Metatron and Yeshua Sar ha-Panim

Following on from the post about Nahmanides and his view of the godhead in the Akedah episode, this article about divine ontology by Daniel Abrams is fascinating.

Note in particular his chapter on Metatron and Jesus:

Considering the wide range of traditions in Jewish sources discussing Ezekiel’s vision of a human form on the divine throne, one would expect to find warnings in Jewish texts against confusing this divine manifestation with Jesus. In fact, Yehuda Liebes has brought to our attention the striking identification of Metatron with Jesus in the liturgy and the reverberations of these traditions in passages of the printed edition of The Seventy Names of Metatron and in later kabbalistic works. Liebes argues that the reference to Jesus stems from antiquity and is represented textually as “Yeshua, prince of the countenance,” a clear reference to the angelic Metatron. As Liebes shows through a separate example, these associations and literary traditions stem from Jewish-Christian circles and found their way into canonical Jewish texts.

5 thoughts on “Metatron and Yeshua Sar ha-Panim

  1. I see some sources on the web document the Zohar equating Metatron as the son of Yah, with divine qualities that are similar to Yeshua. Not sure what to think of this, but it is interesting nonetheless:

    The Middle Pillar [of the godhead] is Metatron, Who has accomplished peace above, According to the glorious state there.
    -Zohar, vol. 3., p. 227, Amsterdam Edition

    Better is a neighbor that is near, than a brother far off. This neighbor is the Middle Pillar in the godhead, which is the Son of Yah.
    -Zohar, vol. ii, p. 115, Amsterdam Edition

    This is the meaning of the words “Abraham said to His servant” that is to the servant of Elohim. The servant is Metatron, the eldest of His House, who is the first-begotten of all creatures of Elohim, who is the ruler of all He has; because Elohim has committed to Him the government over all His hosts.
    -Zohar, Gen. P. 126 Amsterdam Edition

  2. I think the piyyut after the first set of Shofar blows on Rosh Hashanah is interesting. It states three names that are connected in that they are mentioned right after each other: “..Eliyahu (the prophet that heralds Moshiach’s coming) zachur latov weYeshua (Moshiach for many) Sar HaPanim Sar Metatron…”.
    There’s been debates whether this is a piyyut from Ben Kalir (the greatest paytan) or whether it’s the work of heretics that in some way found it’s way into Jewish liturgy.
    In my opinion this is just a real Jewish piyyut. It’s been found in many many old machzorim and siddurim and until the late eighties also in Artscroll machzorim. When the debate got bigger and stronger they probably wanted to avoid problems and removed the name Yeshua from the piyyut. That’s a sad thing.
    I think it’s a truly interesting piyyut.

  3. When G-d is called ha makom (the place) in the Midrash it denotes his transcendent status vis a vis the world. This name is meant to defend against pantheism (Spinoza/the Greek philosophers) and other forms of polytheism where gods are identified as natural forces. This term in denoting transcendence also bears causal meaning (G-d is the uncaused Cause or the unmoved mover.) In a theology where G-d is referred to as place, unmoved mover, first cause, etc. there is a tendency to treat G-d as relativistic, natural, or completely abstract. These notions in turn detract (in the absence of a halachic framework) from the biblical message of a G-d who as creator has a plan and investment in his creation. Because Christianity lacks an in depth halachic system, but instead has an ethic similar to the Noachide laws, it is necessary to understand these fundamental notions of G-d using different language. The Person of the father in Christian theology serves the purpose of illustrating the above mentioned conception without the problems associated with such abstract language. In Christian literature the word for person as in the trinity is prosopon (mask) and Hypostasis (underlying subsisting relation) the word Doxa (glory) is also used to denote persons. The reason for using person is that it clarifies that G-d is not a philisophical concept, an emanation, an attribute, or a vacuous unknowable essence. This unknowable essence can best be referred to as the Father.
    G-d’s revelation of his will and his creative power/effect is referred to as Memra in the Targums, Logos in Philo, and active intellect in Maimonides. These names denote what is knowable of G-d to human beings in a more direct/tempered sense. When G-d reveals the commandments, this is his Logos or word. It is the revelation of G-d insofar as human intellect is capable of understanding. This conception is called The Son in Trinitarian theology. G-d’s essence is fully Abstract while his will is perpetually revealed. This denotes a distinct relation of/in G-d. It is important to Christians to illustrate this concept by the word son so as to avoid problems of Gnosticism and relativistic moral philosophies. When we perceive the revelation as personal and as G-d speaking to men as a man speaks to his friend, it makes it much more difficult to miss the point of G-d’s will or get lost in hypothetical applications of the moral concepts. As an example, though there are many different views of Jesus and his message, anyone can read and understand. One not need be a Christian to appreciate the wisdom and ethic of Jesus. Nachmanides, Jacob Emden, and Maimonides are examples of those who fully understood the ethics of Jesus better than Christians.
    G-d as Shekinah (indwelling divine presence/providential guidance/inspiration) is referred to in personal terms as the Holy Ghost in Trinitarian theology. In short, one may view these terms as fences against letting G-d become a force or an idea. G-d is a transcendent being, and I stress the word being. There was a great lecture by Rabbi Emmanuel Schochet where he talked about the concept of heresy in Judaism. He noted that it was possible to be fully observant and yet believe in an Aristotelian or platonic view of G-d. Saadia Gaon said that Christians mistook G-d’s essential attributes for the persons of the trinity. The point is however that if we regarded G-d as Plato, Aristotle, or other philosophers had done, the Pagan deities would still be here. One can indeed believe in Aristotle’s conception of deity but only if that understanding is backed by Torah. Gentile Christianity (which lacked halacha BY Design) had to refute philosophical, Gnostic, and pagan views of the divine using information about G-d from the bible not centered merely on ethics. Pagan Romans fully understood and tolerated Jewish observances, but Jewish notions of G-d as caring and benevolent had no place in their system of thought. The exposure of Infants for example was completely acceptable in a polytheistic Roman theology. Reincarnation, the role of fate, etc. meant that notions of human worth and personhood were sorely lacking. If you want information about why Christians refer to god as they do read this book.

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