Revelation 1:8, Alpha

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at
Wed Jan 8 12:56:06 EST 2003

At 11:49 AM -0500 1/8/03, David&Karen Beaulieu wrote:
>I have been studying Revelation 1:8 and looking specifically at the word
>"Alpha."  Interestingly, the OED traces the origin of the word to the
>Phoenician "aleph," which originally came from a heiroglyph of an ox's head.
>I have not seen this history elsewhere, and wondered if you had any further
>information regarding the origins and meaning of the word "alpha."  Does the
>heiroglyph pre-date the alphabetic letter itself (if that makes sense...)? I
>didn't see a similar kind of history for the word "omega."  Are there
>similar histories for other Greek letters of the alphabet?  I wonder if
>there are articles of interest that might discuss this as well.

What you cite from the OED is indeed the standard accounting for the Greek
character aleph that can be read in any standard (e.g., _Alpha to Omega:
The Life & Times of the Greek Alphabet_ by Alexander Humez ,Nicholas
Humez); the original Phoenician character was turned on its side so that it
looked a bit more like an ox's head.

As for Omega, that's simple "Long (MEGA) O" as opposed to Omicron, "Short
(MIKRON) O." The character supposedly developed from the Phoenician
character equivalent to Hebrew Ayin, but the name given ultimately by the
Greeks is really a Greek name.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Emeritus)
1989 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad at OR cwconrad at

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