Metatron (Hebrew מטטרון; prob. derived from the Latin mētātor: "one who metes out or marks off a place, a divider and fixer of boundaries", "a measurer", although several other suggestions exist) or Mattatron is an archangel in Judaism and known in Judaism as the Recording Angel or the Chancellor of Heaven (which makes Adramelech his infernal counterpart). The name Metatron is not mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, nor is it mentioned in the early Enoch literature. How the name originated is a matter of debate. Although Metatron is mentioned in a few brief passages in the Talmud, he appears primarily in mystical Kabbalistic texts within the Rabbinic literature. In that tradition, he is the highest of the angels and serves as the celestial scribe or "recording angel".
According to Jewish apocrypha, Metatron is the name Enoch received, after his transformation into an angel. The book of 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."
1 Enoch: 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.: 83–84 The Book of Daniel displays two similar characters: the Ancient of Days and the one like a man. Parts of the text in Daniel are 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 the Book of Daniel as Metatron.
Many scholars see a discontinuity between how Enoch is portrayed in the early Enoch literature and how Metatron is portrayed. Scholars commonly see the character of Metatron as being based on an amalgam of Jewish literature, in addition to Enoch, Michael, Melchizedek and Yahoel among others are seen as influences.: 86 Gershom Scholem argues Metatron's character was influenced by two streams of thought. One of which linked Metatron with Enoch, while the second was a fusing of different obscure entities and mythic motifs.:180 Scholem argues that this second tradition was original separate but later became fused with the Enoch tradition.: 141–142 He points to texts where this second Metatron is a primordial angel and referred to as Metatron Rabbah.: 141 Scholem theorizes that the two Hebrew spellings of Metatron's name are representative of these two separate traditions.: 142 In his view the second Metatron is linked to Yahoel. Scholem also links Yahoel with Michael.: 141 In the Apocalypse of Abraham Yahoel is assigned duties normally reserved for Michael. Yahoel's name is commonly seen as a substitute for the Ineffable Name. In 2 Enoch, Enoch is assigned titles commonly used by Metatron such as "the Youth, the Prince of the Presence and the Prince of the World.": 141 However we do not see Enoch referred to as the Lesser YHWH.: 141 In 3 Enoch Metatron is call the lesser YHWH. This raises a problem since the name Metatron does not seem to be directly related to the name of God YHWH.: 140 Scholem proposes this is because the lesser YHWH is a reference to Yahoel.: 140 In Maaseh Merkabah the text reasons that Metatron is called the lesser YHWH because in Hebrew gematria Metatron is numerically equivalent to another name of God Shaddai. Scholem does not find this convincing.: 140 Scholem point to the fact that both Yahoel and Metatron were known as the lesser YHWH. In 3 Enoch 48D1 Metatron is called both Yahoel Yah and Yahoel. In addition to being one of the seventy names of Metatron from 3 Enoch 48D. Yahoel and Metatron are also linked in Aramaic incantation bowl inscriptions.: 86
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 a Minim tells Rabbi Idith that Metatron should be worshiped because he has a name like his master. Rabbi Idith uses the same passage Exodus 23:21 to show that Metatron was an angel and not a deity and thus should not be worshiped. Furthermore, as an angel Metatron has no power to pardon transgressions nor was he to be received even as a messenger of forgiveness. Avodah Zarah 3b: In the fourth quarter God sits and instructs the school children. In the preceding three quarters Metatron may take God's 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.
The tenth century Karaite scholar Kirkisani believed that rabbinic Judaism was the heresy of Jeroboam I. He quoted a version of Sanhedrin 38b, which he claimed contained a reference to the "lesser YHVH." Gershom Scholem suggests that the name was deliberately omitted from later copies of the Talmud. However, Kirkisani may have misrepresented the Talmud in order to embarrass his Rabbanite opponents with evidence of polytheism. Extra-talmudic mystical texts such as 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. The word Metatron is numerically equivalent to Shaddai (God) in Hebrew gematria; therefore, he is said to have a "Name like his Master".
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.
In the Apocalypse of Zerubbabel Metatron is not identified as Enoch. Instead he is identified as the archangel Michael.: 86: 183–185 The text also records that Metatron in gematria is the equivalent of Shadday.: 55, 184 While he also appears in other apocalyptic writings he is most prominent in the Apocalypse of Zerubbabel.: 183–184 In these writings he plays the role of heavenly interlocutor delivering knowledge about the coming messianic age.: 184
There are numerous possible etymologies for the name Metatron. However, some scholars, such as Philip Alexander, believe if the name Metatron originated in Hekhalot-Merkabah texts (such as 3 Enoch), then it may be a magic word like 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 (he was transferred). רון (RON) is a standard addition to מטטרון (Metatron) and other angelic names in the Jewish faith. According to Mopsik, מטט (MTT) is 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.
In popular culture
In Dogma, Metatron is portrayed by Alan Rickman, stating that he acts as the Voice of God in situations where people hear God speak to them, as humanity is psychologically and physically incapable of hearing God's actual voice without their heads exploding. In the course of the film, he recruits abortion clinic worker Bethany Sloan (Linda Fiorentino), who is revealed over the course of the film to be the last living relative of Jesus, to stop two angels from unwittingly negating existence while God is incapacitated after he is attacked and left in a coma while in a mortal form. During a later conversation with Bethany, the Metatron notes that Jesus had trouble adapting to the news that he was God's son and asked Metatron to take it back, with Metatron admitting to Bethany that he regretted placing so much responsibility on a child.
In the eighth season of TV series Supernatural, protagonists Dean and Sam Winchester discover that Metatron (Curtis Armstrong) has been living in isolation for centuries because he became disgusted with Heaven's actions. Although he initially presents himself as an ally in the brothers' quests to seal up Heaven and Hell after they find him again, Metatron later turns against them, tricking their angelic ally Castiel into completing a ritual that leaves Castiel stripped of his angelic powers and banishes all angels apart from Metatron to Earth. Throughout the ninth season, the brothers and Castiel are forced to deal with the return of the arch-demon Abaddon along with the angels that were banished by Metatron's actions, with Metatron gathering allies that he will 'allow' back into Heaven while presenting Castiel as the villain, until Castiel manages to regain his powers and trick Metatron into revealing the monster he truly is to the other angels. Although he is released from prison in Heaven when the brothers and Castiel question him for information about the new threat in the tenth season, he is subsequently stripped of his powers by Castiel and left to wander Earth, powerless to do anything more than watch as the world goes by while aware that the other angels will kill him if he does anything to draw their attention. After God returns to help the Winchesters against new foe the Darkness- essentially God's sister, who he sacrificed to make the world- Metatron sacrifices himself to give the Winchesters time to escape after they rescue Lucifer- currently using Castiel as a vessel- from the Darkness.
In the best-selling science-fiction/fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, Metatron is an angel that is stated to have been the Biblical character Enoch with the same alias, who is the line between Adam and Noah (son of Jared, son of Mahahaleh, son of Kenan, son of Enosh, son of Seth). He is the main antagonist and active adversary of Lord Asriel.
There is a Montreal-based publishing house named Metatron Press. It was established in 2013 and focuses on contemporary poetry.
The name Metatron is a recurring element in the Megami Tensei franchise of video games, often as a powerful angelic antagonist, other times as a powerful piece of equipment the player can obtain.
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- 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
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- 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
- Excerpts about Metatron from books by Andrei A. Orlov:
- Daniel Abrams, "The Boundaries of Divine Ontology: The Inclusion and Exclusion of Metatron in the Godhead" Harvard Theological Review, vol. 87(1994)