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It is worth noting that Thomas 22 is the only saying that mentions the annulment of gender as
a particular example of becoming one. It is quite striking how often the motif of becoming one occurs
in Thomas, but it is also striking that, unlike saying 22, sayings 4, 11, 23, and 106 formulated the
notion of becoming one in abstract categories. The only ancient tradition that has the same obsession
with the abstract idea of oneness is Platonism. I thus believe that it is, again, against the Platonist
background that the Thomasine motif of becoming one should be analyzed.
7.1.3. Platonists on Becoming One
According to James Adam, the phrase εἷς ἐκ πολλῶν “is a sort of Platonic motto or text.”403
Plato uses the expression twice in Respublica. In one of the passages (443d–e), Socrates discusses
justice, pointing out that a just person is one who is able to make peace between the rational (τὸ
λογιστικόν), the appetitive (τὸ ἐπιθυμητικόν), and the spirited (τὸ θυμοειδής) parts of the human soul:
One who is just does not allow any part of himself to do the work of another part or allow the
various classes within him to meddle with each other. He regulates well what is really his own
and rules himself. He puts himself in order, is his own friend, and harmonizes the three parts of
himself like three limiting notes in a musical scale—high, low, and middle. He binds together
those parts and any others there may be in between, and from having been many things he
becomes entirely one (παντάπασιν εἷς γενόμενος ἐκ πολλῶν), moderate and harmonious (trans.
G.M.A. Grube and C.D.C. Reeve).
In another passage (423 c–d), Socrates explores the question of the ideal size of a city, arguing
that it is important for the city (ἡ πόλις) to be in unity (μία). Such an objective can be achieved, if all
groups of the city, just like the three parts of the human soul, are put in the right order and if all
citizens commit to their roles in society. One person should perform one task appropriate to him or
her. If this is the case, then such a person comes into unity, and the city of unities becomes a unity in
itself. Becoming one is, therefore, not only an anthropological but also a social ideal:
This was meant to make clear that each of the other citizens is to be directed to what he is
naturally suited for (πρὸς ὅ τις πέφυκεν, πρὸς τοῦτο ἕνα πρὸς ἓν ἕκαστον ἔργον δεῖ κομίζειν), so
that, doing the one work that is his own, he will become not many but one (ἓν τὸ αὑτοῦ
ἐπιτηδεύων ἕκαστος μὴ πολλοὶ ἀλλʼ εἷς γίγνηται), and the whole city will itself be naturally one
not many (σύμπασα ἡ πόλις μία φύηται ἀλλὰ μὴ πολλαί) (trans. G.M.A. Grube and C.D.C.
This motif was further developed by the Platonists of the Old Academy. Philip of Opus in the
Epinomis maintains that he who contemplates the cosmos is one and obtains the wisdom that is also
one (986c–d). Moreover, in Philip’s thought, becoming one takes on an eschatological meaning;
Adam 1963, 1:264.