THE ALPHA AND OMEGA
IN THIS STUDY WE LEARN:
- Jesus spoke Greek.
- Jesus sent The Revelation to Greek speaking people.
- John wrote the words of Jesus in Greek.
Some years ago a jeweler whose given name was Harold, had a store in Nashville. He was one of the early advertisers on television. He was also his own spokesperson. His advertisements usually ended with this personal appeal to the public. "If you don't know diamonds, know your jeweler. And if Harold says it's so, it's so."
I don't know whether Harold was an honest man or not, but his message was: I am honest. You can believe what I tell you.
Can't the same be said of Jesus? He is honest. He is the faithful and true witness. We can believe what he says. If Jesus says it is so, it is so. Jesus said he was the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet.
I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending...
I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last.
I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end...
I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end...
Revelation 1:8, 11 & 21:6 & 22:13
When Jesus said of himself, "I am Alpha and Omega," he was speaking Greek. Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet. Omega is the last. He uses these Greek letters to make his point. "I am the first and the last." "I am the beginning and the end." He graphically illustrates his point with this figure of speech.
If Jesus said these words, then the New Testament was written in Greek. Conversely, if the New Testament was not written in Greek, then Jesus did not say these words, he is not the Alpha and the Omega, and we cannot trust him to be exactly who he says he is. It is best if we trust Jesus. He is Alpha and Omega.
JESUS SPEAKS GREEK
Don't be surprised when Jesus speaks Greek. He is the God of creation. He created all things. That would include the Greek language. Since he created it, does it not seem eminently reasonable that he should speak it?
But the question for us to address is this, could Jesus speak Greek while on earth? He lived and ministered in a multilingual culture. This fact is easily seen from the sign Pilate posted on the cross. It was in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. It is just possible some of the Greek spoken in that area could have rubbed off on Jesus.
GALILEE OF THE GENTILES
In Galilee, where Jesus grew up, the population was by no means wholly Jewish. Since the fall of Israel, about 600 B.C., it had been under Jewish domination only during the rule of the Maccabees. You see, when Jesus was a boy, Galilee had been under Jewish rule for only about a century out of the past six hundred years.
When Jesus lived there, it was ruled by Rome not by Jews. Herod the tetrarch, who ruled Galilee when Jesus was born, was not Jewish. He was an Idumaean, a descendant of Esau. Of course, he ruled at the bidding of the Roman Emperor.
In the Scripture, you will recall, Galilee is called "Galilee of the Gentiles." It had a number of non-Jewish cities and a large non-Jewish population. The sea of Galilee was surrounded by Greek cities.1
Not every city on the sea was Greek, but many were. Decapolis (This word is Greek for Ten Cities.) bordering the sea to the east and south were Hellenistic cities. Tiberias, built to honor the Roman emperor by that name, was on the southwestern shore. Sephoris, a thoroughly Greek city, was not an hour's walk north of Nazareth. Galilee had a large Greek and other Gentile presence. The culture of these people was Greek and they spoke the Greek language.
Jesus traveled to some of the Greek cities in the area. Once near Tyre and Sidon he had a conversation with a Greek lady and healed her daughter. It is not unreasonable to believe that Jesus spoke Greek to her. The Jews with whom Jesus had contact knew he could speak Greek. They said he would be able to teach the Greeks. Remember their comments.
Where does this man intend to go that we
cannot find him? Will he go where our people
live scattered among the Greeks, and teach
John 7:35 (N.I.V.)
You are able to see that Jesus lived and worked in an area with more than one language.2 He spent much of his life in Galilee of the Gentiles. He traveled to Greek cities and talked with Greek people. His native language may have been Aramaic, but without any doubt he also spoke Greek.
HIS NAME IN GREEK
Jesus even said his name in Greek. Near the end of the book of the Revelation, here is what he said.
I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you
these things in the churches.
He has just said, in Greek, " I am Alpha and Omega." Only a few words later in the same speech he says, "I Jesus." This is also in Greek. Our Lord spoke his name in a language other than Hebrew. He said, "egw IhsouV. "Egw IhsouV," being translated (from Greek into English), is "I JESUS." His name in Greek is IhsouV. This name transliterated into English is Iesous - thus Jesus.
By saying this, he made his name sacred in the Greek language. He used his name in Greek. We can use his name in Greek or English or any other language. He is not and his name cannot be confined only to the Hebrews or only to their language. His New Testament is most certainly not in the Hebrew language.
Here is something else to consider. The book of the Revelation is written "to the seven churches which are in Asia." All seven churches are in Greek cities.3 The Roman province of Asia is today's Turkey. Before the Romans controlled that area, Greek people had lived there for centuries. John received and likely wrote the Revelation while in exile on an island just off the coast of Asia.
Patmos is a rocky little island in the Aegean sea. John was exiled on a Greek island. The people to whom John wrote were Greek. There is no reason why John would have written in any language other than Greek.
Furthermore, John wrote Jesus' words, "I am Alpha and Omega." That is Greek. You and I can know by this that the New Testament was written in Greek. At least, we can ascertain this fact - The Revelation was.
We can trust Jesus. He is honest. He is the faithful witness. I believe his testimony that he is the Alpha and Omega. I also believe those words are Greek. Therefore, I am compelled to conclude the New Testament was written in Greek.
Footnotes1. Burton L. Mack, The Lost Gospel (San Francisco, Harper, 1993). In his forth chapter entitled "Galilee Before The War", Mack says: "Three hundred years of hellenistic influence just before the time of Jesus is an especially important factor. Hellenistic influence has been downplayed by scholars in the interest of buttressing the picture of Jesus appearing in the midst of a thoroughly Jewish culture. Unfortunately for this view, archeological evidence of hellenization in Galilee continues to increase. Since language is such a basic index of cultural influence, it is significant that southern Galilee was largely Greek speaking in the first century, though of course bilingual." [back]
2. Bruce M. Metzger, The New Testament its background, growth, and content (Nashville, Abingdon, 1965). On page 32, Metzger says: "The Greek language, on the contrary, was widely understood in Palestine, particularly in the north, which was commonly called "Galilee of the Gentiles".
3. J. D. Douglas, ed., The New Bible Dictionary (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans,1973), art. Asia.
Will Durant, The Story of Civilization: Part II, The Life of Greece, (New York, Simon and Schuster, 1966), See chapter VI, The Great Migration. [back]