by Dr. Ilil Arbel, Ph.D.
The myths of Metatron are extremely complicated, and at least two separate versions exist. The first version states he came into being when God created the world, and immediately assumed his many responsibilities. The second claims that he was first a human named Enoch, a pious, good man who had ascended to Heaven a few times, and eventually was transformed into a fiery angel. Some later books adopt the first version, some the second, and in other literature both are combined. There are even two versions of the name Metatron, one spelled with seven letters (מיטטרון), the other with six (מטטרון), lacking the Hebrew letter "yodh" (י). The Kabbalists explained that the six-letter name represents the Enoch-related Metatron, while the seven-letter name refers to the primordial Metatron. Despite the elaborate debate, the origin of Metatron's name is not clear. Many attempts have been made to explain it, but none of them is satisfactory, since the word has no real meaning or root in any language. Some authors think it may be derived from private meditations and visions, or even glossolalia. This article concentrates on the Metatron-Enoch version
Metatron is one of the most important angels in the heavenly hierarchy. He is a member of a special group that is permitted to look at God's countenance, an honor most angels do not share. In the literature, Metatron is often referred to as "the Prince of the Countenance."
In the Babylonian Talmud, Metatron is mentioned only three times, but the references are important. All three relate to the problem of Metatron's immense power, which may have caused some people to confuse him with God. In later literature he was even mentioned as the "lesser Yahweh" — a serious blasphemy for the strictly monotheistic Judaism. Later, some authors tried to resolve the issue by showing how the Hebrew letters of the name of a mythical predecessor, the angel Yahoel (later to be entirely identified with Metatron), were the same letters as those in the name of Yahweh.
Another legend states that God himself named him so, out of affection. A fascinating legend tells of a particularly interesting and famous Jewish heretic, Elisha ben Avuyah, who saw Metatron sitting by God's side, occupying the same type of throne. This made Elisha suspect that two equal powers operated in the universe — God and Metatron. The legend continues to explain that he made a false assumption, which indeed cost Elisha his position within the Jewish community. According to these scholars, God permitted Metatron to sit because, as God's scribe, he recorded the good deeds of the Nation of Israel. This story works very well with two of Metatron's many heavenly tasks: a scribe and an advocate, defending the Nation of Israel in the heavenly court.
- 1 Enoch (Ethiopic).
- 2 Enoch (Slavonic).
- Gershom Scholem. (1974). Kabbalah. Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House.
- Ginzberg, Louis. (1998). Legends of the Jews. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.