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The Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the classical Greek alphabet, basically acting as bookends to the series of letters. As such, the phrase Alpha and Omega has come to mean the beginning and the end. But more specifically, this term is used to represent God.
The phrase makes its appearance in the Bible, in the Book of Revelation, when God says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega”, clarifying it with the additional phrase, the beginning and the end. The Alpha and Omega refers to both God and Christ.
The letters became highly significant as a symbol of Christ and was used as Christ’s monogram in early Christianity. They were often depicted on the arms of crosses or written on the left- and right-hand side of images of Jesus, most notably in the catacombs of Rome. This was a reminder of God’s eternal nature and of his omnipotence.
Today the phrase and its visual symbol continue to be highly significant in Christianity. However, it’s also used in fashion contexts, often depicted on clothing, caps, accessories and in tattoo designs.
In addition to this, some neo-pagans and mystical groups use the Alpha and Omega symbols to represent the spiritual union between God and humans.
The Alpha and Omega are often used together with the Greek letters Chi and Ro, the two letters used for the Greek word for Christ.
The phrase and its visual symbol express:
- God as the Beginning and the End – Like bookends, the letters Alpha and Omega sandwich the rest of the Greek alphabet, making them representative of the beginning and the end.
- God as the First and the Last – The letters are the first and the last of the alphabet, just as God in the Bible proclaims himself to be the first and the last God (Isiah 41:4 and 44:6).
- The Eternity of God – The phrase is taken to mean that God has existed since time began and continues to exist
From Hebrew to Greek – Lost in Translation
The Bible was originally written in either Aramaic or Hebrew and would have used the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet Aleph and Tav in place of Alpha and Omega.
The Hebrew word for Truth, and also another name for God is – Emet, written using the first, middle and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Thus, in Hebrew, Emet meant:
And it symbolized:
- The first and the last
- The beginning and the end
When the text was translated, the Greek version substituted the Greeek letters Alpha and Omega for the Hebrew Aleph and Tav. But in doing so, it lost some of the meaning associated with the Hebrew version, as the Greek word for truth, aletheia, while beginning with the letter Alpha, does not end with Omega.
Regardless of this, the phrase Alpha and Omega, and its visual version continue to inspire Christians and be used as a significant symbol in Christian circles. To learn more, check out our in-depth article on Christian symbols.