Review of Andrei Orlov, "The Enoch-Metatron Tradition"

Andrei A. Orlov, The Enoch-Metatron Tradition

Rebecca Lesses, Ithaca College

            This is a fine book on the development of the figure of Enoch from early Mesopotamian traditions about the seventh antediluvian king, Enmeduranki, to the transformed Enoch-Metatron of the Hekhalot literature, especially in Sefer Hekhalot (3 Enoch). Andrei Orlov comprehensively demonstrates how the roles and titles of Enoch developed from his first appearance in Genesis, when “God took him” (Gen. 5:24), through the five subsections of 1 Enoch (in many cases influenced by Mesopotamian traditions about the seventh antediluvian king, Enmeduranki), to the Slavonic apocalypse of Enoch (2 Enoch), which he dates to first century Alexandria, and finally to Sefer Hekhalot (3 Enoch). The book examines the early Enochic booklets and then Sefer Hekhalot, only then turning back to the Slavonic apocalypse in order to show how the roles and titles there are an earlier version of what is found in 3 Enoch. The second part of the book addresses the question of how Enoch’s roles and titles developed in 2 Enoch as a result of polemics with several other important mediatorial figures: Adam, Moses, and Noah. This book is the first complete effort to show how the Slavonic apocalypse adumbrates several important roles and titles of Enoch that reach their full development in the Hekhalot literature. As such, it is particularly important for scholars like myself who do not have control of the Slavonic original of 2 Enoch and must rely upon translations. In my review, I will focus on the development of the roles and titles of Enoch-Metatron, especially on the way that Orlov demonstrates that the Shi’ur Qomah tradition, the tradition that states that it is possible to measure the anthropomorphic body of God, found in the Hekhalot literature, is present in an early form in 2 Enoch.

Mesopotamian traditions and 1 Enoch
Orlov starts by showing how the titles and roles of Enoch found in 1 Enoch might have been influenced or shaped by Mesopotamian traditions about Enmeduranki – including his functions as diviner[1], the expert in secrets,[2] the mediator of knowledge from heaven to earth[3], scribe,[4] and priest.[5] He then turns to the five sections of 1 Enoch and other early Enoch traditions, such as those found in Jubilees, and traces the development of these roles and titles. As he says, “Just like his Mesopotamian counterpart, the patriarch is skilled in the art of divination, being able to receive and interpret mantic dreams. He is depicted as an elevated figure who is initiated into the heavenly secrets by celestial beings, including the angels and God himself. He then brings this celestial knowledge back to earth and, similar to the king Enmeduranki, shares it with the people and with his son.”[6] His title as sage includes all of these roles, and “cannot be separated from his expertise in celestial mysteries.”[7] As the mediator, Enoch acts in several ways – he mediates knowledge to human beings, including his son (a role that leads us to another Enochic role in 3 Enoch, that of the Sar Torah, the Prince of the Torah).[8] He mediates the divine judgement, by interceding for the fallen Watchers, attaining a higher status in the Book of Watchers than he did in the Astronomical Book.[9] He is also a witness to the events of the final judgement.[10]

Scribal origins?
Enoch is also the scribe, who writes down mysteries explained to him by the angels and “composes petitions at the request of” the Fallen Watchers who request his intercession with God in 1 Enoch.[11] He is referred to in the Book of Watchers as the “scribe of righteousness,”[12] and in the Book of Giants as the “distinguished scribe.”[13] Orlov suggests that the “great bulk of information about Enoch’s scribal roles and honorifics found in Enochic literature may implicitly point to the social profile of the authors of these writings.”[14] Such a characterization fits with the hypotheses of other scholars (for example, Michael Swartz and James Davila[15]), about the class of people responsible for the later Hekhalot literature.

Heavenly priest
Both Jubilees and the Book of Watchers point in a non-explicit manner to Enoch’s role as the heavenly priest. In the Book of Watchers, 1 Enoch 14, Enoch ascends in a dream-vision to the heavenly Temple, which is structured according to the earthly one, with a vestibule, sanctuary, and holy of holies. Enoch is able to enter the celestial holy of holies and there behold the Great Glory on the throne, which is analogous to the role the high priest plays in entering the holy of holies.[16] Enoch-Metatron’s role as the heavenly high priest is far more explicit in 3 Enoch, as we will see below.

Book of Similitudes
The Book of Similitudes gives Enoch several roles and titles that are not found in the earlier Enochic booklets. “In the Similitudes, for the first time in the Enochic tradition, the patriarch is depicted as a preexistent enthroned figure whose mission is to become an eschatological leader in the time when the wicked of this world will be punished.”[17] This highly elevated office “recalls the future profile of the supreme angel Metatron.”[18] The eschatological leader is known by four titles: righteous one, anointed one, chosen one, and son of man.[19] In 1 Enoch 71, Enoch is identified with the “son of man,” whom Orlov, following James VanderKam, suggests is the “heavenly twin” of the patriarch.[20] The titles found in the Book of Similitudes are, however, not found in the earlier Enochic booklets, nor are they referred to in later rabbinic and Hekhalot texts.[21] Orlov uses this concept of the “heavenly twin” later in the book to explicate the analogy that Enoch draws between his body and the divine body in 2 Enoch,[22] a topic which I shall take up later.

2 & 3 Enoch
            Orlov sees 2 Enoch as delineating an intermediate stage of the traditions about the seventh patriarch, between the earlier Enochic booklets and the depiction in the Hekhalot literature. He says,
The analysis of the roles and titles of Enoch in 2 Enoch will demonstrate that, in the prior delineations of early Enochic and Merkabah traditions, the Slavonic apocalypse provides textual evidence which stands on the very edges of the important transition belonging in many aspects to both conceptual worlds…. The analysis will propose that these offices and appellations underwent substantial advancement from their early Enochic prototypes toward their later Merkabah form(s) under the influence of the mediatorial polemics with the pseudepigraphic traditions about the exalted patriarchs and prophets.[23]

To prove this point, Orlov jumps from the examination of 1 Enoch and the literature surrounding it to an investigation of 3 Enoch, in order to depict the titles and roles of Metatron that 2 Enoch is tending towards. He begins by describing the roles and titles of Enoch (transformed into Metatron) in Sefer Hekhalot, which contains two clusters of roles and titles for Metatron. The first cluster is connected with those already known – heavenly scribe, expert in divine secrets, heavenly high priest, and mediator. They are, however, considerably reshaped and developed from earlier Enochic sources. The second cluster is new in Merkabah tradition – Youth, Prince of the World, Measurer of the Lord, Prince of the divine Presence, Prince of the Torah, Lesser YHWH. Some of these designations might have already originated in premishnaic Judaism under the influence of various mediatorial traditions in which Michael, Yahoel, Adam, Moses, Noah, Melchisedek, etc. were depicted as exalted characters.[24]

The name “Metatron”
In this chapter, Orlov also discusses possible origins of the name Metatron, a topic which many scholars have taken up, with usually inconclusive results. He argues that the name may go back to an enigmatic title in 2 Enoch – Protemaya. This term is found in ch. 43, referring to Enoch: “And behold my children, I am the Governor of the earth, p(r)otemaya.” Building on a suggestion of Matthew Black, he asks whether this term might be related to the Greek term, metrhthV, the Greek equivalent of the Latin metator, or “measurer.” As he says, in 2 Enoch, “the patriarch assumes for the first time in the Enochic tradition the role of the measurer and the measure of the divine Extent.”[25] He further suggests that, “the Greek source of protemaya may represent a very early, rudimentary form of the title that was later transformed into the designation Metatron.”[26]

“Prince of the Presence” and heavenly high priest
3 Enoch presents Enoch-Metatron in a much more exalted role than we find in the earlier Enoch literature, and even than in 2 Enoch. “In the Hekhalot literature, Metatron… takes a much higher role as the mediator of the divine Presence.”[27] This task is reflected in his new title as “Prince of the Presence” (Sar ha-Panim – or, literally, “Prince of the Face”).[28] He is also explicitly depicted as the heavenly high priest – he is put in charge of the heavenly tabernacle,[29] and he leads the angelic praise of God.[30] The title, “glory of the heaven” is sometimes added to Metatron’s title, “Prince of the Presence,” and as Orlov says, this “does not appear to be coincidental since the divine Presence/Face is the divine Glory which leads to the transformation of any servant of the Face into a glorious angelic being resembling the luminosity of the divine Face.”[31]

Orlov argues that, “the descriptions of the celestial titles in 2 Enoch occupy an intermediate position between the early Enochic traditions and the Metatron tradition. Therefore, some later titles of Metatron, absent in 1 Enoch, Jubilees, and Qumran materials, are present in the narrative of 2 Enoch.” He offers the title “Youth” as a good example.[32] Both 2 and 3 Enoch use the title “Youth” to refer to the exalted figure of Enoch. The angels and God refer to Enoch as “Youth” in 3 Enoch – the angels in a challenging manner, since they regard him as a human interloper into the angelic sphere, and God in an affectionate manner, since this is his preferred title for Metatron. As Metatron says to R. Ishmael, “my king calls me ‘Youth.’”[33] In 2 Enoch, God addresses Enoch with the title “Youth,” for example by saying, “Be brave, Youth!”[34] This is in the same type of context as Metatron is challenged in 3 Enoch. In 2 Enoch, after God has said, “Be brave, Youth!” it says, “the Lord tempted his servants and said to them, ‘Let Enoch come up and stand in the front of my face forever.’” As in 3 Enoch, God advocates for Enoch-Metatron among the other angels.[35]

Shi’ur Qomah and the Face of God
In 3 Enoch, Metatron’s body is transformed into a giant celestial body “which closely resembles the gigantic extent of the divine form,”[36] although the Merkabah texts carefully retain the distinction between the divine and angelic bodies. Nonetheless, the identical terminology is used to refer to the stature of God and the stature of Metatron – qomah.[37] Orlov comments, “It is interesting that the tradition of Metatron’s body found in Sefer Hekhalot closely resembles the evidence from 2 Enoch 22 and 39, where the passages with a precise Shi’ur Qomah terminology are also introduced and unfolded through references to the patriarch’s body.”[38]
In 2 Enoch, the first thing that the transformed Enoch reports to his children upon returning to earth is his vision of the divine Face, in these words,
And now, my children, it is not from my lips that I am reporting to you today, but from the lips of the Lord who has sent me to you. As for you, you hear my words, out of my lips, a human being created equal to yourselves; but I have heard the words from the fiery lips of the Lord. For the lips of the Lord are a furnace of fire, and his words are the fiery flames which come out. You, my children, you see my face, a human being created just like yourselves; I am one who has seen the face of the Lord, the like iron made burning hot by a fire, emitting sparks. For you gaze into (my) eyes, a human being created just like yourselves, but I have gazed into the eyes of the Lord, like the rays of the shining sun and terrifying the eyes of a human being. You, (my) children, you see my right hand beckoning you, a human being created identical to yourselves; but I have seen the right hand of the Lord, beckoning me, who fills heaven. You see the extent of my body, the same as your own; but I have seen the extent of the Lord, without measure and without analogy, who has no end.[39]

But this is not a one-time vision – Enoch is summoned to stand forever before God’s face (thus becoming the “Prince of the Face,” using the Hekhalot title). The term, “the extent of the Lord,” has, as Gershom Scholem first commented, a striking similarity to the phrase found in the Hekhalot literature, shi’ur qomah, the measure of the body.[40] This doubling of the human and the divine bodies is explained by Orlov through the notion that “a creature of flesh and blood could have a heavenly double or counterpart.”[41] This passage in 2 Enoch 39 “provides a series of analogies in which the earthly Enoch compares his face and parts of his body with the attributes of the Lord’s Face and body, which manifest the connection between the divine corporeality and its prominent replica, the body of Enoch-Metatron.”[42] There is also another doubling, between the earthly Enoch, “created just like yourselves” and his heavenly counterpart, who has seen God.[43] Orlov suggests that the “process of establishing twinship with the heavenly counterpart might be reflected in the initiatory procedure of becoming a sar happanim, one of the angelic servants of the divine Face or Presence.”[44] The seer’s face acquires the luminosity of the divine face (see, for example, Synopse §19).[45]
This doubling between the divine and human bodies, and especially between their faces, appears in another place in 2 Enoch – in the description of the creation of humans. 2 En. 44:1 says that, “the Lord with his own two hands created mankind, in the facsimile of his own face both small and great, the Lord created them.”[46] This doubling or reflection also appears in some Hekhalot passages not quoted by Orlov, which I believe strengthen his argument about how the traditions about the extent of the divine body appears in a less developed form in 2 Enoch. For example, in Hekhalot Zutart, there is an enigmatic dialogue about the possibility of seeing God and what the divine body might look like, which also refers to an analogy between the divine and human bodies.
It begins with two questions, and then cites three contradictory biblical verses in answer:[47]
Who is able to explain? Who is able to see?
First it is written: 'Man cannot see me and live' (Ex. 33:20).
Second it is written, 'God speaks with man, and he lives' (Deut. 5:20).
Third it is written, 'And I see God sitting on a throne' (Isa. 6:1)."

How can one reconcile these contradictory verses? One says that a person (in this case, Moses) cannot see God and live, while the last one says that Isaiah in fact saw God sitting on a throne (in the Temple). Perhaps the middle verse is an attempt at reconciliation, asserting that one can hear God and survive, even if one cannot see God.
            The topic of whether one can see God continues with reference to two other relevant biblical verses and a statement from Rabbi Aqiba,[48]
The holy ones of the heights say, “like the appearance of the lightning we see (him)” (Cf. Ezekiel 1:14).
The prophets say, “in the dream of a vision we see (him), like a man who sees a vision of the night” (Cf. Num. 12:6).
And the kings say, “LWQ<KTR GHYM.”
But R. Aqiba says, “As it were (kivyakhol), he is like us (kemotenu hu), but he is greater/bigger (gadol) than all, and this is his glory which is hidden from us' (ve-zehu kevodo she-nistar me-panenu).[49]
(Or: 'and his glory consists in this, that he is concealed from us').
Moses says to them, to these ones and these ones: “do not investigate your words, rather, he is blessed in his place, therefore it is said, ‘blessed is the glory of Adonai from his place’” (Ezek. 3:12).

            On one level, Rabbi Aqiba’s is not that startling a statement. Gen. 1:26 says, "And God said, 'let us make man in our image, in our likeness'" and the next verse says, "And God created man in his image, in the image of God he made him, male and female he created them." It does not even seem necessary for the text to say, "as it were." Yet, the text does say "as it were," as if R. Aqiba's statement is more startling than the original statement in Genesis; like 2 Enoch 39, instead of looking at the comparison from the point of view of God, he starts with the human being. The reader suddenly realizes that the point of comparison is the human body. However, despite this point of similarity, there is a difference between ourselves and God: "He is gadol than all." If the text means "He is bigger than all," (which R. Aqiba's "as it were" would seem to suggest) then it seems to confirm that God indeed has a body, which is far bigger than anything else in the world. This seems to be the basic belief behind the numbers and names of limbs of the Shi’ur Qomah sections in other parts of the Hekhalot literature. 
The last phrase is even more difficult to interpret.  What does the word usucf refer to?  Is this simply "his glory" in the sense of "his honor, his praise," so that the sentence would read: "it is to his honor that (this fact, of his bigness and his similarity to us) is concealed from us" (presumably, because it is a great mystery that humans cannot understand)? Or does his kavod refer more directly to his immense body, so that the sentence should read: "and this is his glory (=his body) which is concealed from us"? Peter Schäfer argues, “The point of the completely absurd calculations is to demonstrate that God cannot be conceived of in human categories: he, ‘as it were,’ is like a human being and yet hidden.”[50] The text then seems to retreat from R. Aqiba’s daring statement into Moses’ words that these matters should not be investigated, rather one should simply engage in praise of God. It is interesting that 2 Enoch does not seem to feel the same theological awkwardness with the idea that God’s kavod is not hidden from us – either from Enoch or from his children whom he instructs in what he has witnessed.
The statement in 2 Enoch 39, that Enoch has seen “the extent of the Lord, without measure and without analogy, who has no end,” also seems to be an early expression of an idea present in the Shi’ur Qomah texts (as pointed out by Orlov) – that despite the great descriptions of the extent of God’s body, it is really impossible to know them.[51] See, for example, the following passage, “The appearance of the face and the appearance of the cheeks is like the image of the wind and like the form of the soul. No creature is able to know it. His body is like tarshish (Dan. 10:6).  A brilliant awesome splendor from the midst of the darkness, and cloud and dimness surround him. All of the Princes of the Countenance are poured out before him like a pitcher.  We do not have the measure, but the names are revealed to us[52]." This description also focuses on the divine face, as does the description of Enoch’s vision in 2 Enoch.

            Just taking this one elaborated example – of the Shi’ur Qomah traditions – I am persuaded that Orlov has accurately traced the development of the traditions about Enoch-Metatron from their first appearances in 1 Enoch and its cognate literature through to Sefer Hekhalot. In a very significant way, 2 Enoch informs us about an intermediate stage of tradition from the earlier, Second Temple texts, through to the rabbinized Merkabah tradition of the Hekhalot literature. This raises, then, questions of dating of 2 Enoch and how it was transmitted to those who translated it into Slavonic, the only language in which we possess manuscripts of 2 Enoch. The oldest manuscripts of 2 Enoch are from the 14th century, yet Orlov (with others) dates it to first century Alexandria.
Orlov argues, based on traditions about sacrifice that occur in 2 Enoch 59, that 2 Enoch was composed before the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E.[53] He says, “scholars have previously noted that the text does not seem to hint that the catastrophe of the destruction of the Temple has already occurred at the time of its composition.”[54] He also points out that “The affirmations of the value of the animal sacrificial practices and Enoch’s halakhic instructions also appear to be fashioned not in the ‘preservationist,’ mishnaic-like mode of expression, but rather as if they reflected sacrificial practices that still existed when the author was writing his book.”[55] He also refers to efforts in the book to legitimize Jerusalem as the central place of worship and references to ongoing practice of pilgrimage there. “Thus, in his instructions to his children, Enoch repeatedly encourages them to bring the gifts before the face of God for the remission of sins, a practice which appears to recall well-known sacrificial customs widespread in the Second Temple period.”[56]
This may point to a tentative date of composition, but I am still curious to know who the author(s) of 2 Enoch were and why it is that the book only appears to our sight thirteen hundred years later. If the book was composed in Hebrew or Aramaic (or at least part of it was) and then translated into Greek, then where are the Greek manuscripts of it? Why did it become appealing to the translators of literature into Slavonic? And what function does it later have in the Slavonic church? While I agree that the composition of 2 Enoch seems to be before that of the Hekhalot texts – in particular Sefer Hekhalot and the Shi’ur Qomah traditions – I still have questions about its relationship to those Jewish texts, questions which Orlov provides a magnificent presentation for in his new book on Enoch and Metatron.

[1] Orlov, Enoch-Metatron, pp. 29-31.
[2] Ibid., pp. 31-34.
[3] Ibid., pp. 34-36.
[4] Ibid., pp. 36-37.
[5] Ibid., pp. 37-39.
[6] Ibid., 40.
[7] Ibid., 48.
[8] Orlov, p. 63.
[9] Ibid., 65.
[10] Ibid., 67.
[11] Ibid., 51.
[12] Ibid., 54.
[13] Ibid., 56.
[14] Ibid., 58.
[15] James Davila, Descenders to the Chariot: The People Behind the Hekhalot Literature, p. 276.
[16] Ibid., 71.
[17] Ibid., 77.
[18] Ibid.
[19] Ibid., 77-81.
[20] Ibid., 83.
[21] Ibid., 84-85.
[22] Ibid., 165-176.
[23] Ibid., 151.
[24] Ibid., 89.
[25] Ibid., 178-179.
[26] Ibid., 180.
[27] Ibid., 111-112.
[28] Ibid., 121-127.
[29] Ibid., 113.
[30] Ibid., 118.
[31] Ibid., 122.
[32] Ibid., 157.
[33] Ibid., 135-136.
[34] Ibid., 157.
[35] Ibid., 158.
[36] Ibid., 144.
[37] Ibid., 144.
[38] Ibid., 146.
[39] Ibid., 166, quoting 2 Enoch 39.
[40] Ibid., 166-67.
[41] Ibid., 168.
[42] Ibid., 171.
[43] Ibid.
[44] Ibid., 172.
[45] Ibid., 174.
[46] Ibid., 245.
[47] Synopse, §350.
[48] Ibid., §352.
[49] This is the version of MSS. New York, Oxford, Munich 40, and Dropsie 436 – but MS. Munich 22 says gedullato instead – “his greatness” or “his bigness.”
[50] Peter Schäfer, The Hidden and Manifest God, pp. 149-50, from Orlov, p. 246, note 161.
[51] Orlov, p. 246.
[52] Synopse, §949, MS. Munich 40. See also Orlov, p. 146, note 157.
[53] Orlov, 320-330, referring to 2 Enoch 59, where Enoch instructs his sons in how to offer proper sacrifices. See also Orlov, pp. 308-310.
[54] Ibid., 326.
[55] Ibid., 327.
[56] Ibid.

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