What Does The Word “Maranatha” Mean In The Bible?

by Dr. Michael L. Williams · Print Print · Email Email

Often we find words, expressions, or verses in the Bible that we use in conversation. If you look at the written work and personal correspondence of America’s founders, you find that their writings were full of such Biblical content. However, many people also use these words, expressions, or verses without really understanding the origin, context, or meaning. One such word is the word Maranatha. For this reason, we will look at what does the word Maranatha mean in the Bible.

What Does The Word Maranatha Mean In The Bible

Where is the word Maranatha used in the Bible and what is the context?

The word Maranatha in the English form can be found in the King James Bible in the following passage:

The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house. All the brethren greet you. Greet ye one another with an holy kiss. The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand. If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen. (1 Corinthians 16:19-24)

This passage is the closing to the letter that Paul wrote to the believers in Corinth that we know as 1st Corinthians. Paul wrote this letter as part of a correspondence with the believers to address serious issues that were taking place in the church and to instruct them on what they should be doing to grow in their faith. Chapter 16 in particular addresses specific things that Paul wanted them to be doing in several matters. The chapter starts with Paul addressing what they should do in matters of taking up the weekly offering (verses 1-4). In verses 5-9, Paul provides details on his travel itinerary and how it is affected by the work needed in Ephesus. In verses 10-12 he addresses Timothy’s coming arrival and how they should receive him.

In context

Finally, in 1 Corinthians 16:13-18 Paul challenges them to “stand fast” in their faith and take to heart the things he has written concerning how they should conduct themselves. Again, this was a letter of rebuke concerning the evil that they were allowing to take place. Finally, in the closing (1 Corinthians 16:19-23), Paul gives the final warning that, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.” The use of the word “anathema” gives further clarification as to how the word Maranatha is being used.

What does anathema Maranatha mean?

Maranatha is described as follows (1): “Of Chaldian origin (meaning our Lord has come); maranatha, i.e. an exclamation of the approaching divine judgment:- Maran-atha.” It is also described as being of “Syriac” or Syrian origin as a watchword that is used to urge them to prepare for the Lord’s coming (2). From an etymological (word origin and history) perspective, Maranatha can be defined by its parts. Mar- having an origin in Old English and German words that were used to describe wasting, spoiling, troubling, confusing, or forgetting (3). This is the same root for the word mar or marred, like if you mar (damage) something. Anatha has the same root as the word Latin word “anathema” (the word before Maranatha in 1 Corinthians 16:22) that is defined etymologically as “an accursed thing.” On a literal level, it suggests being against a theme or theology, referring to God. On a practical level, it is used to describe a person that was excommunicated from the church because they were “devoted to evil” and “accursed or damned”, or formally “consigned to damnation” (4).

Combined, anathema Maranatha is used to describe a person that is cursed to receive the wrath of Jesus Christ at His second coming because of the person’s rejection of God by unbelief and embracing of evil. (See also: Revelation 19:11-21; Mark 1:15; Luke 21:31; Philippians 4:5; 2 Thessalonians 2:2). Paul had challenged the Corinthians earlier in 1 Corinthians 5:1-13 not to tolerate these behaviors and to purge out those who do such things from the congregation. When you look at all of this in context, Maranatha is used to describe someone who needs Christ. Believers that act this way should be approached in the spirit of meekness to address their behaviors in light of conforming to the image of Christ (Matthew 18:15-20; Galatians 6:1-2). If the person rejects the counsel and admonition, they are to be expelled from the congregation and given over to God to be dealt with at His coming.

Conclusion

The word Maranatha is used in 1 Corinthians 16:22 in conjunction with the word anathema. Maranatha was used as a word to describe the coming of the Lord to pour out His wrath on the evil works and workers of this world. Paul used the phrase anathema Maranatha in describing those who were cursed or excommunicated from the local church because of unbelief and embracing of evil to be dealt with by the Lord. Those who are in error Biblically should be approached in the Spirit of meekness in hope of them hearing the truth and becoming convicted of their need to change.

Take a look this great profile on Paul: Apostle Paul Biography and Profile

Resources – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, King James Version. (1) Strong, James. Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary. Austin, TX: WORDsearch Corp., 2007. WORDsearch CROSS e-book. (2) Jamieson, Robert, A.R. Fausset, David Brown. A Commentary: Critical, Experimental, and Practical on the Old and New Testaments. Toledo, OH: Jerome B. Names & Co., 1884. WORDsearch CROSS e-book. (3) Online Etymology Dictionary (2015). “Mar-“. Retrieved from Online Etymology Dictionary, http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=mar. (4) Online Etymology Dictionary (2015). “Anathema”. Retrieved from Online Etymology Dictionary, http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=anathema&searchmode=none

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Sybil maitland April 14, 2016 at 12:09 pm

The word of God is strong and mighty and must not be compromised

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A G Foster March 12, 2017 at 10:24 pm

Here is a transliteration of the Syriac of 1Cor 16:22: “man delo rohem leMoran Yeshu’a Meshiho nehweh harem. Moran etho.”

Translated: “Whoever does not love our Lord Jesus Christ shall be cursed. Our Lord cometh.”

The first sentence was preserved as delivered–in Greek; the next was delivered and preserved in the Aramaic. ‘Anathema’ is Greek; ‘Maranatha’ is Aramaic. There is no need to bring any other language into the discussion. The apparent wordplay between ‘rohem’ and ‘harem’ may be accidental: Greek names predominated among Corinthian Jews to the near exclusion of linguistically Semitic names, and while evidently Paul’s audience was expected to understand ‘Maranatha,’ there is little reason to suppose he otherwise preached in Aramaic at Corinth. –AGF

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