Origin of the Name "Metatron" and the Text of 2 (Slavonic Apocalypse of) Enoch

Andrei Orlov

[The paper was presented on the Early Jewish and Christian Mysticism Group, AAR/SBL Annual Meeting, New Orleans, November 24, 1996.
Published in: Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 21 (2000) pp. 19-26 under the title: "The Origin of the Name 'Metatron' and the Text of 2 (Slavonic Apocalypse of) Enoch.]

The history of scholarship on 2 Enoch has produced no real consensus about possible provenance of the text. Rather, there are several paradigms of scholarly perception and the circles of their recurrence. These paradigms are the consequences of different backgrounds and perspectives of scholars involved in 2 Enoch's studies.

One of the important paradigm of the research on 2 Enoch is the view that the text has deep connections with the Merkabah mysticism. This hypothesis has been the part of long and respected tradition. Among the leading pioneers of this approach stand Gershom Scholem and Hugo Odeberg. Odeberg may well be the first scholar who pointed out that the descriptions of celestial titles for Enoch in 2 Enoch are the most important evidences of possible connections between the Slavonic apocalypse and texts of the Merkabah tradition.

In these descriptions of celestial titles, one may find the origins of another image of Enoch, quite different from early Enochic literature, which was later developed in Merkabah mysticism--the image of the angel Metatron, "The Prince of the Presence."

The Slavonic text provides rudimentary descriptions of several traditional Merkabah titles of Enoch/Metatron, (e.g., "the Lad," "the Scribe," "the Prince of the World," "the Prince of Presence"). Keeping these manifestations of Merkabah symbolism in mind, my presentation will focus upon only one of these titles of Enoch, namely, "The Prince, or the Governor, of the World."

The Merkabah tradition stresses the role of Metatron as the "governing power over the nations, kingdoms and rulers on earth." 3 Enoch portrays Metatron as the Prince of the World, the leader of seventy two princes of the kingdom of the world, who speaks (pleads) in favor of the world before the Holy One.

Chapter 43 of the short recension of 2 Enoch and a similar passage of the text of 2 Enoch in the Slavonic collection Merilo Pravednoe ("The Just Balance") reveals Enoch in his new celestial role. Both texts tell outline Enoch's instructions to his children during his brief return to the earth, in which he mentions his new role as the Governor or the Guide of the earth:

Blessed is he who understands all works of the Lord, (and glorifies Him): and, because of His work, knows the Creator. And behold my children, I am the Governor of the earth, prometaya, I wrote (them) down. And the whole year I combined and the hours of the day. And the hours I measured: and I wrote down every seed on earth. And I compared every measure and the just balance I measured. And I wrote (them) down, just as the Lord commanded... the doings of each person will put down, and no one will hide, because the Lord is the one who pays, and He will be the avenger on the great judgment day.

An important aspect of both passages is the Slavonic term prometaya, which follows Enoch's title, "The Governor of the World." This term was deliberately left in its original Slavonic form in order to preserve its authentic phonetic image. Prometaya represents an etymological enigma for experts in Slavonic, since it is found solely in the text of 2 Enoch. It should be stressed again that there is no other Slavonic text where the word prometaya is documented.

Prominent Russian linguist I. Sreznevsky, in his Slavonic dictionary, which is still considered by experts as a most reliable tool of Slavonic etymology, was unable to provide a definition for prometaya. He simply added a question mark with the meaning for the word. The variety of readings for this term in the manuscripts of 2 Enoch shows similar "linguistic embarrassment" among Slavic scribes who most likely had some difficulties discerning the meaning of this ambiguous term. The readings of other manuscripts include promitaya, prometaemaa, pometaya, pametaa.

One possible explanation for the singular occurrence of prometaya is that the word may actually be a Greek term that was left untranslated in the original text for some unknown reason. In fact, 2 Enoch contains a number of transliterated Hebrew and Greek words preserved in their original phonetic form (e.g., Grigori, Ophanim, Raqia Araboth). When I started to investigate the term prometaya more closely, what drew my attention was the root meta, which necessitated further examination of the relationship between the words prometaya and metatron.

Contemporary scholarship does not furnish a consensus concerning the origin of the name "Metatron." In scholarly literature, there are several independent hypotheses about the provenance of the term. I want to draw our attention to one possible interpretation, which could be connected with some materials in 2 Enoch. According of one of the hypothesises the name "Metatron" may be derived from the Greek me&tron (measure, rule). A. Jellinek may well be the first scholar who suggested me&tron as an alternative explanation of Metatron, on the assumption that Metatron was identical with Horos. Gedaliahu Stroumsa in his article "Forms of God: Some Notes on Metatron and Christ," gives some convincing new reasons for the acceptance of this etymology, on the basis that Metatron not only carried God's name, but also measured Him; he was His Shicur Qomah (the measurement of the Divine Body). In the light of this observation, Stroumsa stresses that "renewed attention should be given to me&tron and/or metator (a conflation of the two terms should not be excluded) as a possible etymology of Metatron."

Matthew Black, in his short article dedicated to the origin of the name Metatron, expounds upon an additional etymological facet of this interpretation of the name. He traces the origin of the word to a previously unnoticed piece of evidence which can be found in Philo's Quaest. in Gen., where, among other titles of the Logos, Black finds the term praemetitor. He further suggests that praemetitor could be traced to the Greek term metrhth&j, the Greek equivalent of the Latin metator, "measurer," applied to the Logos.

The term praemetitor in its hypothetical meaning as a "measurer" is an important piece of evidence because it is almost phonetically identical with the Slavonic term prometaya.

Additionally, the term prometaya is incorporated into the passage which describes Enoch as the Measurer of the Lord. In chapter 43, immediately after the use of this term, Enoch makes the following statement:

"I have arranged the whole year. And from the year I calculated the months, and from the months I have ticked off the days, and from the day I have ticked off the hours. I, I have measured and noted the hours. And I have distinguished every seed on the earth, and every measure and every righteous scale. I have measured and recorded them."

A similar passage in the previously mentioned collection, "Merilo Pravednoe" also emphasizes the functions of Enoch as the measurer:

"And the whole year I combined, and the hours of the day. And the hours I measured: and I wrote down every seed on earth. And I compared every measure and the just balance I measured. And I wrote (them) down, just as the Lord commanded. And in everything I discovered differences..."

These two passages echo the passage from Philo's Quast. in Gen. which discusses the Divine Logos as the "just measure":

"And "Gomorra" "measure" true and just, is the Divine Logos, by which have been measured and are measured all things that are on earth - principles, numbers and proportions in harmony and consonance being included, through which the form and measures of existing things are seen."

The text of 2 Enoch also uses the identical term "just measure," (mera pravedna), immediately after the passage dedicated to the function of Enoch as a measurer.

In addition to Stroumsa's suggestion about possible connections between "the measurer" and "the measurement of divine body" it is noteworthy that there is another hypothetical link between the functions of Enoch-Metatron as "the measurer" and his "measurement" of human sin for final judgement in the text of 2 Enoch. Following Enoch's introduction as "the measure," the text mentioned the final "measurement" of each person for final judgment:

"...in the great judgement day every measure and weight in the market will be exposed, and each one will recognize his own measure, and in it he will receive his reward...Before humankind existed, a place of judgment, ahead of time, was prepared for them, and scales and weights by means of which a person will be tested."

A second possible interpretation of the term prometaya can be traced to Enoch's title, "Governor of the World," after which the Slavonic term prometaya occurs. It can be assumed that prometaya in this situation is a Greek word, which somehow connected with this title. Possible hypothetical Greek prototypes of "prometaya" could be promh&qeia, in the sense of protection, care, or providence, which could be directly related to the preceding title of Enoch, Governor, Guide of the earth - "I am the Governor of the earth, prometaya, I have written them down."

In conclusion, it is important to note that prometaya could represent a very early, rudimentary form of the title that later was transformed into the term "metatron."

In relation to this, Gershom Scholem, in his analysis of the term "metatron," shows that the reduplication of the letter tet (++) and the ending ron represent a typical pattern that runs through all Merkabah texts. In his opinion, "both the ending and the repetition of the consonant are observable, for instance, in names like Zoharariel and Adiriron." Further, he stresses that it must also be borne in mind that on and ron may have been fixed and typical constituents of secret names rather than meaningful syllables.

Thus, keeping in mind the possible date of 2 Enoch in the first century of the common era before the destruction of the Second Temple, prometaya could be one of the earliest traces connecting the names Enoch and Metatron.