that language where Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega and all the letters in between. He is the “A” and the “Z,” and He is the “ABC.” If you are going to get through to God the Father, you will need to go through the Son, Jesus Christ. Here the emphasis is upon the beginning and the end. Here in the original Greek the Omega is not spelled out as is the Alpha. Why? Because Christ is the beginning, and the beginning is always completed. But the end is yet to be; so He didn’t spell out the Omega in this instance. One day He will complete God’s program, This is a very interesting detail in the Greek text.’
What McGee is saying here, it that the original Greek used the phrase:
“I am Alpha and Ω…..”
I looked up what the relevant verses were in the King James Version, the New King James Version and the Modern King James Version, which we use here on this website and all give slight variations of:
Revelation 1:8 “‘I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending,‘ saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.”
Revelation 1:11 “Saying, ‘I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.'”
Revelation 21:6 “And he said unto me, ‘It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.'”
Revelation 22:13 “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.”
I then searched the only Greek bible version I have, the Greek New Testament (Majority Text) – the 1904 “Patriarchal” edition of the Greek Orthodox Church and it provided neither the “Alpha and Ω….” nor “Alpha and Omega” but “Α καὶ τὸ Ω…” – which is basically equivalent to our widely used “A-Z” today.
The four verse above are rendered as:
Revelation 1:8 ᾿Εγώ εἰμι τὸ Α καὶ τὸ Ω, λέγει Κύριος ὁ Θεός, ὁ ὢν καὶ ὁ ἦν καὶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος, ὁ παντοκράτωρ.
Revelation 1:11 λεγούσης· ὃ βλέπεις γράψον εἰς βιβλίον καὶ πέμψον ταῖς ἑπτὰ ἐκκλησίαις, εἰς ῎Εφεσον καὶ εἰς Σμύρναν καὶ εἰς Πέργαμον καὶ εἰς Θυάτειρα καὶ εἰς Σάρδεις καὶ εἰς Φιλαδέλφειαν καὶ εἰς Λαοδίκειαν.
Revelation 21:6 καὶ εἶπέ μοι· γέγοναν. ἐγώ τὸ Α καὶ τὸ Ω, ἡ ἀρχὴ καὶ τὸ τέλος. ἐγὼ τῷ διψῶντι δώσω ἐκ τῆς πηγῆς τοῦ ὕδατος τῆς ζωῆς δωρεάν.
Revelation 22:13 ἐγὼ τὸ Α καὶ τὸ Ω, ὁ πρῶτος καὶ ὁ ἔσχατος, ἀρχὴ καὶ τέλος.
Then, after two weeks of searching I came across the Codex Sinaticus – the oldest known Greek Bible in existence. As the Codex Sinaiticus website says, it is one of the most important books in the world. Handwritten well over 1600 years ago in the 4th century, the manuscript contains the Christian Bible in Greek, including the oldest complete copy of the New Testament. Its heavily corrected text is of outstanding importance for the history of the Bible and the manuscript – the oldest substantial book to survive Antiquity – is of supreme importance for the history of the book. See also the related Wikipedia article.
The Codex Sinaiticus in hand-written Greek says:
Revelation 1:8 “εγω ειμι το αλφα και εγω και το ω αρχη και τελοϲ λεγει κϲ ο θϲ ο ων και ο ην και ο ερχομενοϲ ο παντοκρατωρ”
There it was, the confirmation of J. Vernon McGee’s assertion that in the original Greek the Omega is not spelled out, as is the Alpha. Instead, the oldest Greek text still available to us today, says: “I am Alpha and Ω…..”
Such relief! For two weeks or so I had been trying to understand what it was that the Lord wanted me to understand, and I just could not accept that it was to say McGee was wrong. This wonderful typographic concept was handwritten 1,600 years ago, yet has been lost in manuscripts since. Indeed, this “very interesting detail in the Greek text,” as McGee says, has been missing since before the middle ages.
As I studied these four (4) verses of scripture more closely, I noticed that in Revelation 1:11 of the Greek bible version, the “Alpha and Omega” are missing altogether. As I checked with all other modern version of the Bible, including the New International Version (NIV), God’s Word Bible (GW), Good News Bible (GNB), English Standard Version (ESV), plus 12 other English version and 4 other languages, only the 1587 Geneva Bible and the 1833 Webster’s Bible, stood with the King James Versions and included any reference to the Alpha and Omega in Revelation 1:11. All the other versions recorded something akin to:
“…. saying, ‘Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.'”
Even the 1,600 year old Codex Sinaiticus which reads as follows, does not have reference to the Alpha and Omega in this verse:
Revelation 1:11 “λεγουϲηϲ ┬ γραψον ειϲ το βιβλιον ┬ πεμψον ταιϲ επτα εκκληϲιαιϲ ειϲ εφεϲον και ειϲ περγαμον και ειϲ θυατειρα και ειϲ ζμυρναν και ειϲ φιλαδελφια και ειϲ λαοδικιαν ┬”
Google Translate gives the following English from the Codex Sinaiticus version: “WRITE legousis ┬ ┬ in the book did by sending thy seven ekklisiais in Efes and to Pergamum and Thyatira and to at zmyrnan and in Philadelphia and in laodikian ┬” as their computer generated translation.
What therefore, are we to think of the disparity of thought and presentation between the King James Bible and its descendants, and all others Bibles?
For clues, I started to read through some noted and reputable Bible commentaries in regard to Revelation 1:11 and the other verses above, and briefly they say as follows:
Jamieson, Fausset & Brown Commentary: “I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last; and — The oldest manuscripts, omit all this clause.”
John Gill’s Exposition of the entire Bible: “Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last…. These characters, which are repeated here; see Gill on Revelation 1:8; are left out in the Alexandrian copy, the Complutensian edition, the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Ethiopic versions; but are very fitly retained, to point out the person that speaks; to express his dignity, deity, and eternity; to excite the attention of John, and to give weight to what he said…”
Adam Claeke’s commentary on the Bible: “I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and – This whole clause is wanting in ABC, thirty-one others; some editions; the Syriac, Coptic, Ethiopic, Armenian, Slavonic, Vulgate, Arethas, Andreas, and Primasius. Griesbach has left it out of the text.”
The People’s New Testament: “I am Alpha and Omega. These words are omitted in the Revision, as not found in the best manuscripts.”
All 12 others Bible commentaries to which I referred are silent of the matter and simply ignore it.
Ask a Christian, and you will be told not to add or to delete form the Bible, from the very Word of God. What then, are we to make of this obvious intentional addition to the text of the original Greek manuscript?
Well to start with, the King James version went on to be the best selling bible ever and still continues to sell 400 years later, and for many, Elizabethan English or not, it is the only “true” Bible. In agreement to this, John Gill says above, they (the Alpha and Omega, “are very fitly retained, to point out the person that speaks; to express his dignity, deity, and eternity; to excite the attention of John, and to give weight to what he said…”
As I write this, I have a great sense of peace in agreeing with Gill, but more than that; I find a need to explain that the Bible is “unique,” in that although the book is 2,000 – 4,600 years old, the author is still alive and therefore able to make minor amendments to His work. That does not and should not, infer that the original was in error, or that it as wanting in any way, but that mankind needed more focussing as time has passed. It is, after all, described as a “living Bible,” (Hebrews 4:12 & 1 Peter 1:23) God breathed (2 Timothy 3:16), just as Adam and Eve were God breathed. Yes, just as the original Bible manuscripts were God breathed, so too, I believe, are these additions which took place in Revelation 1:11, in that they give, as Gill days, a more complete understanding of the Lord, without invalidating the original.
The concept of Jesus Christ, and indeed God the Father as the “Alpha and Omega,” are fundamental to our mental picture Christian theology. Reading commentaries about Revelation 1:8, I began to come to a better understanding of the original concept of the Greek, and indeed, the Hebrew biblical writers and scribes before that. The following are two (2) of the most noteworthy of the sixteen (16) I studied.
As Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible says:
“I am Alpha and Omega – These are the first and the last letters of the Greek alphabet, and denote properly the first and the last. So in Revelation 22:13, where the two expressions are united, “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.” So in Revelation 1:17, the speaker says of himself, “I am the first and the last.” Among the Jewish rabbis it was common to use the first and the last letters of the Hebrew alphabet to denote the whole of anything, from beginning to end. Thus, it is said, “Adam transgressed the whole law, from ‘Aleph (א) to Taw (תּ).” “Abraham kept the whole law, from ‘Aleph (א) to Taw (תּ).” The language here is what would properly denote “eternity” in the being to whom it is applied, and could be used in reference to no one but the true God. It means that he is the beginning and the end of all things; that he was at the commencement, and will be at the close; and it is thus equivalent to saying that he has always existed, and that he will always exist.
Compare Isaiah 41:4, “I the Lord, the first, and with the last”; Isaiah 44:6, “I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God”; Isaiah 48:12, “I am he; I am the first, I also am the last.” There can be no doubt that the language here would be naturally understood as implying divinity, and it could be properly applied to no one but the true God. The obvious interpretation here would be to apply this to the Lord Jesus; for:
(a) it is he who is spoken of in the verses preceding, and
(b) there can be no doubt that the same language is applied to him in Revelation 1:11.
…… a portion of the language used here, “which is, and was, and is to come,” is what would more naturally suggest a reference to God as such, than to the Lord Jesus Christ. See Revelation 1:4. The object for which this passage referring to the “first and the last – to him who was, and is, and is to come,” is introduced here evidently is, to show that as he was clothed with omnipotence, and would continue to exist through all ages to come as he had existed in all ages past, there could be no doubt about his ability to execute all which it is said he would execute.”
And as Adam Clarkes’s Commentary on the Bible says:
“I am Alpha and Omega – I am from eternity to eternity. This mode of speech is borrowed from the Jews, who express the whole compass of things by א aleph and ת tau, the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet; but as St. John was writing in Greek, he accommodates the whole to the Greek alphabet, of which Α alpha and Ω omega are the first and last letters. With the Rabbinic מא ועד ת, meeleph vead tau, “from aleph to tau,” expressed the whole of a matter, from the beginning to the end. So in Adam transgressed the whole law from aleph to tau; i.e., from the beginning to the end.
Abraham observed the law, from aleph to tau; i.e., he kept it entirely, from beginning to end.
When the holy blessed God pronounced a blessing on the Israelites, he did it from aleph to tau; i.e., he did it perfectly.
The beginning and the ending – That is, as aleph or alpha is the beginning of the alphabet, so am I the author and cause of all things; as tau or omega is the end or last letter of the alphabet, so am I the end of all thinks, the destroyer as well as the establisher of all things. This clause is wanting in almost every manuscript and version of importance. It appears to have been added first as an explanatory note, and in process of time crept into the text. Griesbach has left it out of the text. It is worthy of remark, that as the union of א aleph and ת tau in Hebrew make את eth, which the Rabbinic interpret of the first matter out of which all things were formed, so the union of Α alpha and Ω omega, in Greek, makes the verb αω, I breathe, and may very properly, in such a symbolical book, point out Him in whom we live, and move, and have our being; for, having formed man out of the dust of the earth, he breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and he became a living soul; and it is by the inspiration or inbreathing of his Spirit that the souls of men are quickened, made alive from the dead, and fitted for life eternal. He adds also that he is the Almighty, the all-powerful framer of the universe, and the inspirer of men.”
Finally, as I was contemplating why we don’t use “Jesus: the Aleph & Tau“, or “Jesus: the A-Z” or “Jesus: the Aleph to Z,” or any other combinations, the Lord explained that the during the persecution and exile of the Jews from Rome in 49-50 AD, most of the Hebraic traditions of the Church ceased, in particular the Hebrew language. Secondly, the Greek was the lingua-franca of the time and was the language generally, of the New Testament manuscripts. Indeed, Greek still continues to flourish in mathematics, geometry, science and engineering today, where the Greek alphabet is still in daily use, though as symbols.
And thirdly, the use of the A-Z or our post-modern alphabet is impossible as it has been usurped by our secular society.
Yes, “Jesus: the Alpha & Ω” really speaks to me in so many ways as to how the Lord God wrote the Bible for us, and keeps it live and up to date. The more I read the Bible, and about the Bible, the more I find there is to know about it. So many of God’s communications with mankind, even about the Bible, have been lost over the years. Some, like our understanding of “Jesus: the Alpha & Ω” are incredible in their simplicity and depth.
Given what I have been reading about the chronology of the Seven Churches of Revelation, I believe that the Lord is now in a time of exposing and bringing the old to light once again, for those who will but see it, and seek to understand. The Book of Revelation is open and is prophetic, but it does not mean that all understanding has yet been released to the church, so that we can come to a true and correct interpretation of it all. There is still so much the Lord needs to reveal to us, which has been lost, once of twice already, so that we may come to understanding and not lose as Hosea 4:6 says, for a lack of knowledge.
The name of this website is His Kingdom Prophecy, and we do believe we can all hear from God, if we will put in effort. We believe that the Lord wants to talk with us all, and wants us all to hear Him. This website is just one of His channels, one of His tools, in this His Kingdom time. I believe the simple statement: “Jesus: the Alpha & Ω” sums it all up. Some knowledge once lost, now recovered.