Metatron (Hebrew מטטרון) or Mattatron (a differentiation of Metatron) is an archangel in Judaism and in Christian folklore. According to Jewish medieval apocrypha, he is Enoch, ancestor of Noah, transformed into an angel. There are no references to Metatron as an angel in the Jewish Tanakh or Christian scriptures (Old and New Testament); however, Genesis 5:24 is often cited as evidence of Enoch's bodily ascension into heaven —"And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him." Although he is mentioned in a few brief passages in the Talmud, Metatron appears primarily in medieval Jewish mystical texts and other post-scriptural esoteric sources, such as the Books of Enoch: 1 Enoch: Book of Parables, 2 Enoch, and 3 Enoch. In Rabbinic tradition, he is the highest of the angels and serves as the celestial scribe.
The Book of Parables presents two figures: the son of man and Enoch. At first these two characters seem to be separate entities. Enoch views the son of man enthroned in heaven. Later however they prove to be one and the same. Many scholars believe that the final chapters in the Book of Parables are a later addition. Others think they are not and that the son of man is Enoch’s heavenly double similarly to the Prayer of Joseph where Jacob is depicted as an angel. The Book of Daniel displays two similar characters: the Ancient of Days and the one like a man. Parts of the text in Daniel were originally Aramaic and may have been changed in translation. The Septuagint reads that the son of man came as the Ancient of Days.
The identification of Metatron with Enoch is not explicitly made in the Talmud although it does reference a Prince of the World who was young but now is old. However, some of the earliest kabbalists assumed the connection. There also seems to be two Metatrons, one spelled with six letters (מטטרון), and one spelled with seven (מיטטרון). The former may be the transformed Enoch, Prince of the Countenance within the divine palace; the latter, the Primordial Metatron, an emanation of the "Cause of Causes", specifically the tenth and last emanation, identified with the earthly Divine Presence. Furthermore, the Merkabah text Re’ uyot Yehezkel identifies the Ancient of Days from Daniel as Metatron.
The Talmud relates that Elisha ben Abuyah (a rabbi and Jewish religious authority born in Jerusalem sometime before 70 CE), also called Acher (אחר, "other", as he became an apostate), entered Paradise and saw Metatron sitting down (an action that is not done in the presence of God). Elishah ben Abuyah therefore looked to Metatron as a deity and said heretically: "There are indeed two powers in Heaven!" The rabbis explain that Metatron had permission to sit because of his function as the Heavenly Scribe, writing down the deeds of Israel (Babylonian Talmud, Hagiga 15a).
The Talmud states, it was proved to Elisha that Metatron could not be a second deity by the fact that Metatron received 60 "strokes with fiery rods" to demonstrate that Metatron was not a god, but an angel, and could be punished.
The Babylonian Talmud mentions Metatron in two other places: Sanhedrin 38b and Avodah Zarah 3b. In Sanhedrin 38b Rabbi Idith instructs Jews not to put Metatron in God’s place. Avodah Zarah 3b: In the fourth quarter God sits and instructs the school children. In the preceding three quarters Metatron may take Gods place or God may do this among other tasks. B Yevamot 16b records an utterance attributed to the Prince of the World. “I have been young and now I am old.” In rabbinic tradition this utterance is attributed to Metatron.
In opposition to these apologies, a Talmudic version as cited by the Karaite scholar Kirkisani identifies Metatron with the term "lesser YHVH", which is the Lesser Tetragrammaton. The word Metatron is numerically equivalent to Shaddai (God) in Hebrew gematria; therefore, he is said to have a "Name like his Master". However, Kirkisani may have misrepresented the Talmud in order to embarrass his Rabbanite opponents with evidence of polytheism. On the other hand, extra-talmudic mystical texts (see below regarding Sefer Hekhalot) do speak of a "lesser YHVH", apparently deriving the concept from Exodus 23:21, which mentions an angel of whom God says "my name [understood as YHVH, the usual divine Proper Name] is in him".
Merkabah and later mystical writings
Metatron also appears in the Pseudepigrapha, most prominently in the Hebrew Merkabah Book of Enoch, also called 3 Enoch or Sefer Hekhalot (Book of [the Heavenly] Palaces). The book describes the link between Enoch, son of Jared (great grandfather of Noah) and his transformation into the angel Metatron. His grand title "the lesser YHVH" resurfaces here. Metatron says, "He [the Holy One]... called me, 'The lesser YHVH' in the presence of his whole household in the height, as it is written, 'my name is in him.'" (12:5, Alexander's translation.) The narrator of this book, supposedly Rabbi Ishmael, tells how Metatron guided him through Heaven and explained its wonders. 3 Enoch presents Metatron in two ways: as a primordial angel (9:2–13:2) and as the transformation of Enoch after he was assumed into Heaven.
And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him. [Genesis 5:24 KJV.]
This Enoch, whose flesh was turned to flame, his veins to fire, his eye-lashes to flashes of lightning, his eye-balls to flaming torches, and whom God placed on a throne next to the throne of glory, received after this heavenly transformation the name Metatron.
The Zohar calls Metatron "the Youth", a title previously used in 3 Enoch, where it appears to mean "servant". It identifies him as the angel that led the people of Israel through the wilderness after their exodus from Egypt (again referring to Exodus 23:21, see above), and describes him as a heavenly priest.
In the later Ecstatic Kabbalah Metatron is a messianic figure.
There are numerous possible etymologies for the name Metatron. Some scholars, however, such as Philip Alexander, believe that if the name Metatron originated in Hekhalot-Merkabah texts (such as 3 Enoch), then it may be a made-up word like the magic words Adiriron and Dapdapiron.
Hugo Odeberg,Adolf Jellinek and Marcus Jastrow suggest the name may originate from either Mattara (מטרא) "keeper of the watch" or the verb MMTR (ממטר) "to guard, to protect". An early derivation of this can be seen in Shimmusha Rabbah, where Enoch is clothed in light and is the guardian of the souls ascending to heaven. Odeberg also suggests that the name Metatron might be taken from the Persian name Mithras. Citing Wiesner, he lays out a number of parallels between Mithras and Metatron based on their positions in heaven and duties.
Metatron seems to be made up of two Greek words for after and throne, μετὰ θρóνος (meta thronos), taken together as "one who serves behind the throne" or "one who occupies the throne next to the throne of glory". The two words do not appear separately in any text known to Gershom Scholem, who therefore dismisses the idea with the words "this widely repeated etymology.... has no merit.".
The word σύνθρονος (synthronos) is used as "co-occupant of the divine throne"; however, like the above etymology, it is not found in any source materials. It is supported by Saul Lieberman and Peter Schäfer, who give further reasons why this might be a viable etymology. The Latin word Metator (messenger, guide, leader, measurer) had been suggested by Eleazar ben Judah of Worms (c. 1165 – c. 1230), Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman, and brought to light again by Hugo Odeberg. When transliterated into the Hebrew language, we get מטיטור or מיטטור. Gershom Scholem argues that there is no data to justify the conversion of metator to metatron. Philip Alexander also suggests this as a possible origin of Metatron, stating that the word Metator also occurs in Greek as mitator–a word for an officer in the Roman army who acted as a forerunner. Using this etymology, Alexander suggests the name may have come about as a description of "the angel of the Lord who led the Israelites through the wilderness: acting like a Roman army metator guiding the Israelites on their way". Another possible interpretation is that of Enoch as a metator showing them "how they could escape from the wilderness of this world into the promised land of heaven". Because we see this as a word in Hebrew, Jewish Aramaic, and Greek, Alexander believes this gives even more strength to this etymology.
Other ideas include μέτρον (metron, "a measure"). Charles Mopsik believes that the name Metatron may be related to the sentence from Genesis 5:24 "Enoch walked with God, then he was no more, because God took him." The Greek version of the Hebrew word "to take" is μετετέθη (it was transferred). רון, meaning RON, is a standard addition to מטטרון, metatron, and other angelic names in the Jewish faith. So Mopsik believes if we concentrate on מטט, MTT, he believes it appears to be a transliteration from the Greek μετετέθη.
In the entry entitled "Paradigmata" in his study, "'The Written' as the Vocation of Conceiving Jewishly", John W McGinley gives an accounting of how this name functions in the Bavli's version of "four entered pardes". This account maintains that "Ishmael ben Elisha" is a rabbinically sanctioned cognomen for Elisha ben Abbuyah (the "Akher" of the Bavli's account). This hypothesis explains why the generators of the "chambers" portion of the Heikhalot literature make "Ishmael ben Elisha" the major protagonist of their writings even though this Rabbi Ishmael was not directly mentioned in the Bavli's account (in the Gemara to tractate Khaggigah) of "The Work of the Chariot".
Solomon Judah Leib Rapport in Igrot Shir suggests that Metatron is a combination of two Greek words which mean to "change" and "pass away" referring to Chanoch (Enoch) who "changed" into an angel and "passed away" from the world.
- "GEMAṬRIA: Metatron". Jewish Encyclopedia
- "Genesis 5:24". Bible Hub. The Biblos Foundation. Retrieved 28 September 2013.
- "Metatron". Britannica Online Encyclopedia.
- Andrei A. Orlov (2005). The Enoch-Metatron Tradition. Mohr Siebeck. p. 83-84. Retrieved 05 March 2014.
- Nathaniel Deutsch (1999). Guardians of the Gate: Angelic Vice-regency in the Late Antiquity. BRILL. p. 45-47. Retrieved 05 March 2014.
- Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim (1993). Donald Tyson and James Freake, ed. Three Books of Occult Philosophy. Llewellyn Worldwide. p. 473. Retrieved 06 March 2014.
- Alan F. Segal titled his book, Two Powers in Heaven (Brill, 1977/2002) on this alleged exclamation.
- Scholem, Gershom (1974), Kabbalah, Keter Publishing House Jerusalem Ltd
- "Sanhedrin". halakhah.com. Retrieved 05 March 2014.
- "Avodah Zarah". halakhah.com. Retrieved 05 March 2014.
- Daniel Chanan Matt, ed. (2005). The Zohar, Volume 3; Volume 2006. Stanford University Press. p. 86. Retrieved 05 March 2014.
- "Enoch as Metatron and conversion of Moses from flesh to fire", Journal of the Royal Asiastic Society, 1893.
- Alexander, P. (1983), "3 (Hebrew Apocalypse of) Enoch", in James H. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, New York: Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-09630-5
- Gershom G. Scholem, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism (1941/1961) p. 67. Extract of 3 Enoch.
- P. Koslowski, ed. (2002). Progress, Apocalypse, and Completion of History and Life after Death of the Human Person in the World Religions. Springer. p. 58. Retrieved 03 March 2014.
- Etymology of the Name Metatron Andrei Orlov
- Andrei A. Orlov, The Enoch-Metatron Tradition (TSAJ, 107; Tuebingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 2005) 92-97
- Alexander, P. “3 Enoch”, 1.243; idem, "The Historical Settings of the Hebrew Book of Enoch", 162.
- Odeberg, Hugo, ed. (1929). 3 Enoch or The Hebrew Book of Enoch. London: Cambridge University Press. p. 1.125, 1.126.
- Jellinek. A. "Beiträge zur Geschichte der Kabbala" (Leipzig c.l. Fritzsche 1852) Page 4
- Jastrow. M. "A Dictionary of the Targumim, the Talmud Babli and Yerushalmi, and the Midrashic Literature." Page 767
- in Ben Chananja, 1862, p. 384; 1866, pp. 600-625
- Schäfer, Peter (1992). The Hidden and Manifest God: Some Major Themes in Early Jewish Mysticism. SUNY Series in Judaica. State University of New York Press. ISBN 978-0-7914-1044-8. "most probable is the etymology of Lieberman: Metatron = Greek metatronos = metathronos = synthronos; i.e. the small "minor god" whose throne is beside that of the great "God""
- Scholem, Major Trends, 69.
- Scholem, Jewish Gnosticism, 91, and 43.
- sunthronos, the Greek term metaturannos, which can be translated as “the one next to the ruler”. Philip Alexander, "3 Enoch"
- Lieberman, Saul. "Metatron, the Meaning of His Name and His Functions in: I. Gruenwald, Apocalyptic and Merkavah Mysticism" Leiden, Brill, 1980. 235–241.
- Alexander, P. "From Son of Adam to a Second God" and Alexander, P. "3 Enoch"
- Urbach, Ephraïm Elimelech. "The Sages: Their Concepts and Beliefs" Cambridge, Maa. : Harvard University Press, 1987, ©1979. ISBN 0-674-78523-1 OCLC: 15489564
- Black, Matthew. "The Origin of the Name of Metatron". Can be linked back to the title praemetitor in Philos QG which can be connected to the Greek word for Metator "measurer".
- Mopsik, C. Le Livre hébreu d’Hénoch ou Livre des palais. Paris: Verdier, 1989.
- McGinley, John W; "The Written" as the Vocation of Conceiving Jewishly. ISBN 0-595-40488-X. The entry "Paradigmatia" gives an accounting of the meaning of "Metatron" as it is used in the Bavli's version of "four entered pardes".
- G. G. Stroumsa, "Form(s) of God: Some Notes on Metatron and Christ", Harvard Theological Review 76 (1983), 269–288
- Rabbi Geoffrey W. Dennis, The Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic and Mysticism, Llewellyn Publications (2007), ISBN 978-0738709055
- Excerpts about Metatron from books by Andrei A. Orlov: