Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Metatron - The Lesser Jehovah by William Benjamin Smith 1912


Metatron - The Lesser Jehovah by William Benjamin Smith 1912

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How familiar and even native to the Jewish mind was the idea of a Being purely divine yet subordinate to God Most High is clearly shown in the strange doctrine of Metatron. Hitherto in this whole discussion the present writer has carefully avoided broaching this all-important theme, since it deserves a volume rather than a paragraph. However, it seems hard to maintain this reserve any longer or to avoid saying so much at least as the following: The rigorous rabbinical monotheism with which we are all familiar was be no means the only recognized form of Judaism. The notion of Jehovah's angel (Malak YHVH), frequent in the Old Testament, and that of Mediator, already present in Gal. iii. 19, 20 and apparently current, pervade both Hebrew writings and the Apocrypha. In the latter this heavenly and even divine Being is often called Enoch, also Michael, and Metatron, which latter name he bears preeminently in the former. In Greek and Latin the word is written Metator and is said to mean Guide. It looks very like a disguised reflection of Mithra, as Kohut contends. Many scholars identify this Being with the Logos of Philo, against the protest of Cohn. That profound Talmudist, Max Friedländer, in his Der vorchristliche jüdische Gnosticismus and elsewhere, identifies him with the early Gnostic Horus, “the surveyor or guardian of frontiers.” Still other interpretations have been suggested.

For us the important point is that this Metatron is clothed with attributes and powers very nearly equal to those of God Most High. Thus, when Elisha b. Abuyah beheld Metatron in Heaven he thought there were two Deities (Hag. 15a). When God wept over the temple destroyed Metatron fell on his face, exclaiming, “I will weep, but weep not Thou,” whereupon God answered: “If thou wilt not suffer Me to weep, I will go whither thou canst not come, and there will I lament” (Lam. R., Introduction 24). Compare Jer. xiii. 17 and John xiii. 33, “Whither I go, ye can not come.” Metatron shares in the functions of God: during the first three quarters of the day he teaches children in the Law, during the last quarter God himself teaches them (‘Ab. Zarah 3b). Involuntarily one thinks of freshman, sophomore, junior, —- senior! He is a “mighty scribe,” little lower than God (Ps. viii. 6). We are reminded of the secretary-angel of Ezekiel (ix. 2, 3, 11, x. 2, 6, 7). He is a youth, suggesting the mysterious youth of Mark xiv. 51, 52; xvi, 5—-a supernatural being. He bears witness to the sins of mankind, recalling the “faithful witness” of Revelation. Most of all, however, he bears the sacred ineffable name, the tetragrammaton YHVH, for in Ex. xxiii. 21, it is written, “My name is in him.” Nevertheless, he must not be worshiped, since the same passage commands, “Exchange not Me for him,” (Sanh. 38b). However, it is conceded (Jewish Encyclopedia, VIII, 408 a, b,) that “angel worship was not unknown in certain Jewish circles,” and that prayers addressed to angels insinuated themselves even into the liturgy. Even in Daniel xii. 1, Michael appears as Intercessor, along with whom Metatron is frequently mentioned by Gnostics as the mediator of revelation. Even when Abraham ibn Ezra, commenting on the Pentateuch, finely says: “The angel that intermediates between man and God is reason,” he is still not far from John and Theophilus, not far from Heraclitus and Philo, with all of whom the Logos (Reason) serves to link man with God. Enough. It is superfluously clear that in Jewish conception Metatron was quite in line with the Second Person in the Trinity, that, if not in official, at least in unofficial Judaism, the idea of a Vice-Elohim, a Pro-Jehovah, a Mediator-God, was perfectly naturalized, was popular, and was widely active. This mid-Being or Mesites (by which latter term Lactantius describes Jesus) was wholly divine, without any tincture of humanity, and yet was distinctly lower than God Most High, with whom he was even contrasted.

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