Friday, December 14, 2007

The Word "Maranatha"

I was doing a little research into the word "Maranatha," and I found out I was partly right about what I thought about it and partly wrong. Many people ask me what "Maranatha" means, and I have always told them that it was a Greek word found at the end of Revelation that means "Lord, Come." Well, I guess having one thing right out of three is not that great, so I am setting the record straight. "Maranatha" is Aramaic, not Greek. It is found only at the end of 1 Corinthians, not Revelation (See 1 Corinthians 16:22). (To my credit, the Greek equivalent of "Maranatha" is found at the end of Revelation, so I guess that part of my answer was at least good enough to pass a small amount of scrutiny.) The part I was correct about was that it means "Come, O Lord."

1 Cor. 16:22 is translated in the NIV as "If anyone does not love the Lord-a curse be on him. Come, O Lord!" However the KJV doesn't translate the last two words - "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha."

To quote from the Wiki (see Link above):

The phrase seems to have been used as a greeting between Early Christians, and it is probably in this way that it was used by the Apostle Paul. However, the preceding word is the curse "anathema", and because the original texts of the Greek New Testament contained no punctuation at all, or indeed any word or sentence separation, early readers took the two words together and construed the passage as, "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha". It was therefore believed that "anathema maranatha" must be some exceptionally severe kind of curse. The phrase was in use in this sense at least by the 7th Century, when Pope Silverius pronounced anyone who deceives a bishop as "anathema maranatha" (see the Catholic Encyclopedia article referenced below). One possible understanding of this is that the offender would be excluded from communion with the Church until the return of Christ, tying the punishment to the term Maranatha. John Wesley in his Notes on the Bible comments that, "It seems to have been customary with the Jews of that age, when they had pronounced any man an Anathema, to add the Syriac expression, Maran - atha, that is, "The Lord cometh;" namely, to execute vengeance upon him." The negative understanding of maranatha began to die out by the late 19th Century; Jamiesen, Fausset and Brown's commentary of 1871 separates Maranatha from anathema in the same way as modern scholars.
So, there is some debate about whether the early use of this word was used only as a greeting or whether it was used in the process of Church discipline. Either way, it is little wonder that this Word is "Greek" to our culture today. First of all, the culture, including many people in our churches are Biblically illiterate. They don't know how to study the Bible and apply it to their own lives. Even Church leaders think the only way to "study" the Bible is to get the class in a circle, read a verse, and then ask everyone, "What does this mean to you?" Is it any wonder that our Churches are so messed up and have such a lack of discernment? Is it any wonder that the Spiritual growth and maturity of adults in Churches (not to mention youth) is so woeful? If any verse could mean anything to anyone, then by that logic, "Maranatha" could mean magnetic monkeys driving BMW's.

Second, the idea that there might be an "Anathema" attached to the "Maranatha" is almost considered a hate crime. Maranatha is certainly a word filled with hope in the coming of the Lord, but like so many Biblical truths, it is hope with an edge. The phrase "Come, O Lord" is wonderful if you are looking forward to His return, but if you live for yourself and choose to reject God's plan for your life, then you are not going to be praying "Maranatha." In fact, "Anathema" would be a better word for you.

Now, I am not suggesting that we rename the camp "Anathema Maranatha Bible Camp" - that would indeed be a mouthful. (I can imagine the telemarketers just trying to say that name.) But we, and all of God's Churches that truly want to follow Him, need to give the full message - there are blesssings for those who love and obey the Lord, and curses for those who don't. That's the hard truth. I choose blessings!


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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