was given originally by God and through Jesus Christ, hence the one speaking (through an angelic representative) at times is God himself and at other times Christ Jesus. (Rev. 22:8) Thus Revelation 1:8, RS, says: “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God [AT; “Jehovah God,” NW], who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Although the preceding verse speaks of Christ Jesus, it is clear that in verse 8 the application of the title is to the “Almighty” God. In this regard Albert Barnes in Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament observes: “It cannot be absolutely certain that the writer meant to refer to the Lord Jesus specifically here . . . There is no real incongruity in supposing, also, that the writer here meant to refer to God as such.”
The title occurs again at Revelation 21:6, and the following verse (21:7) identifies the speaker by saying: “Anyone conquering will inherit these things, and I shall be his God and he will be my son.” Inasmuch as Jesus referred to those who are joint heirs with him in his kingdom as “brothers,” not “sons,” the speaker must be Jesus’ heavenly Father, Jehovah God.—Matt. 25:40; compare Hebrews 2:10-12.
The final occurrence of the title is at Revelation 22:13, which states: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” It is evident that a number of persons are represented as speaking in this chapter of Revelation; verses 8 and 9 show that the angel spoke to John, verse 16 obviously applies to Jesus, the first part of verse 17 is credited to “the spirit and the bride,” and the one speaking in the latter part of verse 20 is manifestly John himself. The “Alpha and the Omega” of verses 12-15, therefore, may properly be identified as the same one who bears the title in the other two occurrences: Jehovah God. The expression, “Look! I am coming quickly,” in verse 12, does not require that these aforementioned verses apply to Jesus, inasmuch as God also speaks of himself as “coming” to execute judgment. (Compare Isaiah 26:21.) Malachi 3:1-6 speaks of a joint coming for judgment on the part of Jehovah and his “messenger of the covenant.”
The title “the Alpha and the Omega” carries the same thought as “the first and the last,” and it is appropriately applied to Jehovah God in an unlimited way as being the first of all things, their Beginner, and also the Almighty whose power is capable of bringing all things to a successful end or realization.—Compare Isaiah 44:6.
This English name of the system of letters employed to set down in writing the phonetic sounds used in speech derives from the first two Greek letters alʹpha and beʹta, which, in turn, come from the Hebrew ʼaʹleph and behth.
There are many theories as to the origin of the alphabet; the Sumerian and Babylonian cuneiform the “Hittite” hieroglyphs, and the Egyptian forms of writing all being suggested as possible sources. However, a prominent authority, Dr. David Diringer, states in his book The Story of the Aleph Beth (1958, p. 31): “It is now generally agreed that all existing alphabets, and those no longer used, derived from one original alphabet.” On page 39 he quotes G. R. Driver as saying: “It was one, and only one, of the gifts of the Semites to mankind,” and then states: “It was this alphabet which became the ancestor of all alphabetic scripts the world has known.”
With regard to archaeological discoveries, among the earliest preserved examples of the alphabet, according to the methods of dating used by archaeologists, are the inscriptions discovered at Serabit elKhadem on the Sinai Peninsula, believed to be from the nineteenth or eighteenth century B.C.E., the Ugaritic clay tablets found at Ras Shamra in Syria, containing a cuneiform alphabet and assigned to the fifteenth and fourteenth centuries B.C.E., and the inscriptions at Byblos in Phoenicia, considered as dating from about 1100 B.C.E. The Phoenician letters are nearly identical with those of the early Hebrew alphabet, whereas those from Sinai have considerable variation. The earliest preserved Hebrew inscriptions include a fragmentary inscription from Lachish ascribed to the twelfth or eleventh century B.C.E., the so-called “Gezer Calendar” (see CALENDAR) thought to be of the eleventh or tenth century B.C. E., the beautifully written Samarian ostraca recorded in cursive style or running hand and ascribed to the reign of Jeroboam II (844-803 B.C.E.), and the Siloam tunnel inscription evidently from the reign of King Hezekiah (745-716 B.C.E.). It is not until about the third century B.C.E. that a wealth of material of early Jewish scripts becomes available.
On the basis of these discoveries the tendency is to view the Phoenician and Sinaitic alphabets as antedating the Hebrew. This, of course, does not of necessity logically follow, and in the above-mentioned publication Dr. Diringer asks the question: “Is it possible that the ancient Hebrews who presented the world with the Bible and Monotheism, also gave it the Alphabet? The possibility certainly exists.” (The Story of the Aleph Beth, p. 37) The relative scarcity of ancient Hebrew inscriptions does not argue against this, inasmuch as the Hebrews were not given to the erection of monuments or the making of plaques memorializing the feats of kings and heroes, as were other ancient peoples. The climate and soil of Palestine likewise are not such as contribute to the preservation of papyrus writings, as is the case with the land of Egypt.
The Hebrew order of the letters of the alphabet is clearly indicated in acrostic writings in the Psalms (34, 111, 112, 119 and others), Proverbs 31:10-31, and Lamentations chapters 1-4 (except for a reversal of the letters ʽaʹyin and peʼ in chaps. 2-4). In these writings the letters of the alphabet appear in consecutive order as the initial letters of each successive verse, section or stanza. The Hebrew alphabet, then as now, consisted of twenty-two letters, all consonants, and probably represented some twenty-eight sounds. It appears that it was not until about the sixth century C.E. that a system of signs was developed to indicate vowel sounds. Some seven different “vowel points” were employed, singly and in combination, by the Jewish scholars known as Masoretes, to represent the Hebrew vowel sounds.
The common theory is that the Hebrew alphabet derived from pictographic writing. This theory seeks support in the fact that the names for the Hebrew letters are often the same as or similar to the Hebrew names of certain objects, ʼaʹleph meaning “bull,” behth meaning “house,” giʹmel being similar to the Hebrew ga·malʹ or “camel,” and so forth. However, difficulties arise in following this through with all the letters, and the supposed similarity between the form of the letters and the suggested meaning of the name is often such as requires considerable imagination. Thus, while some believe that the letter giʹmel originally represented a camel (or a camel’s neck), others suggest that it originally pictured a “throw stick”; some, that daʹleth represented a door, others, perhaps originally a fish; zaʹyin, a weapon or perhaps an olive tree; tehth, a serpent or perhaps a basket, and so forth. It is, therefore, interesting to note Dr. Diringer’s statement on page 40 of The Story of the Aleph Beth, where, after showing that the phonetic value of each Hebrew letter corresponds to the initial sound of the name applied to it he points out: “It would be wrong to assume that [this] necessarily indicates the use of pictorial representations of the objects whose names the letters bore: in other words, there is no clear evidence that the symbols were originally pictographic.” Thus, in teaching someone the English alphabet the teacher might say that A stands for “apple,” B stands for “boat,” C stands for “cat,” and by that merely mean