Divine prefigurements in the early Jewish understanding of Yahweh by Rudolph P. Boshoff.

This article prompts to look at the early Jewish understanding of the place of Divine “beings” of deific nature through which Yahweh’s mediation effectuated. The early Christian understanding was vastly Jewish and therefore the idea of an “absolute Oneness” of God very different for the Ancient near eastern understanding. We also need to interpret and understand our own key biblical concepts and definitions surrounding the modern assimilation of “unity” in light of the A.N.E peoples.I did not include the Enochian figure in this study as I reserve it for another article that would be published in the future. Firstly I endeavour to look at the Biblical data and it’s consideration of the explicit/implicit understanding of Yahweh. Secondly, I will espouse a bit on the earliest data and the Jewish understanding of intermediary figures.

The Biblical understanding of Yahweh:

There has long been great dispute as to the actual numerical identity of Yahweh in the Old Testament and many have endeavored to ignore specific problem passages as a result. The book of Isaiah relates an example of this when it records: “Come near me and listen to this: “From the first announcement I have not spoken in secret; at the time it happens, I am there.” And now the Sovereign LORD has sent me, endowed with his Spirit (Isaiah 48:16). The passage becomes even more problematic when we see that the figure speaking relates that He is also “Listen to Me, Jacob, and Israel, the one called by Me: I am He; I am the first, I am also the last” (v/12). Here we then have a clear reference to 3 Divine essences declaring to be the One God. Further we find Jesus in the New Testament to affirm that He is the “first and the last” (Rev.1:17-18) [Emph. Mine]. In A.D 70 we have a clear affirmation that the Jewish Rabbi’s before John penned his Gospel understood Yahweh to be 3 Divine figures. Rabbi Eliezar Hakkalir mentioned that “When God created the world, He created it through the Three Sephiroth, namely, through Sepher, Sapher and Vesaphur, by which the Three twywh (Beings) are meant . . . The Rabbi, my Lord Teacher of blessed memory, explained Sepher, Sapher, and Sippur, to be synonymous to Ya, Yahweh, and Elohim meaning to say, that the world was created by these three names.” [1].

davidic starThe Hebrews did not always satisfactory explain away the plethora of Scriptures within the Old Testament referring to “Elohim” in the plural form over 2500 times in the Old Testament text which clearly denoted a plurality in Divinity. As if the clear rendering of passages like Genesis 1:26-27, 11:7 “let us” are not problematic in themselves we also find references referring to a plurality of entities “who will go for us” (Isaiah 6:8). We find for example in passages like Ecclesiastes 12:1 the plural expression by the letter “yod” ( ‘) which actually reads “Remember now thy Creator.” The presence of the letter “yod” highlights therefore the translation to be read “Creators”.

Amongst the earliest of Jewish literature we find the idea of a plurality of figures within the Godhead. There is no expression evident anywhere in the A.N.E. peoples that made use of “the plural of majesty” or the “royal plural” to describe the Jewish explanation of these plural words. Genesius a Hebrew Scholar states, “Jewish grammarians call such plurals…plur. virium or virtutum; later grammarians call them plur. excellentiae, magnitudinis, or plur. maiestaticus. This last name may have been suggested by the “we” used by kings when speaking of themselves (cf. already I Macc. 10:19, 11:31); and the plural used by God in Genesis 1:26, and 11:7, Isaiah 6:8 has been incorrectly explained in this way…It is best explained as a plural of self-deliberation. The use of the plural as a form of respectful address is quite foreign to Hebrew.[2] Some Jewish Rabbi’s expresses their embarrassment when they have to explain these pluralities being mentioned. Rabbi Samuel bar Naham in the name of Rabbi Jonathan said, that at the time when Moses wrote the Torah, writing a portion of it daily, when he came to this verse which says, ‘And Elohim said, let us make man in our image after our likeness.’ Moses said,Master of the Universe, why do you give herewith an excuse to the sectarians [i.e., Christians], God answered Moses, You write and whoever wants to err let him err.”[3] The “Zohar” which reflects the Jewish understanding of mystical ideas deduced from the Torah shows quite a keen understanding and contention with the idea of a plurality of figures but One God seen in the Old Testament. Here is a glimpse of what it said: “… the exalted Shechinah comprehends the Three highest Sephiroth; of Him (God) it is said, (Ps. 62:11), ‘God has spoken once; twice have I heard this.’ Once and twice means the Three exalted Sephiroth, of whom it is said: Once, once, and once; that is, Three united in One. This is the mystery.” In continuity with the Old Testament teaching of “the Three highest Sephiroth” the New Testament incorporated a tritheistic understanding of deity in “one Spirit.” “You are not in the flesh but in the (1) Spirit, if in fact the (2) Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the (3) Spirit of Christ does not belong to Him.” (Romans 8:9)[4]YHWH

The Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia relates that with the use of the word “Elohim” “”The significant fact, however, is not the origin of the word, for this cannot be definitely known. Rather, it is the way it is used of Israel’s God in the OT. When used of Yahweh, it refers to the sole God of the world, who is addressed in the plural as the fullness of Deity. We can be sure that no polytheistic elements are allowed to appear in Gen 1. Yet, it is here that the plural is most obvious (Gen 1:26). Regardless of one’s explanation of the reason for the plural emphasis here, he cannot ignore the plain meaning of the passage. In some sense God is plural; yet He is also singular (cf. the singular verbs in v. 27). Although the Christian doctrine of the Trinity is not taught in the chapter, it emerges from it.[5] As shown earlier we encounter numerous passages that relates to a Divine “person” juxtaposed with another “person” yet being One being. We note in Genesis 19:24 for instance “The Lord [Jehovah] rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone [sulfur] and fire from the Lord [Jehovah] out of heaven.” Here is a clear indication that two “Yahweh’s” are evident within the text. We cannot assume that the text merely emphasises the action from one designated sphere of influence, rather, it clearly shows the correlation between “Jehovah” from heaven showing the interaction of “Jehovah” present at Sodom and Gomorrah. There are clear references of a “Binitarian” Yahweh evident throughout the whole Old Testament (Ps.110:1, Isa.48:11-17, Matt.3:16-17, Gen.1:26-27, Am. 4:11, Hos.1:7, Ps.45:6-7, Is.44:6; 41:14, Jer.23:5-6, Zech.2:8-11, 10:12; 12:10). The last Biblical passage that could cause a problem is Hosea 1:7 “But I will have compassion on the house of Judah and deliver them by the Lord [Yahweh] their God, and will not deliver them by bow, sword, battle, horses, or horsemen.” Yahweh here is speaking of Yahweh that would deliver Israel which clearly notes “another” Yahweh.

The Ancient near eastern understanding of Yahweh:

When we understand that the New Testament is a direct commentary of the Old Testament Torah we find that the earliest understandings of these Jewish Christians exemplifies that Jesus and Yahweh of the Old Testament are one and the same. We need to read the Greek LXX without “thinking” in Hebrew. The context might be Hebraic but the syntax of the early Testaments finds themselves to be Greek. We can clearly then deduce that the word translated “Kyrios” which is translated as “Lord” directly translates back to the Hebrew as “Yahweh”. The normal consensus would be then to convert the Greek into Hebrew and then to prioritize the Hebrew sentiment. When we do that we find what the ancient Hebrews saw which is a plurality of three interwoven as the One. We find from the early first century Zohar written by Rabbi Simeon ben Jochai and his son Rabbi Eliezar saying: “Come and see the mystery of the word YHVH: there are three steps, each existing by itself: nevertheless they are One, and so united that one cannot be separated from the other. The Ancient Holy One is revealed with three heads, which are united into one, and that head is three exalted. The Ancient One is described as being three: because the other lights emanating from him are included in the three. But how can three names be one? Are they really one because we call them one? How three can be one can only be known through the revelation of the Holy Spirit.”[6]

This led Rabbi Eliezer Hakkalir to exclaim “There are ‘Three’, but each exists by Himself.”[7] This is the language of the early Church and the Apostolic Fathers. Paul and Barnabas explain “We believe it is through the grace of kyrios (Yahweh) Jesus that we are saved.” (Acts15:11). Paul goes to show “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is kyrios (Yahweh) to the glory of God the Father” (Phil.2:10-11). John in Beloved Disciple in John 1:1 shows Jesus to be the “Word of God” but in the Jewish Targums the “Word” is expressed to be the “Memra” of God. This shows that the earliest Disciples understood Jesus to be the “Memra” of the Old Testament and “Yahweh” in the new dispensation. Theologian Bruce M Metzger says that when; “speaking of the relationship of God to the world, reverence for the God of Israel led the Targumist to employ surrogates for the Deity, such as ‘Word’ [Memra], … or ‘Presence’ … Thus in Genesis 1:16-17 Targum Neofiti reads, ‘The Word [Memra] of the Lord created the two large luminaries … and the Glory of the Lord set them in the firmament’ and in Genesis 2:2-3 it reads, ‘On the seventh day the Word [Memra], of the Lord completed the work which he had created … and the Glory of the Lord blessed the seventh day.’”[8] Now let us look at the early Jewish understanding of the Memra and its implications to the person of Christ.

The Memra:

But there is a strong possibility that John’s choice of the word logos was not sourced solely from Philo’s writings. Even within Hebrew thought, there is a correspondence to the concept of the Logos used by both Philo and John. In the Palestinian Targums (which were Aramaic paraphrases of the Hebrew Old Testament), the Aramaic word Memra (or “the Word”) is frequently used as a substitute for the name of God. Kauffman Kohler explains: “In the Targum the Memra figures constantly as the manifestation of the divine power, or as God’s messenger in place of God Himself, wherever the predicate is not in conformity with the dignity or the spirituality of the Deity.”[9] Increasingly within Jewish thinking, God was seen as so holy and separate from mankind that he used personified attributes as his intermediaries when dealing with man. Thus it was the Memra (“the Word”) who created the world and it was the Memra (“the Word”) who communicated with fallen man. The Memra was seen as the same as God, yet also distinct from God — an divine agency who fulfilled five primary capacities:

Victor Christensen shows how interestingly the Targums of the Ancient Jews reflected our own deep seated sentiment: [10]We read in Genesis 1:1 that “in the beginning, God (Elohiym) created the heavens and the earth.”

Targum Neofiti on Genesis 1:1 says; “From the beginning, with wisdom, the Memra of Yahweh created and perfected the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:16 says; “And God made the two great lights.”

Targum Neofiti on Genesis 1:16 says; “And the Memra of Yahweh created the two great lights.” Genesis 1:27 says; “God created man in His own image.”memra

The Jerusalem Targum on Gen. 1:27; says “the Memra of Yahweh created man in His likeness.” Genesis 15:6 says; “And he (Abraham) believed God, and He counted it to him as righteousness.”

Targum Onkelos on Genesis 15:6 says; “Abraham trusted in the Memra of Yahweh, and He counted it to him for righteousness.” Genesis 28:21 says; “Yahweh shall be my God.”

Targum of Onkelos on Genesis 28:21 says; “the Memra of Yahweh should be his God.” Genesis 1:27 says, “God (‘elohiym) created man in His own image.”

The Jerusalem Targum has, “And the Memra of the Lord created man in His likeness.” In Genesis 9:17 God says, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

Targum Onkelos says, “This is the sign which I established between My Memra and between all flesh which are on the earth.” In Genesis 17:7 God says, “I will establish My covenant between Me and you.”

Targum Onkelos says, “I will establish My covenant between My Memra and you.” Similar caution is evident, however, where God says that he will meet with the Israelites at the Tabernacle on stated occasions. Exod. 25, 22f., Onkelos, ‘I will cause my word (memri, oracle) to meet thee there, and I will speak with thee from above the place of atonement
(kapporeth), from between the two cherubs,’ etc.; Exod. 29, 42, 43, Onkelos, ‘I will cause my oracle (memri) to meet with you there, to speak with thee there; and I will cause my oracle to meet with the Israelites, and it (the Tabernacle) shall be sanctified by my glory.’ In Exod. 19, 17, ‘Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God’;

Onkelos, ‘towards the oracle (memra) of God.’ In these cases the paraphrase is natural, since in the first two the text and in the last the context make the revealing of the will of God the object of the meeting; but in both the motive for paraphrasing at all is plainly to avoid the imagination of a meeting between men and God in propria persona. For this there was explicit warrant in Deut. 4, 12: ‘Y. spoke to you out of the midst of the fire; ye heard the sound of words (qal pitgamin), but a form ye did not see, only the sound (voice).’

In Exod. 3, 18, where the Hebrew is, ‘Say unto him (Pharaoh), The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, met us,’ Onkelos has, ‘appeared to us’ (cf. vs. 16); see also 5, 3.18 Note further Exod. 4, 12 (cf. 15), God says to Moses ‘I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt speak’; Onkelos, ‘my word (memri) shall be with thy mouth,’ etc. Here may perhaps most appropriately be introduced the scene between Jacob and Laban, Gen. 31, 49 f.: ‘The Lord be on the lookout between me and thee when we are out of one another’s sight. . . . God is witness between me and thee’; Onkelos in both verses, ‘the word (memra) of Y.’

Natural paraphrase is to be seen also in such cases as Gen. 15, 6, Abraham ‘believed in (put confidence in) God, and it was reckoned to him for righteousness’; Onkelos, ‘He be- lieved in the oracle (memra) of Y.,’ namely, the promise contained in verses 1-5. Exod. 14, 31, When the Israelites saw the great work the Lord did on the Egyptians, they feared the Lord, ‘and believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses’; Onkelos, ‘in the oracle (memra) of Y. and in the prophecy of Moses his servant’; see also Num. 20, 12; Deut. 1, 32 Passages in which it is said that God will fight for the Israelites are paraphrased; e.g. Deut. 3, 22, ‘For the Lord your God, he it is that fighteth for you’; Onkelos, ‘For Y. your God, his word (memreh) fights for you’; cf. Deut. 1, 30. An interesting class of passages which seem to fall into the same category are those in which God promises to be with someone, or it is said that he was with some one. Thus in Exod. 3, 12, God says to Motargumses, ‘I will be with thee’; Onkelos, ‘My word (memri) will be in thy support.’20 So in Gen. 21, 20, ‘God will be with the lad’ (Ishmael); Onkelos, ‘the memra of Y. will be in the support of the lad.’ 21 In such passages memra is probably the effective word which gives victory or protection with no need of such personal intervention as the phraseology of the original suggests. So also in punishment, e.g. Deut. 18, 19, Onkelos, ‘the man who does not receive (obey) my word (pitgami) which he (the prophet) shall speak in my name, my word (memri, Heb. ‘I’) will demand satisfaction of him.’ Compare also Deut. 4, 24, ‘The Lord our God is a devouring fire’; ‘Y. our God, his word (memreh) is a devouring fire’; cf. Deut. 9, 3. Cognate in a measure to these are passages in which memra is put for the protecting ‘hand’ of God. Thus Exod. 33, 22, God says to Moses, ‘I will cover my hand over thee till I have passed by’; Onkelos, ‘I will extend protection by my word over thee.’ The command of God, his expressed will, suffices for protection.[11]

Who is the Memra?[12]

The Memra is the Agent of Creation – In the Targum’s paraphrase of Isaiah 48:13, it is the Memra who “laid the foundation of the earth.” We find this concept paralleled in John’s writings: “Through [the Logos] all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made…[The Logos] was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him” (John 1:3,10).
The Memra is the Agent of Judgment – In the Targum’s paraphrase of Genesis 3:8, it is the Memra that goes looking for wayward Adam and Eve. In Deuteronomy 9:3, it is the Memra who is the “consuming fire.” In 2 Samuel 6:7, it is the Memra who strikes down Uzzah. And in Isaiah 30:27, it is the Memra who is the agent of God’s holy wrath. We find a striking parallel in the words of Jesus himself: “Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son” (John 5:22).

The Memra is the Agent of Salvation – In the Targum’s paraphrase of Deuteronomy 1:30, it is the Memra who fights on Israel’s behalf. In Exodus 33:22, it is the Memra who shelters Moses from the fatal brilliance of God’s glory. And in Isaiah 45:25, it is through the Memra that the descendants of Israel will be justified. This is reflected in Jesus’ very name, which in Hebrew is Yeshua, meaning “God Saves”* (see Matthew 1:21).
The Memra is the Agent of Revelation – In the Targum’s paraphrase of Exodus 19:17, Moses meets with the Memra. In Deuteronomy 4:33,36, it is the Memra who speaks out of the fire to the people. And in Isaiah 6:8, it is the Memra who reveals himself to Isaiah and commissions him to prophesy to Israel. It is not coincidental that John’s Logos also has this function, as we see in John 1:18 (NLT): “No one has ever seen God. But [the Logos], who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart; he has told us about him.”
The Memra is the Agent of Covenant – In the Targum’s paraphrase of Exodus 25:22, it is the Memra which meets with the High Priest over the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant. In Genesis 15:1, it is the Memra who becomes Abraham’s shield, in fulfilment of God’s covenant with him. In Leviticus 26:9, it is the Memra who enacts the Sinai Covenant. In Jeremiah 31:1, which introduces the coming new covenant, its the Memra who is the agent of that new covenant. And as we saw in Lesson 118, Jesus’ primary mission, for which he came into the world, was to inaugurate the new covenant of Jeremiah 31:31-34. When we consider the Jewish understanding of the Memra and its relation to Jesus we can clearly count Christ to be the pre-existing Memra of God evident in Old Testament Theophany’s.

Now let us turn to another figure in Jewish though called the Metatron who is equally of interest.


In Ancient Kabbalistic Studies we see a figure who acted for God as God. Metatron was seen as a divine being/ Angel of the highest orderwho was a mediator or intercessor before God. George Foot Moore in the Harvard University Journal writes: “The oldest occurrence of the word is in Sifre on Deut. 32, 49 (? 338), that is, in a Palestinian work the final redaction of which falls early in the third century, but which in this part is a Midrash of the school of Ishmael three quarters of a century earlier.2 Moses is bidden to ascend Mount Nebo in the land of Moab opposite Jericho, ‘and see the land of Canaan, which I am going to give the Israelites as a possession.’ On this R. Eliezer comments: ‘With his finger he (God) was a Metatron to Moses I and showed him the whole land of Israel; so far the boundaries of Ephraim; so far the boundaries of Manasseh.’ 4 According to R. Joshua, Moses saw it for himself; God gave him such powerful eyesight that he saw from one end of the world to the other.5 The word metatron was explained by R. Moses ben Nahman and Eshtori Parhi as ‘one who shows the way,’ a guide, and a corresponding gloss has found its way into the text of Sifre.6 Another occurrence in a Palestinian Midrash is in Bereshith Rabbah 5, 4 (on Gen. 1, 9): ‘R. Levi said, Some interpreters interpret with Ben Azzai and Ben Zoma,7 that the voice of God was made a metatron 8 over the waters, according to the words, ‘The voice of the Lord was over the waters’ (Psalm 29, 3). The question, as appears from the preceding context, was how the waters found their way into the ocean when God gathered themmemra123 together in one place; the answer, The voice of the Lord guided them. The interpretation of Ben Azzai is cited (independently of Bereshith Rabbah) by R. Berechiah in Midrash Tehillim on Psalm 93, 3 (? 5, end); ‘The voice of God was a metator before them.’ The Aruk 9 quotes from Midrash Yelammedenu on Deut. 2, 31 (Behold I have begun to deliver Sihon and his land before thee): ‘If that gives thee concern, I am thy metator. Do not wonder at these words; am I not hereafter going to be made a metator before an uncircumcised man, Cyrus, as it is written, ‘I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight,’ etc. (Isa. 45, 2); I am going to go before a woman, before Deborah and Barak, as it is said, ‘Is not the Lord gone out before thee’ (Judges 4, 14). Besides this passage, which is not preserved in our recensions of the Midrash Tanhuma, the Aruk cites in this sense, from the same source at the end of the Parashah Ki Tissa (on Exod. 34, 27), where, in answer to the intercession of Moses for the people after the sin of the golden calf, God recounts his ill-requited goodness to Israel: ‘And not only that, but in the desert I go before them as metator-‘The Lord goeth before them by day’ (Exod. 13, 21) -levelling down for them the heights and levelling up the depressions’ (cf. Isa. 40, 3 f.).10 In the same sense, and with the same Scripture reference, we find in a later Midrash on Exod. 23, 20, ‘Behold, I send an angel,’ etc.: xl ‘God said to Israel, When you were worthy of it, I myself was made a messenger (shalih) for you, as I did for you in the desert, as it is said, The Lord went before them by day (Exod. 13, 21); but now that ye are not worthy, I turn you over to a messenger (shalih), as it is said, Behold, I send an angel,’ etc. (Exod. 23, 20.).12 At the plea of Moses (Exod. 33, 12 ff.), however, the captain (sar, cf. Josh. 5, 4, and below, p. 65) did not actually assume authority over them till the death of Moses. Here God going before Israel in the desert is called shalih, precisely as in the passage first quoted from the Tanhuma (Yelammedenu) he is called metator; the two words are equivalent in sense. A third example given in the Aruk, also from Yelammedenu, is from the Parashah Balak (on Num. 22, 36: Balak heard that Balaam was come), ‘Showing that they had sent metatorin (plur.) before him.’ 13 From these passages R. Nathan gathers that the idea in metator is, ‘preceding, going on before.’ 14 The substitution in our texts of the Tanhuma on Num. 1. c. of sheluhim (lit., persons sent on a mission or with a message, the Hebrew word represented in the New Testament by d&r6roXooi)s a correct interpretation from the context. In all the passages thus far cited metatron or metator – the forms interchange in parallels and variants – is an appellative; and except in the last it is God himself (or his finger or his voice) that is the metatron or metator. In all the context requires some such general sense as ‘one who leads or shows the way, one who goes in advance.’ In the Babylonian Talmud Metatron is an angel. The passages in which he appears are few, and it will not take us too far to examine them all. In the first of these (Sanhedrin 38b) R. Nahman (ben Isaac) narrates a controversy between R. Idi (probably a Palestinian teacher of that name in the latter part of the fourth century) and a heretic (min), as an example of the right way to answer such cavils. The heretic quoted Exod. 24, 1, ‘And to Moses he said, Ascend unto the Lord,’ etc. Why not, Ascend unto Me? The Rabbi replied: It means Metatron, whose name is like the name of his master,”7 as the Scripture says, ‘for My name is in him.’ ‘If that is so, you should worship him.’ ‘It is written, Do not exchange me for him.’ ‘What does it mean then by the words, ‘He will not pardon your transgression?’ [13] ‘In solemn truth! we did not accept him even as a precursor, for it is written, ‘And he (Moses) said to Him, If Thy presence (17~) go not (with us), lead us not up hence’ (Exod. 33, 15). Metatron is here identified with the angel whom God proposed to send before the Israelites to watch over and protect them in the desert and lead them to the place God had prepared for them (Exod. 23, 1-4; 32, 34), but whose offices Moses declined – unless God personally accompanied the expedition, he was unwilling to set out on it. That Moses did thus refuse to set out under the conduct of an angel is deduced in the Tanh.uma from the same texts. The same angel was later sent to Joshua (Josh. 5, 13 ff.); he announces himself as the captain of the Lord’s host (ibid. vs. 14), and says: ‘Twice have I come to bring Israel into its inheritance. It was I who came in the days of Moses thy master, and he rejected me, and was not willing that I should go; now I am come again.’ [14] Substantially the same is repeated in later compilations;” see also Bereshith Rabbah 97, 3[15].

Readings from the Zohar

zohar_640x360The above quotation is from the Jewish mystical book, the Zohar, in its comment on Genesis 1:1, which introduces Metatron as being present in this very first verse of the Torah. The writer, Simeon ben Yochai, continues his comment, stating that Metatron is the very first [kadmoni], as well as the highest. He also states that Metatron is eternal. …He [Metraton] is the very first. Nobody can understand anything higher than this. Why? Because it is closed for the mind. God’s mind is a closed mystery from above. The mind of man can be connected with things, but no one can connect God’s mind from above, the more His thoughts. He is without end. The Zohar gives the above definition, but the origin of the name Metatron remains a mystery. According to Jewish scholars’ statements, it could come from the Hebrew matara, which means “keeper of the watch;” from the Hebrew cabalistic term metator, which means “guide or messenger” or from two Greek words, meta thronos, which mean “one who serves behind the throne.” The Jewish sages do not present a unified opinion regarding the etymology of the name Metatron.

Rabbi Bechai Writes
Another of the ancient sages writing in the Zohar, Rabbi Bechai, relates the letters hay and yod, which are also found in the name of God, to Metatron. Exodus 24:1, upon which Rabbi Bechai writes his comment, refers to God’s summoning Moses to the top of the mount and reads as follows: And he said unto Moses, come up unto the LORD, thou and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu [Aaron’s sons] and seventy of the elders of Israel; and worship ye afar off.

Rabbi Bechai comments as follows:
…This is Metatron, the Lord’s messenger, Israel’s helper [Psalm 121:4]. God told Moses to go down, thy people sinned [Exodus 32:7]. Then Moses prayed with the letter hay and with the letter yod… Noah did not pray for the sinners so he went down with them… God’s name, Jehovah, is composed of the Hebrew letters yod, hay, vav, hay [JHVH]. The Jewish people consider this name of God too holy to pronounce, so when they read it aloud, they say Adonai [my Lord] instead.

Eliezer Seeks a Bride for Isaac
Genesis Chapter 24 relates the narrative of Abraham sending his eldest servant to seek a bride for his son Isaac. Abraham tells his servant Eliezer to put his hand under Abraham’s thigh, which Rashi says was the way a person took an oath in that time [Genesis 24:2]. In a lengthy comment on this verse, Simeon ben Yochai writes the following in the Zohar, teaching that the servant Eliezer is Metatron and also the Shekinah, who is God! He also presents Metatron as the ruler of the world, the one who will resurrect the bodies in the graves: And Abraham said to his servant. Rabbi Shimeon opens saying: Who is his servant? — The Shekinah. That is Metatron, who is the servant, the messenger of the creator, Metatron, who is also called the youth, as it is written, “I was young and also old” [Psalm 37:25]. He is the ruler of the world. He is revealed in green, white and red, which represent grace, judgment and mercy. It is known that the world is ruled by these three natures. Put your hand under my thigh. This is the righteous one. The mystery is that the world exists on these three: [grace, judgment and mercy, as mentioned above]. He is appointed from the mystery above to resurrect those who sleep in the grave. He will come with the will from the one who is above to bring back the breath and the soul to the proper place.

Simeon ben Yochai Continues
In continuing his comment, Simeon ben Yochai asks the question, Why did Abraham speak to his servant? And Abraham said to his servant. Why to his servant? He looked at his wisdom. Rabbi Mehorai says, He looked only at what he said. God’s servant and who is he? This is Metatron, as we said. He will be the one who will give life to the bodies in the graves. Abraham spoke to his servant. He is Metatron, the elder in his house, the first of God’s creatures, who rules all His house. God, blessed be his name, gave him to rule over his hosts.

Talmudic References

talmudSome writers in the Talmud also deal with this subject, for example, in their discussion of Ecclesiastes 5:5, which Scripture reads as follows: Better it is that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.The Talmud, in Hagiga 15a, while stating that breaking a pledge is a sin, relates this verse to Metatron: Do not give your mouth to make your flesh to sin. What did he see? He saw Metatron, to whom was given permission to sit down and write the merits of Israel…

Another Talmudic passage, Yebamoth 16b, also refers to Psalm 37:25, “I was young and was old,” as Simeon ben Yochai does in his comment on Genesis 24:2 previously quoted, and comes to the same conclusion that the person mentioned is Metatron. Some believe that Metatron is Enoch, but Yebamoth 16b refutes this conclusion: Who said it? If God said it, can old age be applied to God? But David said it. Was he so old? But from this we learn that the prince of the world said it. [Tosefos said this prince is young. He is Metatron, the glorified and the fearful. Metatron is the prince of the world. He is called “the youth.”] In the poem Yesod Tokeh, [Strong Foundation], Metatron is a prince turned to fire from the flesh. In this poem it seems to mean that Enoch is Metatron, but he cannot be. He cannot be the prince of the world because in [the Talmudic book] Chulin 60:1 it says that in the first six days the prince of the world [Metatron] said, “God is rejoicing in his work,” and Enoch was not yet born…[Tosefos Yebamoth 16b.]

Ezekiel’s Vision of Living Creatures
Another passage in the Talmud relates Metatron to Ezekiel’s vision in Babylon, in which he saw living creatures… Ezekiel 1:15 reads as follows in the Bible: Now as I beheld the living creatures, behold one wheel upon the earth by the living creatures, with his four faces.

Hagiga 13b interprets the above verse as follows, using the name Sandalfon, which is another name for Metatron:
Rabbi Eliezer says, One angel is standing on the ground and his hand reaches unto the living creatures. In a Matnita [small Midrash, or sayings of rabbis] we learned that he is Sandalfon. This is his name. He is taller than his fellows [a height that would take] five hundred years to walk. He stands behind the chariots and fashions crowns for his maker.

The Early Judaic understanding of Yahweh.

Richard Bauckham affirms extreme monotheism “became a facet of Jewish monotheism only later.”[16] Their culture/ theology/language/history showed serious contentions surrounding this. We clearly read that Scholar of Rabbinics Jewish Scholar Jacob Neusner wrote “the system laid out in the Mishnah takes up and disposes of those critical issues of teleology worked out through messianic eschatology in other, earlier versions of Judaism. These earlier systems resorted to the myth of the Messiah as Saviour and Redeemer of Israel, a supernatural figure engaged in political historical tasks as king of the Jews, even a God-man facing the crucial historical questions of Israel’s life and resolving them: the Christ as king of the world, of the ages, of death itself.”[17]. Further the scholar John Collins writes that “the notion of a messiah who was in some sense divine ad its roots in Judaism, in the interpretation of such passages as Psalm 2 and Daniel 7 in an apocalyptic context… and the later Christian understanding of the divinity of Christ… the notion that the messiah was Son of God in a special sense was rooted in Judaism, and so there was continuity between Judaism and Christianity in this respect…”[18]. We see the early Church understanding the culture/language and history as Trinitarian and always opposing to a strict Unitarian understanding of the Godhead. They were clear in their understanding of the uniqueness of God and clearly understood Him to be “sole Ruler and sole Creator”[19] The one who have eternally existed (John 17:5, 13:3, Matt23:37-39, Heb1:2, Rev 1:8). This leads theologian N.T.Wright to affirm “about the nature and variety of early Jewish monotheism… we have very few examples of ‘pure’ monotheism anywhere, including in the Hebrew Bible… from the Maccabaean revolt to Bar-Kochba – there is no suggestion that ‘monotheism’, or praying the Shema, had anything to do with the numerical analysis of the inner being of Israel’s god Himself… we find strong evidence during this period of Jewish groups and individuals who, speculating on the meaning of some difficult passages of Scripture (Dan7; Gen 1) suggested that the Divine being might encompass a plurality…but none of these show any awareness that they are transgressing normal Jewish monotheism.”

IMG_0104He affirms that later with the “rise of Christianity… [and the influence of] Hellenizing Philosophy], that Jews in the second and subsequent centuries reinterpreted ‘monotheism’ as ‘the numerical oneness of the Divine Being.”[20]. I am really not sure how more explicit the NT. can be when we see statements like his own Disciples like “my Lord and my God” (John 20:28), “the word was God” (John1:1), “prepare the way of the Lord” (Luke3:4), “God with us” (Mat 1:23), “YWHW pouring out His Spirit (Acts 2:18&33), “the Messiah who is God over all (Rom 9:5), “One God and One Lord” (1 Cor 8:6), “Jesus who existed in the form of God, did not consider equality with God” (Phil2:5-6), “our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13), “your throne O’God is forever and ever” (Heb 1:8), “Our God and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 1:1), “Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life (1 Joh 5:20), “I am the One who was, is and is to come, the Almighty.” (Rev1:8). Now how more explicit can you get? I am not sure how more “explicit regarding the Divinity of Christ? Not even going to implicit Scriptures… Now how do we understand these texts just in its normal reading? Not applying philosophical constructs or intellectual vagaries. Trinitarians believe that Christ presented God on earth but that He was also God as clearly described in Scripture. You say that “If Jesus was not the Father and the Father was alone God, then Jesus is not God.” This again is only a problem if you are a Unitarian? Bauckham also notes that no intermediary figures (angels or exalted patriarchs) “is portrayed as participating in the work of creation…God’s Wisdom and Word, on the other hand, are regularly portrayed as participants in creation… the other so-called intermediary figures have much more limited roles”[21]. Further in the “Memra” of the Targums, the Word (Logos) was recognized, so to speak, in his own name and character; the Skekinah was sometimes taken for the Second Person of the Trinity, sometimes for the Third; after cabalistic studies came into vogue, the mysterious Metatron joined the ranks of the intermediaries[22]. According Jeremiah 23:6 Jesus is the Old Testament God Yahweh; “This is His name by which He [Jesus] will be called, ‘Yahweh.” When the Greek New Testament is translated into Hebrew Jesus’ New Testament title is unequivocally Yahweh. The last book in the New Testament refers to Jesus as “Yahweh ‘elohiym Almighty.” (Revelation 4:8). It is important to take note that when the Old Testament speaks of deity it employs a threefold formula. “Come near to Me, listen to this: From the first I have not spoken in secret, from the time it took place, I was there. And now (1) the Lord God has sent (2) Me, (Jesus) and (3) His Spirit.” (Isaiah 48:16). “I will tell of the kindnesses of the Lord … He said, Surely they are My people, children who will be true to Me; and so He became their Savior. In all their distress (1) He too was distressed and (2) the Angel of His presence (Jesus) saved them. … Yet they rebelled and grieved (3) His Holy Spirit. So He turned and became their enemy and He himself. Likewise, when Jesus spoke of deity He employed the same threefold formula found in the Law and the Prophets. “I (Jesus) will ask the (2) Father, and He will give you (3) another Counsellor … the Spirit of truth.”1 Since the Spirit comes as “another Counsellor” to replace Jesus the Spirit’s role is to represent Jesus’ on earth when Jesus is absent. “I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.”2 (1John 14:16, 216:7).

Tessera Photos 101


[1] Rabbi Eliezer Hakkalir. The Book of Creation.
[2] F.H.W. Genesius, Hebrew Grammar, eds. E. Kautzsch and A.E. Cowley, p. 398
[3] as quoted in M.G. Einspruch, A Way in the Wilderness (Baltimore: The Lewis and Harriet Lederer Foundation), p. 95.
[4] Rabbi Eliezer Hakkalir, The Book of Creation,pp. 28-29 & p. 89
[5] C.T. Francisco, Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia, ed. C.F. Pfeiffer, J. Rhea, and H.F.Vos, Vol. I, p. 523, “elohim”
[6] Zohar,Vol. III, p. 134, Soncino Press ed.
[7] Rabbi Eliezer Hakkalir, The Book of Creation, p. 89
[8] Bruce M. Metzger’s article, “Important Early Translations of the Bible,”Bibliotheca Sacra 150 (Jan 93), pp. 35ff.
[9] Kaufmann Kohler, Jewish Encyclopedia,http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=399&letter=M
[10] http://victorchristensen.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/the-unbegotten-yahweh-jesus.pdf
[11] A more drastic figure is similarly paraphrased in Ezek. 16, 8, ‘I spread my skirt over thee’; Targum, ‘I extended protection by my word (memri) over thee.’
[12] http://www.onlinebiblecollege.com/new/index.php
[13] ‘he will not’ implies that he has the power to do so, a power that is a divine prerogative.
[14] Tanhuma, Mishpatim, ? 18 init.; ed. Buber ? 10.
[15] http://archive.org/stream/jstor-1507936/1507936_djvu.txt
[16] Pg159: Jesus and the God of Israel.
[17] Judaism and their Messiahs at the turn of the Christian era.
[18] The sceptre and the Star
[19] Bauckham. Pg.159
[20] The New Testament and the people of God: Pg.258-259
[21]Bauckham Pg.159-160
[22] For example, M. Kithler, ‘Christologie, Schriftlehre,’ Protestantische Real-Encyclopaedie, 3 ed. iv, 7: Eigentilmlich ist dem nachkanonischen Judentum
die Umsetzung der anschaulichen Ausdriicke fur das Walten Gottes in der Welt, namentlich auch seines offenbarenden Wirkens, in gewissermassen selbststiindige Werkzeuge Gottes; das schipferische und offenbarende Wort wird im Memra hypostasiert, die Gnadengegenwart Gottes bei seinem Volk in der Schechina; dazu kommt bei den Rabbinen noch der Metatron; alle diese Mittelwesen gleichen den Engeln und sind, wie auch der Geist Gottes, geschaffen

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