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MARANATHA (mār'a-năth'a, Aramaic, mārānā’ ’āthāh, our Lord comes!). An expression of greeting and encouragement as well as of triumphant faith, such as is shown in
MARANATHA măr’ ə năth’ ə (μαραναθά). This term, manifestly transliterated from the Aram., occurs in
In favor of the imperative, one often quotes
On the other hand, the perfect also would make good sense, esp. if a eucharistic background for this expression is assumed. In the Didachē “maranatha” appears in a context which definitely centers on the Lord’s table.
In whatever way the verb is understood, the statement would be fitting with reference to the Eucharist and could be paraphrased in one of the following ways:
1. “‘Our Lord has come’ in the incarnation and we ‘do this in remembrance of’ him” (
2. “‘Our Lord has come’ to be present with us at His table and to search the hearts of the communicants.” This would relate well to the previous part of
3. “‘Our Lord, come!,’ for we yearn for the full manifestation of your power and judgment, and we partake of the elements ‘until he comes’” (
These various meanings are not necessarily mutually exclusive and “maranatha” might suggest a felicitous combination of them.
A Eucharistic context is made further plausible by the following consideration. An Aram. expression in a letter addressed to a Gr.-speaking group appears very strange indeed, unless it be a form consecrated in the worship of the earliest Christian community, the Church of Jerusalem, and with which all Christians, whatever their native language, would become familiar (something like “amen” or “alleluia”). Thewould easily fit that picture.
In spite of these arguments the identification of the context of “maranatha” with the Eucharist remains speculative and some able scholars offer alternative views, notably C. F. D. Moule, who envisions this expression as a part of a curse or of a solemn asseveration. (“A Reconsideration of the Context of Maranatha.” NTS VIII , 307-310.)
If the tr. “Come!” is preferred, the term “maranatha” would be a very early evidence of a prayer addressed to Jesus as Lord. The Aram. form Maran bears witness in any case to the fact of a Palestinian recognition of Christ as Lord.
See the commentaries on 1 Corinthians and Bible dictionaries, particularly the following: Arndt (1957), 492; A. Wikgren, IDB III (1962), 262; O. Betz in B. Reicke and L. Rost, Biblisch-Historisches Handwörterbuch (1964), 1144; R. G. Kuhn, TDNT IV (1967), 466-472, has a lucid discussion with extensive additional bibliography up to 1937.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
mar-a-nath’-a, mar-an-a’-tha (from Aramaic words, marana’ ’athah, "Our Lord cometh, or will come"; according to some, "has come"; to others, "Come!" an invitation for his speedy reappearance (compare