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.

9 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.

  4. In Zecharyah (perek 6:8-13) when יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בֶּן־יְהוֹצָדָק YEHOSHUA ben Yehotzadak the high priest is crowned and over him as in mashal prophecy is declared: “הִנֵּה־אִישׁ צֶמַח שְׁמוֹ Hinei ish Tzemmach shemo – Behold a man called Branch” – which is Mashiach as we all know.
    We also know that in the far past in the time Yisrael was rescued by HASHEM from Egypt it is also said that “מַלְאַךְ פָּנָיו הוֹשִׁיעָם malach panaw hoshi’am – the angel of His Pressence saved them” (Yeshayahu 63:9). The archangels are according to midrash called after there quality, רפאל Rapha’el because he cures, etc. (see B’midbar Rabbah 2:10 and Pesikta Rabbati 46:4). So logicaliy the מלך פניו malach panaw that saves should be called יְהוֹשֻׁעַ Yehoshua or in Aramaic, יֵשׁוּעַ Yeshua. An archangel is also called שַׂר sar – prince (Daniel 10:21; 12:1), because of their might.
    He is indeed also mentioned in the old prayers of Rosh Hashanah between the shopharblows as “ישוע שר הפנים Yeshua, sar hapanim – Yeshua, prince of the Pressence” (again: in some of the old ashkenaz and still in sfard [minhag Polin] machzorim based mahzor, you can find it at the Seder Tekiath Shophar).

  5. Ok, however, read Deuteronomy 4:19. The Torah plainly says do not bow down or worship “THE WHOLE HOST OF HEAVEN.” DO NOT WORSHIP G-d’s entourage, don’t worship A MALACH! Colossians 2:18 “Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you.”

    You can argue all day long whether a malach is created or uncreated, but that’s not the point of the commandment against worshiping the host/an agent of G-d. The point is that the Torah explicitly states that you are not to worship anyone who G-d sends as a messenger as if he were G-d.

    For example, You would never pray to the burning bush, you wouldn’t pray to the brass serpent, (2 Kings 18:4) you wouldn’t pray to the temple, so why to Jesus? Even if you could establish an incarnation of G-d, G-d says “You saw no form of any kind the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully, so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape, whether formed like a man or a woman,..”


    Men think G-d is their own personal bodyguard, this makes them boastful, makes them Sin! G-d doesn’t want to be recognized in a form precisely because if he had a form, that form could be abused by men of power, makes men an authority, gives men a false sense of security, of control, and ultimately negates the fear of G-d! Want crystal clear proof? Look at the history of your own Christian religion. It wouldn’t matter if Jesus truly was G-d made manifest, because Christians still use this concept to make G-d into a G-d of flesh revolving around the cookie and the cup that these men control, that they alone have the favor of. These men say “we hold the keys to heaven. Want to drink of life? Come to us to get a sip! Your incarnation theology negates the transcendent nature of G-d. It makes G-d ripe for abuse. David Koresh, Jim Jones, Mormonism, etc. You guys always ask, “why do you limit G-d by saying he can’t take on flesh?” You entirely miss the point of the Torah objection. If G-d became a man, that symbol could be used to great harm, totally negating the teaching of the transcendence and otherness of G-d.

    Imagine if Tomorrow we found the grave of Moses. This would be aweful! Why? Humans would say, “Ah! look here where the holiest man on earth was buried! Come here to be blessed by us! Touch the site of Moses’ grave, buy the dirt from the site. It has magic healing powers, etc.

    The objections of Judaism have nothing to do with a question of whether G-d could in theory take on flesh, but the objections deal with the clear dangerous implications of such an idea as demonstrated by history, especially an examination of Christian history.

  6. Dear Concern,
    Christian History? Or men history? Especially Christian history? Are you confusing the two? Are you living in the same world I am living? Are you hiding from the history that is evolving today and in a continues state of delusional thoughts? . Perhaps your voyage has taken at some point a wrong turn. Have you asked yourself if this is the case? The Bible in different places shows the prayers of a numerous Jewish generations asking to see the face of God. God for you wouldn’t have answered because this could become a problem misleading men to fall into error… and the error for you is given mostly by Christian History. .What a foul idea in consideration that today you are writing on a computer that is also a conquest of that specific Christian history and perhaps if it was not for that history you would be left on a dune of sand and fearful of using electricity if you ever saw it. Concern, your logic if quite not following the right path…a God truly concerned of human errors would not have created humanity in the first place..not even the Universe because error is connected with creation not with Christianity…You are so logically and theological in fault and also you are naïve about the all
    But are men like you that have perhaps contributed to doom history thinking they know all despite the contrary most vivid evidence just laid in front of them. they are also dooming the good outcomes of Christian History….:-) for what? The dune in the desert without electricity? What an idyllic thought…if it was not for the nice possibility of being beheaded without a good trial because there is no justice system better than the Western Christian juridical system today….how does it feel to be fouling yourself everyday thinking a world of lies? Well you are having your good share of history…keep complain about Christian History and you will be granted the beheaded head without a rational intelligent trial…but you are asking for this destiny at the end of your doom day in History. What a pity and the foulest thing of all is that you think that God would have been afraid of being a Christian God because of Christian History? Really? :-)
    …by the way Moses the holiest man for you was not allowed in the holy land by God…but God proceeded anyway in forming Christian History…a courageous God :-)

  7. The fact that you have to call me naive and “in error” without providing a single reference to scripture says it all Maria, with respect. Personally, I’m fine with Christians being Christians. I don’t wish to hurl insults at you, or to call you or anyone else “in error.” My point here is to show that there is a coherent purpose to the Jewish interpretation, there is merit to their questioning of an incarnation concept on scriptural grounds, and that the history of Christian institutions justifies their weariness and apprehension of that concept because it is ripe for abuse. (Yes, Church history has humans in it, that’s the point.) It is chalk full of violence due to the (clear misuse) of religious beliefs by those in power of these communities.

    Just because other people do it too does not excuse the Church. You guys always say “they weren’t really Christians.” That may well be very true, but that isn’t the point being made with the objection I’m raising.


    THESE PEOPLE WHO DID BAD THINGS THOUGHT THEY WERE BEING REAL CHRISTIANS AND HELD UP THE SAME VERSES AND BOOK YOU HOLD UP. (whether they were “true” Christians or not is beside the point I’m making entirely.

    The point I am making is this. In any community where there are men who believe G-d walks among them, they can also believe (or be made to believe) this G-d to be their best friend who reinforces all of their private decisions good, bad, or otherwise. G-d is given a favorite. IT IS A BELIEF SYSTEM RIPE FOR THE ABUSE WHETHER OR NOT GOOD CHRISTIANS INTEND IT BECAUSE THE CENTRAL TENANT OF THE RELIGION IS THAT G-D BECAME ONE OF US AND MADE FRIENDS WITH A CERTAIN GROUP.

    Judaism does not teach that G-d is unfeeling towards our flaws, far from it, he accepts our repentance. However, the Hebrew Bible clearly teaches that one man cannot die for the sins of another, each man dies because of his own sins. (Jeremiah 31:30)

    Let’s take what happened to Peter (chief disciple of Jesus) as an example of the Jewish objection. Peter has many flaws as the NT is very clear at showing us all.

    However, Peter was Jesus’ “favorite,” chosen to lead (as one among equals) the whole group of disciples with James and John, and Paul. Peter’s being favored by Jesus (god en-fleshed) in the NT, (THAT IDEA) is later taken by men and developed into the papacy, papal infallibility, etc. A basic neutral Christian NT idea (god incarnate’s favorite disciple Peter,) is abused into becoming the Papacy. That abuse is easy to accomplish because the NT essentially teaches that G-d walked, ate, slept, and made a best friend, a favored disciple. Innocent enough idea that is easily abused. That’s why the Torah prohibits such. That’s why G-d hid Moses’ body. I didn’t bring up history to blame good Christians, but to show you what effects your doctrine run awry can have.

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