Metatron (Hebrew מטטרון) or Mattatron (a differentiation of Metatron) is an archangel in Judaism. 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 (New and Old 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 mysticaltexts and other post-scriptural esoteric and occult sources, such as the Books of Enoch—1 Enoch, 2 Enoch, and 3 Enoch. In Rabbinic tradition, he is the highest of the angels and serves as the celestial scribe.
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 was allowed 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.
In opposition to this apology, Metatron is identified with the term “lesser YHVH”, which is the Lesser Tetragrammaton, in a Talmudic version as cited by the Karaite scholar Kirkisani. The word Metatronis 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”.
The Babylonian Talmud mentions Metatron in two other places: Sanhedrin 38b and Avodah Zarah 3b. Yevamot 16b describes in the Amoraic period (200–500 CE) the duties of “prince of the world” being transferred from Michael to Metatron.
Metatron is also mentioned 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. Here Metatron is described 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.
While this identification of Metatron with Enoch is not to be found in the Talmud itself, the connection is assumed by some of the earliest kabbalists. There also seem 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, anemanation of the “Cause of Causes”, specifically the tenth and last emanation, identified with the earthly Divine Presence.
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.
There are numerous possible etymologies for the name Metatron. However, some scholars 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. 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, 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 thusly 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 andPeter 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.
Appearances in popular culture
- Metatron was a character in Dogma played by Alan Rickman, clarifying that he must serve as God’s voice as human beings cannot process God’s true voice without being killed.
- Metatron (portrayed by Curtis Armstrong) being the scribe of God appears as the author of God’s tablets in the US television show, Supernatural, and serves as a minor antagonist in the eighth season, when he tricks fellow angel Castiel into performing a ritual that allows Metatron to banish every other angel to Earth in revenge for his own exile.
- Metatron appears as an antagonist in the fantasy novel by Philip Pullman, The Amber Spyglass, the third book in the His Dark Materials trilogy.
- Metatron acts as a messenger for God in Terry Pratchet and Neil Gaiman‘s Good Omens.
- Metatron appears in the 2011 video game El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron.
- Metatron appears as first an enemy, and later as a recruitable character, in several games in the Shin Megami Tensei series.
- A seal named after Metatron is a prominent feature on the Silent Hill video game series.
- ^ “GEMAṬRIA: Metatron”. Jewish Encyclopedia
- ^ “Metatron”. Britannica Online Encyclopedia.
- ^ 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
- ^ “Enoch as Metatron and conversion of Moses from flesh to fire”, Journal of the Royal Asiastic Society, 1893.
- ^ a b 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.
- ^ Three Occult Books of Philosophy, by Henry Cornelius Agrippa of Nettesheim, Llewellyn Publications (February 1994).
- ^ 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.
- ^ a b c d Odeberg. H. “3 Enoch” 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
- ^ 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.
- ^ a b 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
- ^ a b 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: