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Maranatha (Aramaic: either מרנא תא: maranâ thâ' or מרן אתא: maran 'athâ' , Greek: Μαραναθα) is a two-word Aramaic formula occurring only once in the New Testament (see Aramaic of Jesus). It appears in Didache 10:14, which is part of the Apostolic Fathers' collection. It is transliterated into Greek letters rather than translated and, given the nature of early manuscripts, the lexical difficulty rests in determining just which two Aramaic words constitute the single Greek expression, found at the end of Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians (1 Cor 16:22).
If one chooses to split the two words as מרנא תא (maranâ thâ), a vocative concept with an imperative verb, then it can be translated as a command to the Lord to come. On the other hand, if one decides that the two words מרן אתא (maran 'athâ), a possessive "Our Lord" and a perfect/preterite verb "has come," are actually more warranted, then it would be seen as a credal expression. This interpretation, "Our Lord has come," is supported by what appears to be an equivalent of this in the early credal acclamation found in the biblical books of Romans 10:9 and 1 Corinthians 12:3, "Jesus is Lord."
In general, the recent interpretation has been to select the command option ("Come, Lord!"), changing older decisions to follow the preterite option ("Our Lord has come") as found in the ancient Aramaic Peshitta, in the Latin Clementine Vulgate, in the Greek Byzantine texts, maranatha ("O Lord, come!" in 1Co 16:22), which was part of the eucharistic dialogue of the early Church. Textus Receptus, critical Greek texts like Westcott and Hort, Tischendorf, Cambridge, etc., and in the English translations like the King James Version, the Finnish Raamattu, etc.
The NRSV of 1 Cor 16:22 translates the expression as: "Our Lord, come!" but notes that it could also be translated as: "Our Lord has come"; the NIV translates: "Come, O Lord"; the Message version puts it differently as: "Make room for the Master!" ; the NAB notes:
As understood here ("O Lord, come!"), it is a prayer for the early return of Christ. If the Aramaic words are divided differently (Maran atha, "Our Lord has come"), it becomes a credal declaration. The former interpretation is supported by what appears to be a Greek equivalent of this acclamation in Book of Revelation 22:20 "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!"
The 1985 New Jerusalem Bible translates 1 Cor 16:22, "If there is anyone who does not love the Lord, a curse on such a one. Maran atha." In the context of 1 Corinthians, understanding the Greek "maranatha" as Aramaic "Maran atha" in the preterite sense would provide substantiation for the preceding anathema. That is, one who does not love the Lord is accursed because our Lord has ascended and come unto his throne (e.g., Dan 7:13). It would also substantiate the following prayer for grace from the ascended Lord Jesus, who has come to his throne and then sends the Holy Spirit.
The last chapter of the Book of Revelation makes use of the same concept as מרנא תא "marana tha" by the Greek ἔρχου κύριε Ἰησοῦ (Rev. 22:20 NA28) "erchou kurie Iesou", "Come, Lord Jesus."
Use in Contemplative Prayer
Based on the teachings of John Cassian, John Main recommended the recitation of Maranatha as “the ideal Christian mantra”, meaning “Come Lord”, repeated silently interiorly as four equally stressed syllables Ma-ra-na-tha: “Not only is this one of the most ancient Christian prayers, in the language Jesus spoke, but it also has a harmonic quality that helps to bring the mind to silence. Other words or short phrases could be used but he saw it as important that during the meditation one doesn't think about the meaning or use the imagination.” Other Christian authors and communities cultivate similar practices centred on this recitation.
- "Didache. The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles (translation J. B. Lightfoot)". www.earlychristianwritings.com. Retrieved 3 August 2017.
- "CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Anathema". www.newadvent.org. Retrieved 2017-10-17.
- E.g. Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati.
- Black, Matthew. "The Maranatha Invocation and Jude 14,15 (1 Enoch 1:9)." In Christ and Spirit in the New Testament: Studies in Honour of Charles Franscis Digby Moule, edited by Barnabas Lindars and Stepehn S. Smalley. 189-196. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973.
- Hengel, Martin. "Abba, Maranatha, Hosanna und die Anfänge der Christologie." In Denkwürdiges Geheimnis: Beiträge zur Gotteslehre: Festschrift für Eberhard Jüngel zum 70 Geburtstag, edited by Hrsg. v. Ingolf U. Dalferth, Johannes Fischer, and Hans-Peter Großhans. 145-183. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2004.
- Johnson, Christopher D.L. Authority and Tradition in Contemporary Understandings of Hesychasm and the Jesus Prayer, Edinburgh PhD thesis, 2009. In print under ISBN 9781441125477.
- Moreau, Jean-Claude. "Maranatha." Revue Biblique 118.1 (2011): 51-75.
- Moule, C.F.D. "Reconsideration of the Context of Maranatha." New Testament Studies 6.4 (1960): 307-310.
- Media related to Maranatha churches at Wikimedia Commons
- Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown: Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (1871),
- Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1907). Catholic Encyclopedia. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company. .
- The maranatha.com website
- World Community for Christian Meditation
- (in German) Welt der Bibel German Site containing article on maranatha
-  From the Catechism of the Catholic Church
-  The Didache or Teaching of the Apostles: APOSTOLIC FATHERS (trans. and ed., J. B. Lightfoot)