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'
- 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).
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).
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.