Andrei A. Orlov


 Metatron as the Prince of the World

[an excerpt from A. Orlov, The Enoch-Metatron Tradition (TSAJ, 107; Tuebingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 2005), pp. xii+383. ISBN 3-16-148544-0.]



…. Philip Alexander notes that in Synopse §74,[1] the duties of the Prince of the World appear to be attached to Enoch-Metatron’s figure.[2] This text informs the reader that God placed under Metatron’s hand every authority that rules over the world:[3]

I gave seventy princes into his hand, to issue to them my commandments in every language; to abase the arrogant to the earth at his word; to elevate the humble to the height at the utterance of his lips; to smite kings at his command; to subdue rulers and presumptuous men at his bidding; to remove kings from their kingdoms, and to exalt rulers over their dominions….[4]

In examining the imagery of the Prince of the World in 3 Enoch, one must maintain a careful distinction between the depictions of the various activities pertaining to this office and the references to the appellation itself. Thus, although Enoch-Metatron seems to possess some definite qualities of the Prince of the World in 3 Enoch, it appears that the sobriquet the Prince of the World is not directly associated[5] with Enoch-Metatron in this text.[6] Metatron’s duties in Synopse §4, §13, and §74, however, are very similar[7] to those found in the passages which deal with the title the Prince of the World in Synopse §47 and §56.

Thus, Synopse §47 refers to the seventy-two princes of the kingdoms in the world when it mentions the Prince of the World:

Whenever the Great Law Court sits in the height of the heaven (Arabot, only the great princes who are called YHWH by the name of the Holy One, blessed be he, are permitted to speak. How many princes are there? There are 72 princes of kingdoms in the world, not counting the Prince of the World (Mlw(h r#), who speaks in favor of the world before the Holy One, blessed be he, every day at the hour when the book is opened in which every deed in the world is recorded, as it is written, “A court was held, and the books were opened.”[8]

Alexander argues that if one takes this passage in conjunction with Synopse §13 (3 Enoch 10:3), which depicts Metatron’s authority below the eight great princes of YHWH but above all other princes, it would appear that Metatron is the Prince of the World.

Another usage of the title found in Synopse §56 (3 Enoch 38) also does not bring this appellation in direct connection with the name Metatron. The passage informs us that when the ministering angels utter the heavenly Qedushah, their mighty sound produces a sort of earthquake in the celestial realm; this earthquake alarms the constellations and stars. The Prince of the World then comes forward and calms down the celestial bodies, explaining to them the source of the commotion:

“Stay at rest in your places; be not afraid because the ministering angels recite the song before the Holy One, blessed be he,” as it is written, “When all the stars of the morning were singing with joy, and all the Sons of God in chorus were chanting praise.”[9]

While this narrative does not mention Metatron, it alludes to the activities of this angel who is often depicted in the Hekhalot materials as the pacifier and the protector of the celestial beings during the performance of the heavenly liturgy.

Although 3 Enoch for some reason hesitates to connect the name Metatron with the appellation of the Prince of the World, several other rabbinic and Hekhalot passages bring this title in direct connection with this name and with Metatron’s other sobriquets. Thus, the earliest Jewish reference to the Youth in the rabbinic literature (b. Yebam. 16b) links this title with the appellation the Prince of the World. While Metatron is not mentioned in this text, the conjunction of the two familiar designations makes it plausible. Metatron, the Youth and the Prince of the World are also identified with each other in the Synopse §959.[10]

The most important early evidence of Metatron’s role as the Prince of the World includes the testimony found in the Aramaic incantation bowls.[11] One bowl appears to represent the oldest source which clearly identifies Metatron as the Prince of the World. On this bowl Metatron is designated as )ml( hylkd hbr )rsy) “the great prince of the entire world.”[12]

In the conclusion of this section, some suggestions pertaining to the possible prototypes of the title must be mentioned. While the discussion will demonstrate that the aformentioned imagery in the Enochic materials was developed under the influence of the Adamic tradition, several scholars point to the possible formative value of the lore about the archangel Michael. Both Scholem and Alexander note that in some rabbinic writings, Michael was often identified as the Prince of the World (Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer 27; Yalqut Shimoni Gen 132).[13] It is possible that the traditions about Michael and Metatron coexisted in the rabbinic literature, mutually enriching each other. Scholem remarks that in Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer 27, Michael is given the title of Mlw( l# wr#; yet in a source from the same period, Metatron was called the “Great Prince of the Whole World.”


[1] 3 Enoch 48C:9–10.

[2] Alexander, “From Son of Adam to a Second God,” 105, n. 24.

[3] The term “world” (Mlw() in the angelic title appears to signify the entire creation. Peter Schäfer observes that in rabbinic literature the Prince of the World is understood as an angel set over the whole creation. His duties include praying together with the earth for the coming of the Messiah and praising God’s creative work. P. Schäfer, Rivalität zwischen Engeln und Menschen: Untersuchungen zur rabbinischen Engelvorstellung (SJ 8; Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1975) 55.

[4] Alexander, “3 Enoch,” 312.

[5]Alexander points to the fact that the later texts (Tosepoth to Yeb. 16b and to Hul. 60a) equate Metatron explicitly with this title. Alexander, “3 Enoch,” 243. See also: b. Sanh. 94a.

[6] Alexander, “3 Enoch,” 243.

[7] Igor Tantlevskij observes that in 3 Enoch 8, Enoch-Metatron has qualities by which, according to b. H9ag. 12a and Avot de Rabbi Nathan A 27:43, the world was created and is sustained. I. R. Tantlevskij, Knigi Enoha (Moscow/Jerusalem: Gesharim, 2000) 185 [in Russian].

[8] 3 Enoch 30. Alexander, “3 Enoch,” 285. Schäfer et al., Synopse, 24–25.

[9] Alexander, “3 Enoch,” 290.

[10] „.…lwdgh Mlw( r# btkn# Mynph r# Nwr++m hzh r(nhw….”  Schäfer et al., Synopse, 296.

[11] Scholars observe that although “many of these bowls cannot be dated with certainty … those from Nippur (among which are some of our most informative texts on Metatron) were found in stratified deposits and have been dated archeologically to the seventh century A.D. at the very latest.” Alexander, “3 Enoch,” 228.

[12] The text on the bowl is published by C. Gordon, “Aramaic and Mandaic Magical Bowls,” Archiv Orientalni 9 (1937) 84–95, esp. 94.

[13] Scholem, Jewish Gnosticism, 44;  Alexander, 3 Enoch, 243.