Beyond Judaisms: Meṭ aṭ ron and the Divine Polymorphy of Ancient Judaism HTML version

Journal for
the Study of
Journal for the Study of Judaism 41 (2010) 323-365
Beyond Judaisms: Meṭaṭron and the Divine
Polymorphy of Ancient Judaism1
Daniel Boyarin
Department of Near Eastern Studies, 248 Barrows Hall, University of California, Berkeley,
CA 94720-1940, USA
My specific project in this paper is to combine several related and notorious ques-
tions in the history of Judaism into one: What is the nexus among the semi-
divine (or high angel) figure known in the Talmud as Meṭaṭron, the figure of the
exalted Enoch in the Enoch books (1-3 Enoch!), “he One Like a Son of Man” of
Daniel, Jesus, the Son of Man, and the rabbinically named heresy of “Two Pow-
ers/Sovereignties in Heaven?” I believe that in order to move towards some kind
of an answer to this question, we need to develop a somewhat different approach
to the study of ancient Judaism, as I hope to show here. I claim that late-ancient
rabbinic literature when read in the context of all contemporary and earlier texts
of Judaism—those defined as rabbinic as well as those defined as non-, para-, or
even anti-rabbinic—affords us a fair amount of evidence for and information
1) his essay began its life as one of the hundredth series of Haskell lectures in Middle
Eastern literature in its relation to the Bible and Christian teachings, entitled “he Son of
Man and the Genealogy of Rabbinic Judaism,” which were delivered by me in the Spring
of 2007 at Oberlin College. I am very grateful to Prof. Abraham Socher who invited me
to deliver these lectures. I thank him as well for his wonderful hospitality to me during
very trying times in his life. hese were intended to form a manuscript of the same title to
be published by Fordham University Press. At the eleventh hour, however, I realized that
the argument of one of the lectures seems to me fatally flawed, and I abandoned the
monograph sadly (Helen Tartar of FUP was wonderfully generous in not making me feel
guilty; Helen I owe you one). his essay is, therefore, a brand saved from a fire (the rest of
the salvage will be incorporated, DV, into my forthcoming, tentatively entitled: How the
Jews Came to Believe that Jesus was God). I wish to thank the following who read early
versions of this manuscript and helped me to improve it: Carlin Barton, Ra’anan Boustan,
Jonathan Boyarin, two anonymous readers, and Elliot Wolfson. Alon Goshen-Gottstein
also provided critical commentary, some of which I have been able to incorporate.
© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2010
DOI: 10.1163/157006310X503612