Lectionary Reflection for the Last Sunday after Pentecost

From Revelation (BTCB) by Joseph L. Mangina, commenting on Revelation 1:4b-8:

The climax of this sequence occurs when, for the first time in Revelation, we hear the voice of God himself, speaking through the mouth of the prophet: “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.'” This act of divine self-naming brings God dangerously close. Worship is dangerous—and always one step removed from blasphemy.

In presuming to speak for God, we easily forget that it is not our task to make an absent God present. As the Creator, God is present, closer to creatures than they are to themselves. God is even more intensely present in the person of his Son, whose glory we have just affirmed.

The phrase “Alpha and Omega” echoes the “is, was, is to come” at 1:4, but gives a slightly different twist to that formula. Here the emphasis falls not so much on God’s transcendence over time as on his perfect life and fullness, exceeding creation even as he embraces it, the way the letters Alpha and Omega bracket the Greek alphabet.

It is also possible that these letters suggest the divine name. It is frequently pointed out that a common Greek abbreviation for the name was ІΩΑ, which might have suggested the idea of using Alpha and Omega, Α and Ω, as a cipher for the Tetragrammaton. The ancients were fond of finding mysterious meanings in letters and numbers. That is why the decoding approach to Revelation cannot be completely discount, even if we should avoid making a fetish out of it.


©2010 by Joseph L. Mangina. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.