9

1 Cor 16:22 reads:

εἴ τις οὐ φιλεῖ τὸν κύριον, ἤτω ἀνάθεμα. μαράνα θά. NA28
If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come!ESV

From what I gather, there is some question as to whether the Aramaic behind μαράνα θά is Marana tha (= “Our Lord, come!”) or Maran atha (= “Our Lord has come.”) Most translations (and the word division indicated in the NA28) seem to have settled on the vocative + imperative (although G. G. Findlay in the Expositor’s Greek Testament seems to think this is bad Aramaic). I’m also wondering why there is an Aramaic transliteration in the midst of the Greek text at all.

  • Is he quoting something?
  • Is the imperative vs. indicative question settled? If so, how was this decided?
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  • This is absolutely fascinating. I'm sure it's old hat to professionals in the field of Biblical scholarship but to an interested amateur like me this is a fascinating discussion. Apr 17 '15 at 11:51
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The Didache includes Maranatha in its prescribed post-Eucharistic prayer:

Didache 10.6 (Schaff)

'Let grace come, and let this world pass away. Hosanna to the God of David. If any one is holy let him come, if any one is not holy let him repent. Maranatha. Amen.'

This is a clearly eschatological context.

The epilogue of the Revelation actually says 'Come, Lord' in Greek, in close proximity to Jesus' declaration that, 'I am coming soon':

Revelation 22.10-21 (NRSV)

And he said to me, ‘Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.’

‘See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.’

Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practises falsehood.

‘It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.’

The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’
And let everyone who hears say, ‘Come.’
And let everyone who is thirsty come.
Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book; if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away that person’s share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

The one who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.

The Revelation has quite a bit of thematic overlap with the Didache prayer, and possibly also 1 Corinthians 16.22-23:

  • Maranatha / Come, Lord
    • Didache: 'Maranatha'
    • Revelation: 'Come, Lord Jesus'
    • 1 Corinthians: 'Maranatha'
  • A new world
    • Didache: 'Let this world pass away'
    • Revelation: 'Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away'
  • Grace
    • Didache: 'Let grace come'
    • Revelation: 'The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints'
    • 1 Corinthians: 'The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you'
  • Repentance, or lack thereof
    • Didache: 'If any one is holy let him come, if any one is not holy let him repent'
    • Revelation: 'Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy'
    • 1 Corinthians: 'Let anyone be accursed who has no love for the Lord'

It appears Maranatha may have been an early prayer for Jesus to arrive and dispense judgment: 'Come, Lord!' Like other early prayers of the Christian community, Maranatha remained in its Aramaic form even after it had been brought to a Greek-speaking community (cf. the Hebrew Hosanna, also found in the same Didache verse above).

Thiselton writes:1

The Aramaic form Maranatha (Μαράνα θά, 1 Cor 16:22), Our Lord, come . . . is difficult to explain unless, as [John A.T.] Robinson argues, it stems from the early pre-Pauline Aramaic-speaking community.

He later writes (quoting another author):2

To this category ["outcries of prayer, sighs of the oppressed and overflowing heart which in worship were addressed to Jesus"] belongs Maranatha (1 Cor 16:22). "The eschatological outlook of the primitive community, the yearning for the Lord who is to come, forcibly sets precedents in such ecstatic cries."

We might be able to gain some additional understanding of the theology running through Paul's mind by comparing with the Revelation example. In his commentary on the book, Beale writes:3

Sweet adduces the eucharistic context of Didache 10:6 as pointing to the same context for Rev: 22:20. There, in connection with the Lord's Supper, is found the exhortation "Let grace [Jesus] come and may this world pass away. Hosanna to the God of David. If anyone is holy, let him come; if anyone is not, let him repent. Maran Atha ["Come Lord"]. Amen" (cf. the parallels in Rev. 22:11b, 16-17, 20). Also, like Revelation, the passage is set in a context contrasting Christians, false Christians (e.g., Didache 11), and unbelievers, who are called "dogs" (Didache 9.5). Sweet also cites other commentators in support of the idea that "Lord Come" was used in early Christianity to underscore the validity of curses (cf. Rev. 22:18-20) and in the context of the Lord's Supper (cf. 1 Cor. 11:27-32 with 1 Cor. 16:2, 20-22).


Footnotes

1 Anthony C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text (2000), p. 80.

2 Ibid., p. 926.

3 G.K. Beale, The book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text (1999), p. 1155. Italic and brackets original, bold mine.

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This answer adds some supplementary material to the fine answer already posted.

Sebastian Brock records particular comment on his preferred form of maranatha in the preface to the collection of his essays, Fire from Heaven: Studies in Syriac Theology and Liturgy (Ashgate, 2006), p. vi:

Invocations of the Holy Spirit are found in all liturgical traditions but are particularly prominent in those of the Christian East. Syriac liturgical texts provide a number of important insights into early developments.... A basic distinction is provided by the choice of verb used: where the verb 'come' is employed, the Spirit will be the subject, whereas if it is the verb 'send', the Spirit will be the object. Early texts such as the Acts of Thomas indicate that the verb 'come', in the imperative, was already present at an early date in invocations addressed to the Spirit of Christ. Very probably the roots of this usage lie in the Aramaic phrase maranatha, best interpreted as marana tha, 'our Lord, come!', in Pauls' First Letter to the Corinthians (16:22). [bold added]

He discusses this in 'The Epiklesis in the Antiochene Baptismal Ordines', fn. 71 (ch. VII in this collection), where he cites J.A. Emerton's 'MARANATHA and EPHPHATHA', Journal of Theological Studies 18/2 (1967): 427 as his authority. Emerton adduces Aramaic evidence from Qumran and Murraba'at that points in the direction of the marana tha form, although he is careful enough to point out that it is suggestive rather than conclusive.


There has been some push back on the dominant view that marana tha is to be preferred, this from Jean-Claude Moreau, "MARANATHA", Revue biblique 118/1 (2011): 51-75 -

Nowadays, we are used to dividing the Maranatha of 1 Co 16:22 as Marana tha “Our Lord, come” rather than as Maran atha, “Our Lord has come, is here”. In fact, the apheretic imperative belongs to Eastern Aramaic, so the verbal form is necessarily dissyllabic, and the substratum of atha can only be the perfect form ’atā, before which one can only write māran. Three other facts confirm this result: in the Didache, the formula refers to the current presence of the Lord; the split Marana tha is attested neither in the Greek manuscripts nor in the versions; the Fathers of the Church always read Maran atha and modern interpretation rests only on a comparison with the ending of Revelation.

Still, it is worth noting that Emerton (see above) claims that the maran 'atha form "need not, though it may, be an imperative".


As to why Paul might have used Aramaic at this point, a recent article makes the argument:

In 1 Cor 16:22, Paul concludes his letter with a curse against anyone that does not love the Lord followed immediately by the Aramaic expression µαράνα θά. Curses were used in antiquity to restrain rivals by threatening to inflict them with harm or death. Voces mysticae—mystically powerful foreign language words—were frequently employed in curses and many were derived from Hebrew or Aramaic. Curses were widely feared and numerous curses have been discovered in Roman Korinthia. Paul’s conditional curse in 16:22 serves as a final persuasive technique to change the Corinthians’ factional behavior by restraining his rivals through their fear of curses and the power of µαράνα θά as voces mysticae.

= published abstract from John Fotopoulos, "Paul’s Curse of Corinthians: Restraining Rivals with Fear and Voces Mysticae (1 Cor 16:22)", Novum Testamentum 56/3 (2014): 275–309.

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μαράνα θά (maranatha, מָרָנָא תָא) in 1 Cor. 16:22 is not Greek nor is it Hebrew. The Syriac Peshitta, closely related to Aramaic gives a hint because ܡܳܪܱܢ ܐܷܬ݂ܴܐ in Syriac actually means "my Lord come." Thus, (as Susan mentioned) it is an Aramaic phrase probably first used by Jewish Christians (also Samaritan and Syrian Christians) in worship, and, like hallelujah, amen, and hosanna, was carried over to the Gentile Christians in worship. Apparently the Corinthians understood what it meant.

However, since scholars think it is bad Aramaic, maybe it's origin is Antioch, Syria.

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