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Maranatha (either מרנא תא: maranâ thâ' or מרן אתא: maran 'athâ' ) is a two-word Aramaic formula occurring only once in the New Testament (see Aramaic of Jesus) and also in the Didache, 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 lies in determining just which two Aramaic words comprise the single Greek expression, found at the end of Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians (1Cor 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, 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. One reason the change from the previous scholarly view has occurred is that the P46 papyrus (ca. A.D. 200) divides it as μαρανα θα ("marana tha").
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) and wields power to implement such a curse. 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.
Role in Christian Meditation
- 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),
- CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Anathema,
- World Community for Christian Meditation
- (German) Welt der Bibel German Site containing article on maranatha
-  From the Catechism of the Catholic Church