Under the somewhat escapist cerebration recommended us by William Shakespeare in Hamlet, Act I Scene 5, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, / Than are dreamt of in your philosophy…,” we visit today with Metatron. This question came from one of Rabbi Mark Goodman’s Wednesday classes, which we highly recommend.
Metatron’s name sounds to us like the superbeing that he is, and he goes back so far in history as to predate Judaism itself. There are two traditions at play in the history of Metatron (מיטטרון or מטטרון). One says that he was a heavenly angel created as or before the world was created, representing the Shekhinah here on earth and residing mostly in the heavens. (This tradition is usually associated with the longer spelling.)
The other story holds that Enoch, great-grandfather of Noah, as reported in the apocryphal Book of Enoch (mentioned in this column before), became Metatron when he “walked with God” and God took him and he “was no more.” It was startling that he met his demise at a mere 365 years of age at a time when others were living from 700 - 1,000 years. Apparently the reason for that was so that God could put him to work. Metatron was given important tasks even though he was the most newly created angel (and thus referred to as “the youth”): he became the scribe who records all that humans think, say, and do for God’s record.
(We know that someone does that recording, as your correspondent’s rabbi told her so when emphasizing to the religious school class that everything we think, say, and do every day gets reported by our souls traveling for a split second each night to the recorder while we sleep.)
It is noted that the Talmud generally adheres to the first angelic tradition, possibly out of the rabbis’ discomfort with placing Enoch in so high a position. As the scribe, Metatron was permitted to sit in the presence of God (though he was clearly placed beneath God in rank), and that altitudinous esteem also may have given them pause, several sources note.
Metatron also appears in the Book of the Visions of Ezekiel, written in the fourth century CE.
We are certain that more than one middle-schooler will postulate that a superhero from the future traveled back in time and kept his name. More likely it is, though, that authors of science fiction had read the Book of Enoch and co-opted the form of his name.