The following four chapters focus on the Thomasine notion of perfection. I begin with the notion of “oneness.” Many Thomasine sayings invite the readers to “become one.” This motif was discussed in a seminal article by A.F.J. Klijn, who argued that it comes from the Jewish speculations about Adam being “one.”1 In this chapter, I am going to revisit Klijn’s hypothesis and show that, even though the Thomasine motif of becoming one might have been influenced by certain Jewish traditions, it was to a great extent shaped by Platonist thought. I am also going to discuss whether the Platonist origins of the motif might shed some light on the sayings of the Gospel of Thomas that employ the term μοναχός.
The Androgynous Protoplast?
Thomasine sayings 4, 11, 22, 23, and 106 discuss being (or becoming) either ⲟⲩⲁ, “one,” or ⲟⲩⲁ ⲟⲩⲱⲧ (i.e., ⲟⲩⲁ ⲛ̄ⲟⲩⲱⲧ),2 “one and the same.” The most important and influential contribution to the discussion of the Thomasine motif of becoming one was offered by Klijn in his 1962 article. Although this article was published more than half a century ago, contemporary scholars often refer to it with approval.3 It is thus worth opening this chapter with an analysis of Klijn’s hypothesis.
According to Klijn, these sayings preach “a return to the original state” of oneness, because they were “inspired by Jewish ideas about Adam, his fall and redemption.”4 Thomasine theology rests, therefore, on a Jewish myth. According to this myth, Adam was initially one (i.e., androgynous), but then he became two (i.e., male and female). The division of Adam led to the fall, which means that salvation is possible only by regaining the original oneness.
This myth, as Klijn himself admits, is not attested in early Jewish sources. There are, however, several Nag Hammadi writings5 that seem to be aware of the myth of Adam who was first an androgynous being and was later on divided, a process which led to the corruption of human nature. Still, as Klijn rightly points out, all these sources “miss the emphasis on Adam’s being originally one and having become two.”6 It is this emphasis on oneness that Klijn attempted to explain in his contribution.
Klijn believes that the key to the Thomasine motif of becoming one is Philo. Philo was allegedly aware of the myth and conceived of oneness as human perfection. Philo and the Gospel of Thomas thus are “in striking agreement,” meaning that they must both have drawn “from the same sources.”7 I am inclined to think that Klijn exaggerates the importance of Philo for the understanding of the Gospel of Thomas. There is no reason to think that Philo adhered to the myth of the androgynous Adam. According to Richard A. Baer, there is only one passage where Philo might be speaking about the androgyny of Adam, Opif. 151–152. Due to the importance of this passage for the discussion, it is worth citing the passage in full:
But, since nothing is stable in the world of becoming and mortal beings necessarily undergo reverses and changes, the first human being too had to enjoy some ill fortune. The starting-point of a blameworthy life becomes for him woman. As long as he was single, he resembled God and the cosmos in his solitariness (μέχρι μὲν γὰρ εἷς ἦν, ὡμοιοῦτο κατὰ τὴν μόνωσιν κόσμῳ καὶ θεῷ), receiving the delineations of both natures in his soul, not all of them but as many as a mortal constitution could contain. But when woman too was moulded (ἐπλάσθη), he observed a sisterly form and a kindred figure. Rejoicing at the sight, he came up to her and gave her a greeting. She, seeing no other living creature that looked more like herself than he, was glad and modestly responded to his greeting. The love that ensues brings together the two separate halves of a single living being as it were, and joins them into unity (ἔρως δ’ ἐπιγενόμενος καθάπερ ἑνὸς ζῴου διττὰ τμήματα διεστηκότα συναγαγὼν εἰς ταὐτὸν ἁρμόττεται), thereby establishing in both a desire for union with the other in order to produce a being similar to themselves. But this desire also gave rise to bodily pleasure, which is the starting-point of wicked and lawbreaking deeds, and on its account they exchange the life of immortality and well-being for the life of mortality and misfortune.8
It is by no means evident that Philo speaks of Adam as an androgyne in this passage. First, it is noteworthy that he says that Eve was created (ἐπλάσθη), not that androgynous Adam became male and female. Second, as Richard A. Baer points out, “logically it is difficult to see how the androgynous man motif, if understood literally, could fit into Philo’s schema.”9
Admittedly, this passage is “strongly reminiscent of Plato’s myth of the androgynous man” (see Symp. 189c–193d).10 I am, however, inclined to agree with David T. Runia that Philo calls Adam and Eve διττὰ τμήματα διεστηκότα, “two separated pieces,” figuratively, in order to highlight “the powerful attraction that love brings about” by alluding to Plato’s famous dialogue (cf. Symp. 191d–e).11 It is hard to believe that Philo here seriously adheres to the doctrine that he elsewhere calls τὰ τῶν μύθων πλάσματα, “mythical fictions” (Contempl. 63).
More importantly, neither here nor elsewhere does Philo describe salvation as the return to an androgynous state.12 Philo used the categories of male and female in several different ways, but when he used sexual imagery to describe progress in the moral and religious life, he described it as becoming male. This gendered approach to ethical and religious mores is “directly related to Philo’s practice of associating the sense-perceptible sphere with woman and the female, whereas the realm of the rational soul is male and is symbolized by the man.”13
To sum up, even though Philo most definitely believed that achieving the ideal state meant becoming one (the relevant passages are cited below, pp. 106–110), he did not understand becoming one as becoming an androgyne. In what follows, I will argue that both the Philonic and the Thomasine fondness of oneness come from the Platonist rather than the Jewish tradition.
I proceed to a discussion of the myth of the androgynous Adam in the Gospel of Thomas. Although, as I have tried to argue, Philo’s idea of human perfection does not have much to do with this myth, it is possible that the Thomasine theology is nonetheless indebted to it.
The Gospel of Thomas mentions Adam by name twice (sayings 46 and 85), and there is no doubt that the stories about Adam were among the sources for Thomasine theology. Nothing prevents us from assuming that there was a myth about Adam being male and female at the time of the composition of the Gospel of Thomas. In fact, there seem to be two Thomasine sayings that may allude to such a myth. One of them (Gos. Thom. 11:4) speaks about “one” becoming “two”; another (Gos. Thom. 22) speaks about “two” becoming “one.” I begin with the former passage:
11:4 ϩⲙ̄ ⲫⲟⲟⲩ ⲉⲧⲉⲧⲛ̄ⲟ ⲛ̄ⲟⲩⲁ ⲁⲧⲉⲧⲛ̄ⲉⲓⲣⲉ ⲙ̄ⲡⲥⲛⲁⲩ ϩⲟⲧⲁⲛ ⲇⲉ ⲉⲧⲉⲧⲛ̄ϣⲁϣⲱⲡⲉ ⲛ̄ⲥⲛⲁⲩ ⲟⲩ ⲡⲉ ⲉⲧⲉⲧⲛ̄ⲛⲁⲁϥ
11:4 On the day you were one, you became two. But when you become two, what will you do?
It is possible that when Jesus refers to the state of being “one,” he refers to primordial humanity embodied in the androgynous protoplast; it is also possible that his reference to becoming “two” signifies the division of the protoplast into a man and a woman. Yet since the saying is formulated in quite an obscure fashion, a wide variety of alternative interpretations can be offered.
For instance, Uwe-Karsten Plisch thinks that the saying seeks to answer the following question: “What is the use and meaning of a union between a man and a woman in light of the rapidly approaching end of the world?”14 According to Plisch, the day of becoming two is the wedding day, when “husband and wife merge into one flesh but also establish the duality of their partnership.” In this case, the last question of the saying “has to be understood as a critical request.”15
I would not go as far as to insist on the interpretation suggested by Plisch; it might very well be that the author of Gos. Thom. 11:4 did intend to allude to the myth of androgynous Adam. What is fairly certain, however, is that the phrasing of this saying is intentionally vague. The only thing that the reader may be confident about is that oneness is of great value and that its loss is to be avoided. It seems that this saying is, at the very least, not only about Adam.
The other saying that may allude to the myth of the androgynous protoplast is Gos. Thom. 22 (discussed in detail in the following section). In this saying, Jesus gives the commandment to “make the two into one” (Gos. Thom. 22:4) and “to make the male and the female into a single one” (Gos. Thom. 22:5). He also says that there is a resemblance between little children and those who enter the kingdom (Gos. Thom. 22:2) and that, in order to enter the kingdom, one needs to make “an image instead of an image” (Gos. Thom. 22:6).
It is possible that Gos. Thom. 22:2 and 22:6 reflect certain traditions about Adam. First, a number of early Christian authors claim that Adam was a child when he was in the Paradise;16 hence, it is possible that Gos. Thom. 22:2 refers to the return to the prelapsarian condition of the protoplast. Second, the difficult phrase ⲟⲩϩⲓⲕⲱⲛ ⲉⲡⲙⲁ ⲛ̄ⲟⲩϩⲓⲕⲱ(ⲛ), “an image instead of an image,”17 (Gos. Thom. 22:6) seems to allude to the Genesis narrative, where God first creates Adam κατ’ εἰκόνα θεοῦ (Gen 1:26–27 and 5:1 LXX), and then Adam begets Seth κατὰ τὴν ἰδέαν αὐτοῦ καὶ κατὰ τὴν εἰκόνα αὐτοῦ (Gen 5:3). Thus, according to Gos. Thom. 22:6, s/he who wishes to enter the kingdom has to transform “the image of Adam” into “the image of God.”18 It seems that the same motif is present in 1 Cor 15:49, where Paul speaks about carrying ἡ εἰκὼν τοῦ ἐπουρανίου (i.e., of Christ) instead of ἡ εἰκὼν τοῦ χοϊκοῦ (i.e., of Adam).19
If Gos. Thom. 22:2 and 22:6 allude to the stories of Adam, it is possible that Gos. Thom. 22:5 alludes to such a story as well. It is thus possible that “to make the male and the female into a single one” refers to an androgynous Adam in Paradise. Whether regaining primordial androgyny (Gos. Thom. 22:5) is identical to becoming one (Gos. Thom. 22:4) is, however, another issue. As I will demonstrate in the following section, there are good reasons to doubt whether Gos. Thom. 22:5 is a paraphrase or an explicative definition of Gos. Thom. 22:4. The myth of Adam is, at the very least, not the only thing that Gos. Thom. 22 revolves around.
The conclusion I reach is, therefore, twofold. On the one hand, it cannot be ruled out that some of the Thomasine sayings that promote oneness allude to the myth of an androgynous Adam. On the other hand, it would be quite unfair to the author(s) of these sayings to reduce the motif of oneness to the myth of Adam, especially since their allusions to Adam, even if present, are remarkably vague. It is likely that these sayings were intentionally formulated in an ambiguous way. It seems, at any rate, that the author(s) gave the abstract idea of oneness preference over the mythical story of the androgynous protoplast.
One of the Thomasine sayings that promotes oneness, Gos. Thom. 22, also promotes the annulment of gender. It is reasonable to ask whether “becoming one” is just an extravagant way to express the idea of becoming asexual. In what follows I will argue that it is not the case. Below is the Coptic text of Gos. Thom. 22 and its English translation by the Berliner Arbeitskreis:
22:1 ⲁⲓⲥ︦ ⲛⲁⲩ ⲁϩⲛ̄ⲕⲟⲩⲉⲓ ⲉⲩϫⲓ ⲉⲣⲱⲧⲉ 22:2 ⲡⲉϫⲁϥ ⲛ̄ⲛⲉϥⲙⲁⲑⲏⲧⲏⲥ ϫⲉ ⲛⲉⲉⲓⲕⲟⲩⲉⲓ ⲉⲧϫⲓ ⲉⲣⲱⲧⲉ ⲉⲩⲧⲛ̄ⲧⲱⲛ ⲁⲛⲉⲧⲃⲱⲕ ⲉϩⲟⲩⲛ ⲁⲧⲙⲛ̄ⲧⲉⲣⲟ 22:3 ⲡⲉϫⲁⲩ ⲛⲁϥ ϫⲉ ⲉⲉⲓⲉⲛⲟ ⲛ̄ⲕⲟⲩⲉⲓ ⲧⲛ̄ⲛⲁⲃⲱⲕ ⲉϩⲟⲩⲛ ⲉⲧⲙⲛ̄ⲧⲉⲣⲟ 22:4 ⲡⲉϫⲉ ⲓⲥ︦ ⲛⲁⲩ ϫⲉ ϩⲟⲧⲁⲛ ⲉⲧⲉⲧⲛ̄ϣⲁⲣ̄ ⲡⲥⲛⲁⲩ ⲟⲩⲁ ⲁⲩⲱ ⲉⲧⲉⲧⲛ̄ϣⲁⲣ̄ ⲡⲥⲁ ⲛϩⲟⲩⲛ ⲛ̄ⲑⲉ ⲙ̄ⲡⲥⲁ ⲛⲃⲟⲗ ⲁⲩⲱ ⲡⲥⲁ ⲛ̄ⲃⲟⲗ ⲛ̄ⲑⲉ ⲙ̄ⲡⲥⲁ ⲛ̄ϩⲟⲩⲛ ⲁⲩⲱ ⲡⲥⲁ (ⲛ)ⲧⲡⲉ ⲛ̄ⲑⲉ ⲙ̄ⲡⲥⲁ ⲙ̄ⲡⲓⲧⲛ̄ 22:5 ⲁⲩⲱ ϣⲓⲛⲁ ⲉⲧⲉⲧⲛⲁⲉⲓⲣⲉ ⲙ̄ⲫⲟⲩⲧ ⲙⲛ̄ ⲧⲥϩⲓⲙⲉ ⲙ̄ⲡⲓⲟⲩⲁ ⲟⲩⲱⲧ ϫⲉⲕⲁⲁⲥ ⲛⲉ ⲫⲟⲟⲩⲧ ⲣ̄ ϩⲟⲟⲩⲧ ⲛ̄ⲧⲉ ⲧⲥϩⲓⲙⲉ ⲣ̄ ⲥϩⲓⲙⲉ 22:6 ϩⲟⲧⲁⲛ ⲉⲧⲉⲧⲛ̄ϣⲁⲉⲓⲣⲉ ⲛ̄ϩⲛ̄ⲃⲁⲗ ⲉⲡⲙⲁ ⲛ̄ⲟⲩⲃⲁⲗ ⲁⲩⲱ ⲟⲩϭⲓϫ ⲉⲡⲙⲁ ⲛ̄ⲛⲟⲩϭⲓϫ ⲁⲩⲱ ⲟⲩⲉⲣⲏⲧⲉ ⲉⲡⲙⲁ ⲛ̄ⲟⲩⲉⲣⲏⲧⲉ ⲟⲩϩⲓⲕⲱⲛ ⲉⲡⲙⲁ ⲛ̄ⲟⲩϩⲓⲕⲱ(ⲛ) 22:7 ⲧⲟⲧⲉ ⲧⲉⲧⲛⲁⲃⲱⲕ ⲉϩⲟⲩⲛ ⲉ̣[ⲧ]ⲙ̣ⲛ̣̄[ⲧⲉⲣ]ⲟ
22:1 Jesus saw little (children) being nursed. 22:2 He said to his disciples: “These little ones being nursed are like those who enter the kingdom.” 22:3 They said to him: “Will we enter the kingdom as little ones?” 22:4 Jesus said to them: “When you make the two into one and when you make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside and the above like the below,—22:5 that is, to make the male and the female into a single one, so that the male will no longer be male and the female no longer female—22:6 and when you make eyes instead of an eye and a hand instead of a hand and a foot instead of a foot, (and) an image instead of an image, 22:7 then you will enter [the kingdom].”
One of the problems an interpreter of this saying has to face is the connection between its first and second parts; in other words, how is becoming like a child in Gos. Thom. 22:1–3 related to the various requirements listed in Gos. Thom. 22:4–7? According to Plisch, while Gos. Thom. 22:1–3 praises the infants for their “not-yet-gender,” Gos. Thom. 22:4–7 describes the “transformation of a binary gender into a unitary (non-)gender.”20 Plisch builds his case on the assumption that Gos. Thom. 22:5 identifies becoming one with the annulment of gender.
It is noteworthy that Plisch admits that this identification is made “via a rather awkwardly inserted syntactic element.”21 Indeed, it is quite difficult to make sense of the Coptic text in this sentence. Gos. Thom. 22:5 starts with the words ⲁⲩⲱ ϣⲓⲛⲁ ⲉⲧⲉⲧⲛⲁⲉⲓⲣⲉ (“and in order that you make”), where ⲁⲩⲱ ϣⲓⲛⲁ most probably renders καὶ ἵνα of the Greek Vorlage. The hypothesis that underlies the translation of the Berliner Arbeitskreis is that Gos. Thom. 22:5 was introduced by an epexegetical καί22 in the Greek Vorlage and thus specified the purpose of the actions described in Gos. Thom. 22:4.
This interpretation is problematic for several reasons. First, it is doubtful that an epexegetical καί can introduce a final clause (τοῦτ’ ἔστιν would be more suitable for this purpose). Plisch offers only one example where, as he claims, καὶ ἵνα can be used in the same way as in Gos. Thom. 22:5—viz., Barn. 12:2:23
Λέγει δὲ πάλιν τῷ Μωϋσῇ, πολεμουμένου τοῦ Ἰσραὴλ ὑπὸ τῶν ἀλλοφύλων, καὶ ἵνα ὑπομνήσῃ αὐτοὺς πολεμουμένους, ὅτι διὰ τὰς ἁμαρτίας αὐτῶν παρεδόθησαν εἰς θάνατον· λέγει εἰς τὴν καρδίαν Μωϋσέως τὸ πνεῦμα, ἵνα ποιήσῃ τύπον σταυροῦ καὶ τοῦ μέλλοντος πάσχειν, ὅτι ἐὰν μή, φησίν, ἐλπίσωσιν ἐπ’ αὐτῷ, εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα πολεμηθήσονται.
When Israel is attacked by a foreign people, he again speaks to Moses to remind them, the ones who are attacked, that they are being handed over to death because of their sins. The Spirit speaks to the heart of Moses that he should make a type of the cross and of the one who was about to suffer, that they might realize, he says, that if they refused to hope in him, they would be attacked forever.24
The clause introduced by ἵνα neither explains nor particularizes the preceding text, so it is hardly the case that καί is epexegetical and that we should translate λέγει … καὶ ἵνα ὑπομνήσῃ “he speaks …, that is, to remind.” The quoted passage clearly follows a parallel structure, as both sentences therein follow the same pattern: λέγει … ἵνα … ὅτι. It thus seems logical to suggest that καὶ ἵνα in the first sentence and ἵνα in the second sentence have the same function. While the function of καί, on the other hand, in καὶ ἵνα is debatable, I would suggest that it is stylistic: the participle πολεμούμενος occurs twice in this passage, and it is likely that καί is used to emphasize that repetition. Thus, Plisch’s only example of ἵνα preceded by an epexegetical καί does not seem to hold up under scrutiny.
Another problem with Plisch’s interpretation is that it does not seem to do justice to Gos. Thom. 22:4–5. Let us, for the sake of argument, accept the translation offered by the Berliner Arbeitskreis and try to make sense of the idea that Jesus identifies becoming one with becoming asexual by encouraging the disciples to “make the two into one” in order to “make the male and the female into a single one.” The verb ⲉⲓⲣⲉ with the conditional conjugation base is repeated twice in Gos. Thom. 22:4. Grammatically, ϣⲓⲛⲁ in Gos. Thom. 22:5 must qualify either the second conditional clause, or both of them. In either case, it is necessary to explain why Jesus says that, in order to blend maleness with femaleness, one should “make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside and the above like the below.” Plisch does not address this question in particular, so I will need to improvise.
It is possible that Jesus’ advice to “make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside” refers to the genitalia. According to Galen, there is no difference between male and female body, except that there are certain organs inside the bodies of women, but outside the bodies of men: ἃ γὰρ ἔνδον ταῖς γυναιξί, ταῦτ’ ἔξω τοῖς ἀνδράσιν (Us. part. 14.6 = 4.160 Kühn = 2.297 Helmreich).
The problem with this interpretation is that it would not seem to address how one can make “the above like the below.” I do not understand how this prescription could be related to the annulment of gender and am inclined to think that the whole phrase “make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside and the above like the below” expresses an abstract idea of the elimination of opposites. It is, therefore, quite similar to what we encounter in the apocryphal acts—e.g., “Unless you make the things on the right as the things on the left and the things on the left as the things on the right, the things above as the things below, and the things behind as the things in front, you will not recognize the kingdom” (Acts Pet. 38.8; trans. R.F. Stoops).
Since the translation by the Berliner Arbeitskreis is problematic, I would like to offer a few alternative ones. The first two proposals are based on the assumption that the structure of Gos. Thom. 22 is elliptic: ϣⲓⲛⲁ introduces a subordinate clause that depends on a main clause, which has to be supplied. According to the third proposal, the Coptic text here follows the syntax of its Greek Vorlage, wherein ἵνα was used imperativally and introduced a main clause.25
(1) The first possible solution is to surmise that Gos. Thom. 22:4–5 and 22:6–7 are two independent sentences. The second sentence consists of one subordinate clause introduced by ϩⲟⲧⲁⲛ and one main clause introduced by ⲧⲟⲧⲉ. The first sentence consists of two subordinate clauses—one introduced by ϩⲟⲧⲁⲛ and another one by ϣⲓⲛⲁ—and one unexpressed (elliptical) main clause—ⲧⲉⲧⲛⲁⲃⲱⲕ ⲉϩⲟⲩⲛ ⲉⲧⲙⲛ̄ⲧⲉⲣⲟ, “you will enter the kingdom”—that can be easily inferred from Gos. Thom. 22:1–3. Hence, the translation by the Berliner Arbeitskreis should be altered as follows:
22:1 Jesus saw little (children) being nursed. 22:2 He said to his disciples: “These little ones being nursed are like those who enter the kingdom.” 22:3 They said to him: “Will we enter the kingdom as little ones?” 22:4 Jesus said to them: “(You will enter the kingdom) when you make the two into one and when you make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside and the above like the below 22:5 and (you will enter the kingdom) in order to make the male and the female into a single one, so that the male will no longer be male and the female no longer female. 22:6 When you make eyes instead of an eye and a hand instead of a hand and a foot instead of a foot, (and) an image instead of an image, 22:7 then you will enter [the kingdom].”
A very similar ellipsis is present in Gos. Thom. 60:3. This sentence consists of one subordinated clause introduced by ϫⲉⲕⲁⲁⲥ and one main elliptical clause inferred from Gos. Thom. 60:2:
60:2 ⲡⲉϫⲁϥ ⲛ̄ⲛⲉϥⲙⲁⲑⲏⲧⲏⲥ ϫⲉ ⲡⲏ ⲙ̄ⲡⲕⲱⲧⲉ ⲙ̄ⲡⲉϩⲓⲉⲓⲃ 60:3 ⲡⲉϫⲁⲩ ⲛⲁϥ ϫⲉⲕⲁⲁⲥ ⲉϥⲛⲁⲙⲟⲩⲧϥ ⲛ̄ϥⲟⲩⲟⲙϥ
60:2 He said to his disciples: “That (man) is pursuing the lamb.”26 60:3 They said to him: “(He is pursuing the lamb) in order to kill it (and) eat it.”
If this understanding of Gos. Thom. 22 is correct, then Jesus does not say that to make “the two into one” and to make “the male and the female into a single one” are the same thing, but rather that these actions are two different stages of the process of salvation. Gos. Thom. 22:4 lists numerous requirements that have to be met in order to enter the kingdom, and Gos. Thom. 22:5 subsequently describes what happens after one enters. In order to enter the kingdom, one should work on the elimination of opposites, and the outcome or consequence of entering the kingdom is becoming asexual. The problem with this translation is that it implies that entering the kingdom is not the last stage of one’s salvation, which seems to contradict the other Thomasine sayings (see, e.g., Gos. Thom. 27 and 49).
(2) Another option is that ϣⲓⲛⲁ in Gos. Thom. 22:5 is used elliptically or, in other words, that ϣⲓⲛⲁ qualifies a clause that is not expressed. A similar usage for ἵνα can be found in a number of early Christian texts (e.g., Barn. 7:5 and Herm. Sim. 8.6.1 [72:1]).27 The phrase to be supplied may be ϯϫⲱ ⲙ̄ⲙⲟⲥ ⲛⲏⲧⲛ̄, “I tell you.”28 In this case, Gos. Thom. 22:5 would be an independent sentence that is sandwiched between two subordinate clauses introduced by ϩⲟⲧⲁⲛ.
22:1 Jesus saw little (children) being nursed. 22:2 He said to his disciples: “These little ones being nursed are like those who enter the kingdom.” 22:3 They said to him: “Will we enter the kingdom as little ones?” 22:4 Jesus said to them: “When you make the two into one and when you make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside and the above like the below—22:5 and (I tell you) to make the male and the female into a single one, so that the male will no longer be male and the female no longer female—22:6 (and) when you make eyes instead of an eye and a hand instead of a hand and a foot instead of a foot, (and) an image instead of an image, 22:7 then you will enter [the kingdom].”
While this understanding of Gos. Thom. 22:5 makes the saying intelligible, it is still open to criticism, since, in the case of an elliptical construction, the choice of the main clause to be supplied will always remain a matter of personal judgment.
(3) The most satisfactory solution to the problem is to see that, in the Greek Vorlage of Gos. Thom. 22:5, ἵνα was used imperativally, and that the Coptic translator produced a literal rendering of what he found in the Greek text. The imperatival use of ἵνα is attested not only in the New Testament (see especially Eph 5:33),29 but also in early Jewish (2 Macc 1:9) and classical (Epictetus, Diss. 4.1.41; Marcus Aurelius, Medit. 11.4) texts.30 The verb introduced by ἵνα is therefore equivalent to the imperative.
22:1 Jesus saw little (children) being nursed. 22:2 He said to his disciples: “These little ones being nursed are like those who enter the kingdom.” 22:3 They said to him: “Will we enter the kingdom as little ones?” 22:4 Jesus said to them: “When you make the two into one and when you make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside and the above like the below—22:5 and make the male and the female into a single one, so that the male will no longer be male and the female no longer female—22:6 (and) when you make eyes instead of an eye and a hand instead of a hand and a foot instead of a foot, (and) an image instead of an image, 22:7 then you will enter [the kingdom].”
According to this interpretation, there are two main conditions for entering the kingdom: the elimination of opposites (22:4) and the replacement of body parts and images (22:6). There is, however, a third condition—the annulment of gender (22:5)—and quite an important condition at that. Gos. Thom. 22:5 seems to explain how the general rule described in 22:4 may be applied to a particular domain of human life—i.e., to sexuality. Since sexuality is given special attention, it was certainly of great importance to the author of the saying. Nevertheless, the annulment of gender is only one among other transformations that takes place when becoming one.
The whole saying might, then, be interpreted as follows. In Gos. Thom. 22:2, Jesus says that there is a resemblance between little children and those who enter the kingdom. I am inclined to agree with Plisch that the infants of Gos. Thom. 22:2 exemplify asexual beings.31 The disciples, however, take his words literally (Gos. Thom. 22:3).32 In order to correct them, Jesus lists a number of things one must do in order to enter the kingdom. According to him, the main requirement is to become one through the elimination of opposites (Gos. Thom. 22:4).
Having established this ground rule, Jesus then explains his opening remark: since the quality of being male or female constitutes an important pair of opposites, one should seek to regain the asexuality of an infant (Gos. Thom. 22:5). The grammar of Gos. Thom. 22:5 is not “awkward,” but it does disturb the flow of the text. Perhaps we should see it instead as an attempt to highlight Gos. Thom. 22:5 as a link between Gos. Thom. 22:1–3 and 22:4–7.
After this interlude, Jesus exhorts the replacement of body parts (“hand,” “foot,” and “eye”) and “images” (Gos. Thom. 22:6). As Plisch points out, the list of the body parts in Gos. Thom. 22:6 is the same as in Mark 9:43–47.33 Although the meaning of this Markan passage is debatable, I find the following interpretation by Joel Marcus to be the most appealing:
As in many biblical contexts … the hand is the instrument for the commission of sin, the foot is the means of transport to the place of its commission, and the eye is the means by which the temptation to commit it enters in.34
It seems reasonable to surmise that the Gospel of Thomas employs this list of body parts in the same vein as Mark; it is thus possible that “hand,” “foot,” and “eye” stand metonymically for the inner impulses that can lead an individual astray. As for the command to replace the “images,” this may refer to the restitution of God’s image (see the previous section). What is important for the present discussion is that Gos. Thom. 22:6, just like Gos. Thom. 22:4, seems to describe a transformation that is different from the one described in Gos. Thom. 22:5. While becoming asexual is important (Gos. Thom. 22:5), there is much more that has to be done (Gos. Thom. 22:4 and 22:6).
It is clear that to make “the two into one” and to make “the male and the female into a single one” are not the same. Gos. Thom. 22:5 does not explicate the purpose of what is described in Gos. Thom. 22:4. The relationship of what is described in these two sentences is rather that of genus and species. This claim can also be validated by the fact that Gos. Thom. 22:4–7 constitutes a doublet with Gos. Thom. 106:1:
106:1 ⲡⲉϫⲉ ⲓⲥ︦ ϫⲉ ϩⲟⲧⲁⲛ ⲉⲧⲉⲧⲛ̄ϣⲁⲣ̄ ⲡⲥⲛⲁⲩ ⲟⲩⲁ ⲧⲉⲧⲛⲁϣⲱⲡⲉ ⲛ̄ϣⲏⲣⲉ ⲙ̄ⲡⲣⲱⲙⲉ
106:1 Jesus said: “When you make the two into one, you will become sons of man.”
As Jón Ma. Ásgeirsson puts it, doublets are “a typical device of rhetorical progression.”35 Sometimes the sayings of a doublet are identical, which means that a saying is merely recited (as in Gos. Thom. 56 and 80), but more often than not a saying becomes either augmented or condensed. Hence, according to Ásgeirsson, Gos. Thom. 22:4–7 and 106:1 are respectively the augmented and condensed versions of the same saying.36
If Ásgeirsson is correct and Gos. Thom. 106:1 summarizes what is said in Gos. Thom. 22:4–7, it is then noteworthy that the summary does not deal with sexual imagery, but rather repeats the abstract exhortation to make the two into one. “The two” here is by no means confined to the categories of male and female; it may refer to any binary opposition. Importantly, whoever wrote the summary was more interested in oneness than in asexuality.
That becoming one implies the elimination of all possible opposition is also clear from Gos. Thom. 4:2–3. This saying does not associate oneness with becoming asexual, but rather with becoming neither first nor last:
Gos. Thom. 4:2–3 (P.Oxy. 4.654)
Gos. Thom. 4:2–3 (NHC II)
4:2a ὅτι πολλοὶ ἔσονται π[ρῶτοι ἔσχατοι]
4:2a ϫⲉ ⲟⲩⲛ̄ ϩⲁϩ ⲛ̄ϣⲟⲣⲡ ⲛⲁⲣ̄ ϩⲁⲉ
4:2b [καὶ] οἱ ἔσχατοι πρῶτοι,
4:3 καὶ [εἰς ἓν καταντήσου]σιν.37
4:3 ⲁⲩⲱ ⲛ̄ⲥⲉϣⲱⲡⲉ ⲟⲩⲁ ⲟⲩⲱⲧ
4:2a For many who are [first] will be [last],
4:2a For many who are first will be last.
4:2b [and] the last will be first,
4:3 and [they will become one].
4:3 And they will become a single one.38
It is worth noting that Gos. Thom. 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 the Gospel of 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.
Platonists on Becoming One
According to James Adam, the phrase εἷς ἐκ πολλῶν “is a sort of Platonic motto or text.”39 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.40
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 ἀλλ’ εἷς γίγνηται), and the whole city will itself be naturally one not many (σύμπασα ἡ πόλις μία φύηται ἀλλὰ μὴ πολλαί).41
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; perfect unity is something a wise man can hope for after he dies, because, as Leonardo Tarán puts it, “in this life we continue to be disturbed by our manifold perceptions”:42
I maintain also, both in jest and in earnest, that when any of these people fulfills his destiny by dying (if indeed he still exists in death), he will no longer be affected by a multitude of perceptions as he is now but will participate in a destiny of unity. Having become one from many (μιᾶς τε μοίρας μετειληφὼς μόνος καὶ ἐκ πολλῶν εἷς γεγονώς), he will be happy, most wise, and blessed—whether in his blessed state he dwells on continents43 or islands [the Isles of the Blest]—and he will enjoy this fortune forever.44
The next ancient author who knew of the idea of becoming one is Philo. The interpretation of Philo is crucial for the assessment of Klijn’s argument. As the cited below passages show, Philo’s speculations about becoming one are very similar to the thoughts of the other philosophers quoted in this survey, which means that, in this instance, Philo does not bear witness to a Jewish myth, but rather thinks as a Platonist.
The term Philo usually employs to express the idea of oneness is μονάς, “monad.” According to Klijn, Philo’s God is a monad;45 this claim receives some support from Her. 183, where Philo says that God “is in his singleness (κατὰ τὴν μόνωσιν) a monad.”46 However, elsewhere, Philo avoids this identification and seems to apply the term μονάς to Logos. Thus, God precedes the monad (Praem. 40), being more ancient than it (Contempl. 2). As Philo puts it, “the ‘one’ and the ‘monad’ are, therefore, the only standard for determining the category to which God belongs. Or, rather, the One God is the sole standard for the ‘monad’ (τέτακται οὖν ὁ θεὸς κατὰ τὸ ἓν καὶ τὴν μονάδα, μᾶλλον δὲ ἡ μονὰς κατὰ τὸν ἕνα θεόν)” (Leg. 2.3; trans. F.H. Colson and G.H. Whitaker, slightly altered). The monad is “an incorporeal image of God (ἀσώματος θεοῦ εἰκών) whom it resembles (ἐξομοιοῦται) in its singleness (κατὰ τὴν μόνωσιν)” (Spec. 2.176),47 while the dyad (δυάς) is the image of divisible matter (Spec. 3.180: διαιρετῆς ὕλης [sc., εἰκών]). The monad is thus the semblance of God, the creator of the universe, while the dyad is the semblance of passive matter and creation (Spec. 3.180; Praem. 46; Somn. 2.70).
Therefore, since the monad is the image of God, to become a monad would mean to become like God. It would certainly be an extraordinary achievement, since, as Philo contends in Leg. 2.1–2, while God is always one, a human being is always many:
ὁ θεὸς μόνος ἐστὶ καὶ ἕν, οὐ σύγκριμα, φύσις ἁπλῆ, ἡμῶν δ’ ἕκαστος καὶ τῶν ἄλλων ὅσα γέγονε πολλά· οἷον ἐγὼ πολλά εἰμι, ψυχὴ σῶμα, καὶ ψυχῆς ἄλογον λογικόν, πάλιν σώματος θερμὸν ψυχρὸν βαρὺ κοῦφον ξηρὸν ὑγρόν· ὁ δὲ θεὸς οὐ σύγκριμα οὐδὲ ἐκ πολλῶν συνεστώς, ἀλλ’ ἀμιγὴς ἄλλῳ.
God is, alone, a Unity, in the sense that His nature is simple not composite, whereas each one of us and of all other created beings is made up of many things. I, for example, am many things in one. I am soul and body. To soul belong rational and irrational parts, and to body, again, different properties, warm and cold, heavy and light, dry and moist. But God is not a composite Being, consisting of many parts, nor is He mixed with aught else.48
Thus, we are many because we are composite: each human individual consists of a body and a bipartite soul. To become a monad would mean to cease being a composite being. Only one person in the history of the people of Israel was able to do so. According to Philo’s Mos. 2.288, Moses as a human being was once a dyad (δυάς), composed of a soul and a body, but afterwards was transformed by God into a mind (νοῦς), thus becoming a monad (μονάς):49
Afterwards the time came when he had to make his pilgrimage from earth to heaven, and to leave this mortal life for immortality, summoned thither by the Father who resolved his twofold nature of soul and body into a single unity (ὃς αὐτὸν δυάδα ὄντα, σῶμα καὶ ψυχήν, εἰς μονάδος ἀνεστοιχείου), transforming his whole being into mind, pure as the sunlight (εἰς νοῦν ἡλιοειδέστατον).50
A comment on the Platonist background of this passage seems to be in order. To encounter the notion that νοῦς is a monad in a Middle Platonist treatise is by no means surprising (see, e.g., Theon of Smyrna, Util. math. 98.1–2 Hiller). It seems that this notion goes back to Xenocrates, a famous pupil of Plato’s, who claimed that the monad (ἡ μονάς), the primary divine principle, was νοῦς (fr. 15 Heinze = fr. 213 Isnardi Parente).51 Moreover, it is sometimes assumed that, in his lost dialogue De philosophia (fr. 11 Ross = De an. 404b22), Aristotle ascribed a similar view (τὸ ἕν is νοῦς) to Plato himself,52 though it is probable that, as Harold Cherniss argued,53 this Aristotelian testimony is in fact a report of Xenocrates’ doctrine.54
Be that as it may, it is clear that Philo describes the transformation of Moses in Platonist terms. The closest parallel to this passage comes from Sulla’s speech in De facie in orbe lunae, expounding on the process of dying. According to Plutarch’s Sulla, “one death reduces man from three factors to two and another reduces him from two to one (ὁ μὲν ἐκ τριῶν δύο ποιεῖ τὸν ἄνθρωπον ὁ δ’ ἓν ἐκ δυοῖν)” (Fac. 943a–b; trans. H. Cherniss and W.C. Helmbold)—that is, the soul (in which the mind exists) first separates from the body, then the mind from the irrational part of the soul, what Runia terms “the theory of the double death.”55
Other historical figures were not as advanced as Moses, even though some of them came quite close. In Opif. 151 (cited above, p. 92), Philo says that, as long as Adam was one (εἷς), he was like the world and God in his singleness (κατὰ τὴν μόνωσιν).56 Philo borrows the expression κατὰ τὴν μόνωσιν from Tim. 31a, where Plato states that the demiurge created only one cosmos in order to make it like him in its singleness. As David T. Runia points out, in so doing Philo adapts Plato’s doctrine of ὁμοίωσις θεῷ.57 Philo “applied the relation of unicity that Plato draws between model and cosmos … to the relation between God, the cosmos, and the first human being.”58
It is quite telling, however, that Philo never describes Adam as a monad. As Baer points out, while Adam’s oneness was “a state of original harmony in which the body was completely subservient to the sovereign mind” (see Opif. 136–139), in the case of Moses, the “twofold nature of soul and body was transformed into the unity of pure mind.”59 Moses’ level of being is thus clearly superior to that of Adam.
The same probably holds true for everyone else. Samuel is said to be shaped (κεκόσμηται) “according to the one and the monad (κατὰ τὸ ἓν καὶ τὴν μονάδα)” (Deus 11), and even the angels are only like the monad (ἄγγελοι, ἀσώματοι ψυχαί … μονάδι ὁμοιούμεναι) (Spec. 1.66).60 Yet none of them, except for Moses, is a monad himself. It is therefore possible to speak of different levels of oneness in Philo: God, who is above the monad; Moses, who became a monad; and angels and righteous men, who are like the monad.
On the other hand, however unique Moses may be for him, Philo’s quotation of Theaet. 176a–b in Fug. 63 amounts to an embrace of the Platonic idea therein—i.e., that of “becoming as like God as possible.” In this respect, it is worth considering Sami Yli-Karjanmaa’s claim that “monadization” may well have been part of Philo’s conception of the universal goal—i.e., one that everyone is capable of achieving. Thus, even though, in the Philonic corpus, Moses is the only figure said to have become a monad, this does not necessarily mean that no one else is capable of accomplishing the same thing. This suggestion receives support from QE 2.29, where Philo seems to argue that becoming a monad is possible for every mind “that can be deemed to have progressed to the stage of being ‘prophetic.’ ”61
Another author who deserves to be mentioned in this survey is Plutarch. In his De E apud Delphos, Plutarch maintains a view that is quite similar to that expressed by Philo in his Leg. 2.2 (cited above, p. 107). According to Plutarch, true unity is one of the features that make divinity different from humanity. While every human being is subject to constant change (and therefore is not one, but many), God is both immutable and one.62 That is why he is called Apollo, “the one who rejects multiplicity” (393c: ἀρνούμενος τὰ πολλά):63
Dead is the man of yesterday, for he is passed into the man of today; and the man of today is dying as he passes into the man of tomorrow. Nobody remains one person, nor is one person; but we become many persons (μένει δ’ οὐδεὶς οὐδ’ ἔστιν εἷς, ἀλλὰ γιγνόμεθα πολλοί).64
But He, being one (εἷς), has with only one “now” completely filled “forever.” Only what is after this pattern truly is (μόνον ἐστὶ τὸ κατὰ τοῦτ’ ὄντως ὄν), nor having been nor about to be, nor has it had a beginning nor is it destined to come to an end. Under these conditions, therefore, we ought, as we pay Him reverence, to greet Him and to address Him with the words, “Thou art (εἶ)”; or even, I vow, as did some of the men of old, “Thou art one (εἶ ἕν).” In fact the deity is not many (οὐ γὰρ πολλὰ τὸ θεῖόν ἐστιν), like each of us … But being must have unity, even as unity must have being (ἓν εἶναι δεῖ τὸ ὄν, ὥσπερ ὂν τὸ ἕν).65
Finally, we come to Clement of Alexandria. Clement agrees with Philo in placing God above monad; in Paed. 1.8.71, he quotes John 17:21–23, pointing out that “God is one, beyond the one, and even above the monad (ἓν δὲ ὁ θεὸς καὶ ἐπέκεινα τοῦ ἑνὸς καὶ ὑπὲρ αὐτὴν μονάδα).”66 As Salvatore R.C. Lilla points out, Clement identifies the monad with Christ. “This is the reason why Clement, when speaking about the perfection of man, uses such terms as μοναδικός or μονάς: since Christ, the Logos, is the μονάς, man must become μοναδικός as well in order to reach the ὁμοίωσις with God.”67
The main point of disagreement between Philo and Clement is that, while Philo thought that only Moses was able to become a monad, in Clement’s view it is something that in theory is within everyone’s powers. In Strom. 6.11.87, Clement speaks of “the progress of a righteous person that reaches completion in becoming a unity (εἰς μονάδα τελευτῶσα ἡ τοῦ δικαίου προκοπή).” There are several other passages that illustrate Clement’s use of the motif of the righteous becoming one; according to these passages, there seem to be three different aspects of achieving oneness. What is striking is that, in every instance, Clement emphasizes the role of the divine mediator, the Son.
First, in order to come into unity a person needs to imitate Christ by getting rid of his or her passions. In Strom. 4.23.151–152, Clement quotes a Pythagorean saying,68 “it is also necessary that a human becomes one (ἕνα γενέσθαι καὶ τὸν ἄνθρωπον δεῖν),” noting that it is so, because the archpriest is one and God is one. A human can become one by means of ἀπάθεια: “when a human makes himself divine by getting rid of passions he immaculately becomes unitary (εἰς δὲ τὴν ἀπάθειαν θεούμενος ἄνθρωπος ἀχράντως μοναδικὸς γίνεται).”
Elsewhere (Strom. 3.10.69; cf. 3.13.93), Clement says that the one who has risen above anger (θυμός) and passion (ἐπιθυμία) “has become like the Saviour (κατὰ τὴν πρὸς τὸν σωτῆρα ἐξομοίωσιν) and has attained to a state of continence (ἐγκράτεια) no longer maintained with difficulty. He has united (ἑνώσας) knowledge, faith, and love. Thenceforth he is one (εἷς) in his judgment and truly spiritual” (trans. H. Chadwick). It is remarkable that, while Clement agrees with Plato in his understanding of human perfection as oneness, he sees the process of becoming one quite differently: τὸ ἐπιθυμητικόν and τὸ θυμοειδής should be completely annihilated, not merely made subordinate to reason.69
Second, since the Son is a unity, it is through faith in him that a person can be united with him and become a unity. This issue is discussed in one of the most fascinating passages of Clement’s corpus, Strom. 4.25.156–157. In this passage, Clement speculates about the oneness of the Son. Christ is one in the sense that he is the unity of all his powers. It is in him that all the powers of the Spirit become one. In a similar vein, if a person believes in him, he or she becomes unitary, because faith transforms the believer into a unity with the Son. The unfaithful, on the other hand, are divided, because their disbelief separates them from the Son:
πᾶσαι δὲ αἱ δυνάμεις τοῦ πνεύματος συλλήβδην μὲν ἕν τι πρᾶγμα γενόμεναι συντελοῦσιν εἰς τὸ αὐτό, τὸν υἱόν, ἀπαρέμφατος δέ ἐστι τῆς περὶ ἑκάστης αὐτοῦ τῶν δυνάμεων ἐννοίας. καὶ δὴ οὐ γίνεται ἀτεχνῶς ἓν ὡς ἕν, οὐδὲ πολλὰ ὡς μέρη ὁ υἱός, ἀλλ’ ὡς πάντα ἕν. ἔνθεν καὶ πάντα· κύκλος γὰρ ὁ αὐτὸς πασῶν τῶν δυνάμεων εἰς ἓν εἰλουμένων καὶ ἑνουμένων … διὸ δὴ καὶ τὸ εἰς αὐτὸν καὶ τὸ δι’ αὐτοῦ πιστεῦσαι μοναδικόν ἐστι γενέσθαι, ἀπερισπάστως ἑνούμενον ἐν αὐτῷ, τὸ δὲ ἀπιστῆσαι διστάσαι ἐστὶ καὶ διαστῆναι καὶ μερισθῆναι.
Having become one deed, all the powers of the Spirit produce one Son, and it is not possible to limit him to the concept of any of his individual powers.70 And the Son neither simply becomes one as one, nor many as parts, but he is one as all, and all comes from him. For he is the circle of all the powers being bound and united into one … That is why to become unitary means to believe in him and by him and to become one in him without distraction. On the other hand, to disbelieve means to hesitate, to be separated and to be divided.
The Platonist background of Strom. 4.25.156 was recognized by a number of scholars.71 By saying that the Son is one ὡς πάντα ἕν (i.e., in the same sense as all is one) Clement conceptualizes the Son in terms of the second hypothesis of Plato’s Parmenides:
Furthermore, the one is all the parts of itself (καὶ μὴν τά γε πάντα μέρη τὰ αὑτοῦ τὸ ἕν ἐστι), and not any more or less than all … So if all its parts are actually in a whole, and the one is both all the parts and the whole itself (ἔστι δὲ τά τε πάντα τὸ ἓν καὶ αὐτὸ τὸ ὅλον), and all the parts are contained by the whole, the one would be contained by the one; and thus the one itself would, then, be in itself.72
By applying the second hypothesis of the Parmenides to the Son, Clement introduces the social dimension to his theology of oneness. The Son is “one as all” in the sense that he is the totality of all his powers. Through faith, every Christian can become a part of this totality.
That Clement thought of oneness not only as individual perfection, but also as social perfection, is evident from the third and final passage that I want to discuss, Protr. 9.88. In this passage, Christians, called “the worshippers of the good” (οἱ τἀγαθοῦ προσκυνηταί) and “the admirers of the good things” (οἱ τῶν ἀγαθῶν ζηλωταί), are exhorted to unite “into one love” after the manner of Christ, the divine monad. Moreover, it is under the guidance of this sole leader that they can become “the unity of many.”
Let us who are many (οἱ πολλοί) hasten to be gathered together into one love (εἰς μίαν ἀγάπην) according to the unity of the monadic being (κατὰ τὴν τῆς μοναδικῆς οὐσίας ἕνωσιν). Similarly, let us pursue unity (ἑνότης) by the practice of good works (ἀγαθοεργούμενοι), seeking the good monad (ἡ ἀγαθὴ μονάς). And the unity of many (ἡ ἐκ πολλῶν ἕνωσις), bringing a divine harmony out of polyphony and dispersion (ἐκ πολυφωνίας καὶ διασπορᾶς), becomes one symphony (μία συμφωνία), following one leader and teacher (εἷς χορηγὸς καὶ διδάσκαλος), the Word, and never ceasing till it reaches the truth itself, with the cry, “Abba Father.”73
It is clear, therefore, that Clement’s theology of oneness goes hand in hand with his Christology. First, to become one means to extirpate the two lower parts of the tripartite soil, just like the Son did. Second, it means to become one with the Son, who is “one as all.” Finally, it means for the whole community to become a unity by being guided by one leader, the Son, and by imitating his oneness.
This survey shows that the notion of becoming one was quite popular among Platonists and Platonizing authors. It also shows that the notion had many versions and that each of the authors discussed above had his own views on certain aspects of becoming one. For instance, we learn that oneness can be achieved either in this life (Plato) or in the afterlife (Philip of Opus), or it cannot be achieved at all, since it is a divine attribute that has nothing to do with the human race (Plutarch). Moreover, according to Clement, every individual can aim at becoming one; the same seems to hold true in Philo’s thought, though Philo, on the other hand, explicitly names only one person, Moses, who was capable of this transformation.
It is clear that the Thomasine concept of oneness, if compared with those of the other authors, reveals certain distinctive features as well: while Plato sees oneness as the harmonizing of the parts of the soul and Philip of Opus sees it as freedom from all perceptions, the Gospel of Thomas sees oneness as the elimination of binary oppositions. Yet I would say that all these authors share the same sentiment. It is against this background that the Thomasine sayings about becoming ⲟⲩⲁ ⲟⲩⲱⲧ should be read. Even if the author(s) of these sayings knew the myth of Adam’s original androgyny, Platonist philosophy was apparently far more appealing.
Comparing the sayings in question with the Platonist tradition enables me to make the following two observations that might be relevant for the interpretation of the Gospel of Thomas:
(1) First, it is noteworthy that the Gospel of Thomas, Plato, and Clement understand oneness as both individual and social perfection. As we have seen, in Plato’s Respublica, a properly balanced city resembles a properly balanced soul. The city becomes a unity only after all its citizens are united. The same seems to hold true in the case of Clement’s theology as well. Clement differs from Plato, however, in arguing that it is only through the agency of the divine mediator, the Son, that oneness can be achieved.
It is quite possible that the Gospel of Thomas also recognized both the personal and social aspects of oneness. Admittedly, when Jesus speaks of becoming one, he always addresses his disciples in the plural, and it is uncertain whether he speaks about the transformation of an individual or about the group as a whole. Yet, while the physiological details of saying 22:4–7 (“a hand instead of a hand,” “a foot instead of a foot”) make it unlikely that the author spoke about the transformation of a group, such a transformation might well have been in the mind of the author(s) of Gos. Thom. 4:2–3 (cited above, p. 104) and 23 (cited below, pp. 126–127). It is noteworthy that, unlike sayings 22 and 106, which speak of becoming one from “the two,” Gos. Thom. 4:2–3 speaks of becoming one from “many” (πολλοί / ϩⲁϩ). The saying resonates with the Platonic motto εἷς ἐκ πολλῶν both in its terminology and its content, which makes it quite likely that it refers not only to the individual oneness, but also to the unity of the group of individuals.
It is worth noting that the same motto, εἷς ἐκ πολλῶν, is applied to social transformation in a Valentinian theory reported by Clement in his Exc. 21–22 and 35–36.74 As Einar Thomassen points out, the theory provides “a mythological framework for baptismal initiation.”75 According to this myth, the seed of Sophia consisted of two parts, the angels, or τὰ ἀρρενικά, and the Valentinians, or τὰ θηλυκά. When we are baptized, “we are raised up ‘equal to angels’ (Luke 20:36), and restored to unity76 with the males, member for member (ἐγειρόμεθα οὖν ἡμεῖς, ἰσάγγελοι τοῖς ἄρρεσιν ἀποκατασταθέντες, τοῖς μέλεσι τὰ μέλη, εἰς ἕνωσιν)” (Exc. 22.3; trans. R.P. Casey).77
The unification with angels is a prerequisite of our return to the Pleroma. Because the angels came from a single source (ἀπὸ ἑνός), they were produced in unity (ἐν ἑνότητι) and are one (εἷς) (Exc. 36.1). But, since we were divided (οἱ μεμερισμένοι), “Jesus was baptized that the undivided should be divided (τὸ ἀμέριστον μερισθῆναι) until he should unite (ἑνώσῃ) us with them in the Pleroma.” The ultimate goal is that we, who are many, become one (ἡμεῖς, οἱ πολλοί, ἓν γενόμενοι) and “might all be mingled in in the One which was divided for our sakes” (τῷ ἑνὶ τῷ δι’ ἡμᾶς μερισθέντι ἀνακραθῶμεν) (36.2; trans. R.P. Casey).78
Unlike us, the many, the angels are one; they, however, became many in order to enable us to become one. Thus, there are two stages in the process of unification. Only after an individual is united with his or her angel can he or she become one with the rest of the seed of Sophia and, ultimately, with the Pleroma. To be united with an angel is, therefore, necessary, but not enough. As Thomassen puts it, “the ritual unification with one’s angel here below may be thought of as a preliminary union, a prefiguration, or an image, of an eschatological union.”79
This Valentinian theory demonstrates that the notion of oneness as human perfection was highly valued among various early Christian groups. There is no need to assume that this common interest in oneness stems from the “Gnosticism” of Valentinianism and the Gospel of Thomas; rather, it is due to their shared indebtedness to Platonism.
There is, however, an important difference between the Thomasine notion of oneness and the one expounded in Clement’s Excerpta ex Theodoto. While the Gospel of Thomas attempts to supplement a myth about Adam with Platonist metaphysics or, perhaps, even to substitute the former with the latter, the Valentinian theory transforms said metaphysics into a myth about male angels and female humans. It is this latter phenomenon that lends some color of truth to A.D. Nock’s witty notion of “Gnosticism” as “Platonism run wild.”80
(2) There is yet another corollary to my survey of Platonist ideas about oneness. The way Philo and Clement speak about becoming μονάς or μοναδικός might be relevant for the discussion of the Thomasine sayings about becoming μοναχός. The question of the meaning of the word μοναχός in the Gospel of Thomas is not an easy one. However, as I will show below, there are reasons to believe that the Thomasine word μοναχός has several meanings, including “he who is a unity.” In this case, Philo and Clement provide us with parallels that are similar to the Thomasine sayings not only in their content, but also in their wording.
Aramaic Background of the Term μοναχός?
While there is no doubt that the motif of “becoming one” is present in sayings 4, 11, 22, 23, and 106, some scholars believe that it is also present in sayings 16, 49, and 75, the three of which all speak of being or becoming ⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ. Klijn is the first scholar to have made such a suggestion.
According to Klijn, the three terms employed in the Coptic text of the Gospel of Thomas, ⲟⲩⲁ, ⲟⲩⲁ ⲟⲩⲱⲧ, and ⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ, render the same word, “single one.” The fact that that the Coptic text has three terms instead of one implies that the fourth-century translator did not realize that he was dealing with a technical term. Klijn argues that these three Coptic terms “go back” to either Greek εἷς or Syriac ܝܚܝܕܐ.81 This hypothesis, despite its ingenuity, is impossible to accept. If we assume that ⲟⲩⲁ, ⲟⲩⲁ ⲟⲩⲱⲧ, and ⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ render Greek εἷς, we would need to explain why the translator used ⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ in some cases, but not in the others. It is even less likely that these Coptic terms correspond to a single technical term of the hypothetical Syriac original, since, as Simon Gathercole has convincingly argued, the Syriac Vorlage of the Gospel of Thomas most probably never existed.82
A similar case (that there is no difference in the meaning of ⲟⲩⲁ ⲟⲩⲱⲧ and ⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ) was recently argued in a series of articles by D.F. Bumazhnov. Bumazhnov believes that the concept of μοναχός in the Gospel of Thomas and the Dialogue of the Savior was influenced by the Aramaic term יחידא (or יחידיי) “which means the religiously significant solitude” in the Targums.83
Bumazhnov takes as a point of departure the observations of Fritzleo Lentzen-Deis, who has pointed out that in the Targums “der Titel ‘Einziger’ gehört in die Reihe der Prädikate für von Gott auserwählte Menschen und für das auserwählte Volk Israel.”84 According to Bumazhnov, the fact that Gos. Thom. 49 calls ⲛⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ “the elect”85 indicates that there is a connection between the terms יחידא and ⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ. Since those who become ⲟⲩⲁ ⲟⲩⲱⲧ are also considered the chosen ones (saying 23), the terms ⲟⲩⲁ ⲟⲩⲱⲧ and ⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ are interchangeable: “Der gemeinsame Kontext der Erwählung mit dessen targumischem Hintergrund wäre als ein Argument dafür zu betrachten, daß ⲛ̄ⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ und ⲟⲩⲁ ⲟⲩⲱⲧ durchaus verwandte Vorstellungen ausdrücken und möglicherweise beide auf das aramäische יחידא zurückgehen.”86
Setting aside the question of whether or not the word ⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ in the Gospel of Thomas reveals any Targumic influence (I return to this issue in the following section), I find the idea that the Thomasine terms ⲟⲩⲁ ⲟⲩⲱⲧ and ⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ both stem from the same Aramaic word very unlikely. There is a semantic difference between ⲟⲩⲁ ⲟⲩⲱⲧ and ⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ: while to be ⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ at least sometimes means to be separated, to be ⲟⲩⲁ ⲟⲩⲱⲧ always means to be united.87
Nevertheless, although I find the hypotheses that Klijn and Bumazhnov posit unconvincing, their initial insight might be correct. In what follows, I will argue that all the sayings that mention those who are ⲟⲩⲁ, ⲟⲩⲁ ⲟⲩⲱⲧ, or ⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ refer to oneness as human perfection, which, notwithstanding, does not necessarily mean that all these terms must go back to the same Syriac or Aramaic expression.
The Meaning of μοναχός in the Gospel of Thomas
The only copy of the Gospel of Thomas that contains sayings 16, 49, and 75 comes from a codex that was produced in Egypt in the fourth century. Since the first witness of the Greek noun μοναχός meaning “monk” comes either from 324 (P.Col. 7.171, a document from the archive of Aurelius Isidoros),88 or possibly even from 311/312 (Pseudo-Athanasius, Pat. PG 26:1305.26–28),89 it is possible that for the readers of the Nag Hammadi version of the Gospel of Thomas, and indeed maybe already for its Coptic translator,90 the expression ⲛⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ / ⲙ̄ⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ in the text designated monks.91
As E.A. Judge puts it, “whatever the literary origin of the Coptic work, we must recognize the possibility that the Greek loan-word was adopted by the Coptic author … because at the time he was writing he knew that μοναχός was the name of a recognized social type in Egypt.” If this is the case, then “the meaning of the word in the Gospel of Thomas could be that of ‘monk,’ provided that the dating of the Coptic composition fell later than the time at which that sense became current in Egypt.”92
Whereas the word ⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ of the fourth-century Coptic manuscript of the Gospel of Thomas could have been understood as “the name of a recognized social type,” the word μοναχός of the “original” Greek Gospel of Thomas, as I defined it in chapter 1 (see pp. 35–37), must have a different meaning. A sceptic could perhaps raise an objection and suggest that sayings 16, 49, and 75 were never part of the “original” Gospel of Thomas, but were added to the collection at the Coptic stage of its textual transmission.93 In what follows, I will argue that this is not the case.
The last verse of saying 16 reads, ⲁⲩⲱ ⲥⲉⲛⲁⲱϩⲉ ⲉⲣⲁⲧⲟⲩ ⲉⲩⲟ ⲙ̄ⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ, “And they will stand as solitary ones” (Gos. Thom. 16:4). One could suggest that this verse, if not the whole saying, was added to the Gospel of Thomas to appeal to its alleged monastic audience.94 It is worth noting, however, that Gos. Thom. 16:4 is strikingly similar to Gos. Thom. 23:2, ⲁⲩⲱ ⲥⲉⲛⲁⲱϩⲉ ⲉⲣⲁⲧⲟⲩ ⲉⲩⲟ ⲟⲩⲁ ⲟⲩⲱⲧ, “And they will stand as a single one.” Since doublets and repetitive formulas are important Thomasine rhetorical devices, it is likely that both these verses were part of the “original” Gospel of Thomas. The content of these two verses also indicates that they were part of the “original” text. As I have already noted, Gos. Thom. 23:2 is part of a group of sayings that understands human perfection as being/becoming one. That these sayings were part of the “original” Gospel of Thomas is clear from the fact that one of them, Gos. Thom. 4, is attested not only by NHC II, but also by P.Oxy. 4.654.
It is also likely that saying 75 was part of the “original” Gospel of Thomas. While it is doubtful that there is an organizing principle that would explain the structure of the sayings collection as a whole, it is clear that certain groups of sayings constitute thematic units. For instance, sayings 63, 64, and 65 are a triad of parables in each of which “figures who seek or possess wealth or who strive for status-recognition among their peers are criticized and their pursuits lampooned.”95 Similarly, sayings 73, 74, and 75 are a triad of antithetic aphorisms offering “three variants of the theme of the fewness of the elect.”96 There seems to be no reason to doubt that the “original” Gospel of Thomas employed thematic grouping as an organizing principle. It seems clear, in fact, that sayings 73, 74, and 75 comprised one of those “original” thematic groups, since, as Howard M. Jackson has shown, saying 74 is alluded to in the “Celestial Dialogue” quoted by Celsus (see Origen, Cels. 8.15), this allusion being “the earliest attestation to the Gospel of Thomas yet known.”97
Finally, it does not seem reasonable to assume that saying 49 is a later addition to the “original” text of the Gospel of Thomas. The peculiar expression that we find in this saying, ⲛⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ ⲁⲩⲱ ⲉⲧⲥⲟⲧⲡ, also occurs in the Dialogue of the Savior (NHC III 120.26: ⲛ̄ⲥⲱⲧⲡ ⲙⲛ̄ ⲛ̄ⲙⲟⲛⲟⲭⲟⲥ; cf. NHC III 121.18–20). As Risto Uro points out, even though the Dialogue of the Savior might not be directly dependent on the Gospel of Thomas, “the great number of parallels and affinities” between the two texts indicates that they share a “symbolic universe.”98 There seems to be no reason to doubt that the affinities between the Dialogue of the Savior and the Gospel of Thomas were present already in the Greek versions of these two texts and that the expression ⲛⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ ⲁⲩⲱ ⲉⲧⲥⲟⲧⲡ was one of these affinities.
Thus, the original meaning of the word μοναχός in the Gospel of Thomas was different from the one it might have had in the fourth century. What, then, did this word mean? The most widespread view on the meaning of μοναχός in the Gospel of Thomas is expressed by April D. DeConick: “ⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ in Thomas is the Greek translation (μοναχός) of the Syriac word ܝܚܝܕܝܐ,”99 which is a technical term for “a person who lives singly,” “a celibate.”100
As D.F. Bumazhnov points out, the problem with this hypothesis is that the word ܝܚܝܕܝܐ received this technical meaning in the first half of the fourth century: “Diese späte Bezeugung muß bei der Erwägung der eventuellen Beeinflußungsmöglichkeiten berücksichtigt werden.”101 Risto Uro has also put the hypothesis into question: “it does not seem methodologically sound to read all the later technical meanings of ܝܚܝܕܝܐ into the μοναχός of the Gospel of Thomas, which by any dating is much earlier than the Syriac texts which use this word.”102
Perhaps the most important source that sheds light on the Thomasine use of the term μοναχός is the corpus of Greek translations of the Hebrew Bible by Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion. The word appears in these texts seven times (Gen 2:18 οι λ′; 22:2 α′; Ps 21/22:21 α′; 24/25:16 α′; 34/35:17 α′; 67/68:7 σ′ and θ′; Prov 4:3 α′).103 In six out of the seven cases, it renders Hebrew יָחִיד, “only one,” “isolated one.”
As Klijn points out, “in circles where these translations originated the word was not considered a technical term” and did not have a fixed meaning.104 While in Gen 2:18 and Ps 67/68:7, μοναχός can be translated as “bachelor,” in other instances it probably has other meanings. For instance, in Gen 22:2, the word is applied to Isaac, the only son of Abraham, while, in Ps 24/25:16, it means that David is lonely.
What is more, in his translation of Ps 85/86:11, Aquila renders the Hebrew verb יִחֵד (“unite,” piʿēl of יָחַד, “be united”) with the Greek verb μοναχόω, “make one,”105 which is unattested elsewhere.106
יַחֵד לְבָבִי לְיִרְאָה שְׁמֶךָ
Μονάχωσον τὴν καρδίαν μου τοῦ φοβεῖσθαι τὸ ὄνομά σου.
Make my heart one so that I fear your name.
We encounter a similar translation of this sentence in Symmachus’ version, even though he did not use any words cognate to μοναχός:
Ἕνωσον τὴν καρδίαν μου εἰς φόβον τοῦ ὀνόματός σου.107
Unite my heart to make me fear your name.
In what follows, I will argue that all the three aspects of the meaning of μοναχός in these translations—uniqueness, loneliness, unity—are present in the Gospel of Thomas as well. While the solitude of the Thomasine μοναχοί has been scrutinized in a large number of publications, the two other aspects have never been properly discussed in the scholarly literature.
(1) Μοναχός = “lonely,” “solitary.” As I have noted in chapter 2 (p. 67), Gos. Thom. 30:1–2 praises solitude and condemns communal living. There is no doubt that a similar ideal of becoming solitary underlies the Thomasine term μοναχός. Saying 16 is the most revealing source for the understanding of this aspect of the meaning of the word. Here, Jesus encourages his followers to leave their families behind and be alone.
16:1 ⲡⲉϫⲉ ⲓⲥ︦ ϫⲉ ⲧⲁⲭⲁ ⲉⲩⲙⲉⲉⲩⲉ ⲛ̄ϭⲓ ⲣ̄ⲣⲱⲙⲉ ϫⲉ ⲛ̄ⲧⲁⲉⲓⲉⲓ ⲁⲛⲟⲩϫⲉ ⲛ̄ⲟⲩⲉⲓⲣⲏⲛⲏ ⲉϫⲙ̄ ⲡⲕⲟⲥⲙⲟⲥ 16:2 ⲁⲩⲱ ⲥⲉⲥⲟⲟⲩⲛ ⲁⲛ ϫⲉ ⲛ̄ⲧⲁⲉⲓⲉⲓ ⲁⲛⲟⲩϫⲉ ⲛ̄ϩⲛ̄ⲡⲱⲣϫ ⲉϫⲛ̄ ⲡⲕⲁϩ ⲟⲩⲕⲱϩⲧ ⲟⲩⲥⲏϥⲉ ⲟⲩⲡⲟⲗⲉⲙⲟⲥ 16:3 ⲟⲩⲛ̄ ϯⲟⲩ ⲅⲁⲣ ⲛⲁϣ̣ⲱ̣ⲡ̣ⲉ̣ ϩⲛ̄ ⲟⲩⲏⲉⲓ ⲟⲩⲛ̄ ϣⲟⲙⲧ ⲛⲁϣⲱⲡⲉ ⲉϫⲛ̄ ⲥⲛⲁⲩ ⲁⲩⲱ ⲥⲛⲁⲩ ⲉϫⲛ̄ ϣⲟⲙⲧ ⲡⲉⲓⲱⲧ ⲉϫⲙ̄ ⲡϣⲏⲣⲉ ⲁⲩⲱ ⲡϣⲏⲣⲉ ⲉϫⲙ̄ ⲡⲉⲓⲱⲧ 16:4 ⲁⲩⲱ ⲥⲉⲛⲁⲱϩⲉ ⲉⲣⲁⲧⲟⲩ ⲉⲩⲟ ⲙ̄ⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ
16:1 Jesus said: “Perhaps people think that I have come to cast peace upon the earth. 16:2 But they do not know that I have come to cast dissension upon the earth: fire, sword, (and) war. 16:3 For there will be five in one house: there will be three against two and two against three, the father against the son, and the son against the father. 16:4 And they will stand as solitary ones.”108
According to Uro, the word μοναχός here refers to those “who have been compelled to break away from family,” but does not necessarily mean “a celibate.”109 It is not clear whether the dissolution of family ties had to be done once and for all or whether certain sexual activity was after all acceptable.
In spite of the clear ascetic inclination, one can recognize a certain ambiguity in Thomas’ relation to the issue of marriage versus celibacy. Thomas praises those who have broken with their families and have become “solitary,” but never directly rejects marriage and sexual intercourse.110
Even though Uro appears at first glance to make a solid point, there is at least one argument that can be made against his understanding of Thomasine take on celibacy. Unlike saying 16, saying 75 is built on sexual imagery:
75 ⲡⲉϫⲉ ⲓⲥ︦ ⲟⲩⲛ ϩⲁϩ ⲁϩⲉⲣⲁⲧⲟⲩ ϩⲓⲣⲙ̄ ⲡⲣⲟ ⲁⲗⲗⲁ ⲙ̄ⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ ⲛⲉⲧⲛⲁⲃⲱⲕ ⲉϩⲟⲩⲛ ⲉⲡⲙⲁ ⲛ̄ϣⲉⲗⲉⲉⲧ
75 Jesus said, “Many are standing at the door, but it is the solitary who will enter the bridal chamber.”
A comment on the translation of this saying is in order. I agree with Thomas O. Lambdin who renders ⲡⲙⲁ ⲛ̄ϣⲉⲗⲉⲉⲧ as “the bridal chamber.” The Berliner Arbeitskreis renders it as “the wedding hall.” The latter translation is justified, if we presuppose that ⲡⲙⲁ ⲛ̄ϣⲉⲗⲉⲉⲧ renders οἱ γάμοι of the Greek Vorlage, as it does, for example, in the Sahidic translation of Matt 25:10. It should be noted, however, that wedding imagery is also present in Gos. Thom. 104:3, where the Coptic text employs two Greek loan words, ⲛⲩⲙⲫⲓⲟⲥ, “bridegroom,” and ⲛⲩⲙⲫⲱⲛ. As Plisch has pointed out, it seems that the Thomasine terms ⲛⲩⲙⲫⲱⲛ and ⲙⲁ ⲛ̄ϣⲉⲗⲉⲉⲧ have the same meaning and both derive from νυμφών.111 In turn, the primary meaning of the word νυμφών is “bridal chamber.”112
I agree with Uro that the saying does not refer to any ritual “through which celibate persons only could enter the community.”113 I find it difficult, however, to believe that the words ⲙ̄ⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ and ⲡⲙⲁ ⲛ̄ϣⲉⲗⲉⲉⲧ are combined in the saying unintentionally. It seems that the word μοναχός is employed here precisely because, in a marital context, μοναχός means “single” (cf. Aquila’s, Symmachus’ and Theodotion’s translations of Gen 2:18 and Ps 67/68:7).
This being the case, why would these celibate μοναχοί enter the bridal chamber? As Antti Marjanen has suggested, the bridal chamber and the bridegroom in Gos. Thom. 104:3 are metaphors for salvation and the person that attained salvation respectively.114 Since Gos. Thom. 75 and 104:3 share their imagery and terminology, there can be little doubt that the former should be interpreted with due regard to the latter. It thus follows that both sayings portray salvation as the bridal chamber and that the same perfected individual is called ⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ in Gos. Thom. 75 and ⲛⲩⲙⲫⲓⲟⲥ in Gos. Thom. 104:3. It makes sense, therefore, to suggest that the same metaphor of the bridegroom(s) entering/leaving the bridal chamber is present both in Gos. Thom. 75 and 104:3.
Thus, I propose that in Gos. Thom. 75 a μοναχός is likened to the bridegroom who is allowed in the bridal chamber, while the rest stand outside.115 The saying describes a paradox: while the earthly bridal chambers are for those who desire to procreate, the heavenly ones are for those who abstain from sex. Hence, I am inclined to think that to become a μοναχός does in fact mean to live a sexually abstinent life.
(2) Μοναχός = “unique,” “one of a kind.” Unlike saying 16, saying 49 does not emphasize the social isolation of the μοναχοί, but rather their exceptional status:
49:1 ⲡⲉϫⲉ ⲓⲥ︦ ϫⲉ ϩⲉⲛⲙⲁⲕⲁⲣⲓⲟⲥ ⲛⲉ ⲛⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ ⲁⲩⲱ ⲉⲧⲥⲟⲧⲡ ϫⲉ ⲧⲉⲧⲛⲁϩⲉ ⲁⲧⲙⲛ̄ⲧⲉⲣⲟ 49:2 ϫⲉ ⲛ̄ⲧⲱⲧⲛ̄ ϩⲛ̄ⲉⲃⲟⲗ ⲛ̄ϩⲏⲧⲥ̄ ⲡⲁⲗⲓⲛ ⲉⲧⲉⲧⲛⲁⲃⲱⲕ ⲉⲙⲁⲩ
49:1 Jesus said, “Blessed are the solitary and elect, for you will find the kingdom. 49:2 For you are from it, and to it you will return.”116
Here, the term ⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ is paired with the term ⲥⲟⲧⲡ, “chosen,” and it seems that the two words are used as at least partial synonyms. As I have already noted, the term μοναχός in Aquila’s translation occasionally means “the only one.” It is worth noting that Aquila’s use of the term is just as that of classical Greek authors. Already in Aristotle, the word μοναχός means “unique”:117
ὥσπερ οὖν εἴρηται, λανθάνει ὅτι ἀδύνατον ὁρίσασθαι ἐν τοῖς ἀϊδίοις, μάλιστα δὲ ὅσα μοναχά, οἷον ἥλιος ἢ σελήνη.
As has been said, then, people do not realize that it is impossible to define in the case of eternal things, especially those which are unique, like the sun or the moon.118
As Alfred Adam points out, the word μοναχός was used to designate unique objects up until the period of Late Antiquity and often functioned as a technical term in documentary papyri.119 According to Friedrich Preisigke, in documentary texts, μοναχός designates “eine Urkunde, die nur in einer einzigen Ausfertigung vorliegt (ohne Nebenausfertigung oder Doppel).”120 Hence, we read about, for example, τὸ [χει]ρόγραφον μοναχόν (BGU 2.637, ll. 9–10 [212 CE]) or ἡ ὁμολογεία μοναχή (BGU 1.13, l. 16 [289 CE]). Sometimes, we encounter the substantivized expression τὸ μοναχόν, “document written in a single copy” (e.g., P.Oxy. 12.1473, l. 37 [201 CE]).121
It seems that the same idea of singleness is implied in Gos. Thom. 49. I would, therefore, understand ⲛⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ ⲁⲩⲱ ⲉⲧⲥⲟⲧⲡ as “the unique and elect” (the Greek Vorlage of this saying probably read οἱ μοναχοὶ καὶ ἐκλεκτοί). The proposed translation makes the Berliner Arbeitskreis’ suggestion that ⲁⲩⲱ in this phrase renders an epexegetical καί unnecessary. It is much more natural to consider the phrase a hendiadys, where two similar expressions are linked by a conjunction in order to increase the rhetorical effect of the entire phrase. Moreover, my proposal calls into question Bumazhnov’s theory of Aramaic influence on the Gospel of Thomas. The meaning of the word μοναχός itself explains why it was combined with the idea of being chosen. There is no need to speculate about the Jewish background of the concept.
The idea of the uniqueness and rareness of the μοναχοί is also present in Gos. Thom. 75 (cited above, p. 123). As Jackson has pointed out, sayings 73, 74, and 75 form a thematic unit. Each of the three sayings is phrased as an antithetic parallel construction and is intended to reveal “a contrast between the many and the few, the spiritually indecisive rabble and the committed elect.”122 Saying 73 opposes the harvest that is great to the laborers that are few in number. Saying 74 states that there is a multitude standing around the well, but no one is brave enough to dive into the well.123 It seems natural to read Gos. Thom. 75 along these lines and to conclude that ⲙ̄ⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ are contrasted with “many,” because the Thomasine μοναχοί are unique and exceptionally rare.
(3) Μοναχός = “unitary.” The suggestion that the term μοναχός in the Gospel of Thomas means “he who is one,” “he who is a unity” has been made by D.F. Bumazhnov, who discussed “die mögliche Konnotation der inneren Einheitlichkeit” of the Thomasine term ⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ.124 Unfortunately, the arguments Bumazhnov offers are hardly convincing, since the parallel sources he cites125 come from a much later historical period and hence are irrelevant to the discussion. Nevertheless, the hypothesis itself appears to be correct and, as I will try to demonstrate, can be substantiated by the text of the Gospel of Thomas itself.
My conjecture is that the person(s) responsible for the shape and arrangement of Thomasine sayings intended to hint at the oneness of μοναχοί by making the terms ⲟⲩⲁ ⲟⲩⲱⲧ and ⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ resonate with each other. First of all, even though there is no reason to hypothesize about a single expression underlying both terms, it is still remarkable that not only the μοναχοί are called chosen (saying 49, cited above, p. 124), but also those who become ⲟⲩⲁ ⲟⲩⲱⲧ (saying 23):
23:1 ⲡⲉϫⲉ ⲓⲥ︦ ϫⲉ ϯⲛⲁⲥⲉⲧ̣ⲡ ⲧⲏⲛⲉ ⲟⲩⲁ ⲉⲃⲟⲗ ϩⲛ̄ ϣⲟ ⲁⲩⲱ ⲥⲛⲁⲩ ⲉⲃⲟⲗ ϩⲛ̄ ⲧⲃⲁ126 23:2 ⲁⲩⲱ ⲥⲉⲛⲁⲱϩⲉ ⲉⲣⲁⲧⲟⲩ ⲉⲩⲟ ⲟⲩⲁ ⲟⲩⲱⲧ
23:1 Jesus said: “I will choose you, one from a thousand and two from ten thousand.127 23:2 And they will stand as a single one.”
Second, it is remarkable that sayings 16:4 and 23:2 are quite similar in their wording:128
Gos. Thom. 16:4
Gos. Thom. 23:2
ⲁⲩⲱ ⲥⲉⲛⲁⲱϩⲉ ⲉⲣⲁⲧⲟⲩ ⲉⲩⲟ ⲙ̄ⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ
ⲁⲩⲱ ⲥⲉⲛⲁⲱϩⲉ ⲉⲣⲁⲧⲟⲩ ⲉⲩⲟ ⲟⲩⲁ ⲟⲩⲱⲧ
And they will stand as solitary ones.
And they will stand as a single one.
As I have said earlier, the use of repetitive formulae is one of the main rhetorical devices in the Gospel of Thomas. However, unlike sayings 8, 21, 24, 63, 65, and 96 with their unified formula (“whoever has ears should hear!”), these two sayings are terminologically different. Unlike the expression ⲟⲩⲁ ⲟⲩⲱⲧ, the word ⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ has something to do with uniqueness and loneliness. Yet the two words are inserted in the same formula in order to echo or mirror each other, which makes it plausible that, among other things, the term μοναχός in the Gospel of Thomas is supposed to mean “he who is one.” That the word could have had such a meaning is confirmed by the fact that the verb μοναχόω meant “to make one” in Aquila’s translation of Ps 85/86:11.129
In this chapter, I have dealt with two important Thomasine expressions, ⲟⲩⲁ ⲟⲩⲱⲧ (sayings 4, 11, 22, 23, and 106), and ⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ (sayings 16, 49, and 75). My conviction is that both terms express the Platonist idea of oneness as perfection.
First, I discussed the background of the expression ⲟⲩⲁ ⲟⲩⲱⲧ. My first objective was to revisit the widespread interpretation of the sayings about becoming ⲟⲩⲁ ⲟⲩⲱⲧ that was once proposed by Klijn. According to Klijn, the theology of the Gospel of Thomas presupposes a Jewish myth about Adam, who was originally an androgyne but was later divided into two parts. The fundamental feature of the myth the Gospel of Thomas knew of was the idea of Adam’s initial oneness. According to Klijn, the only Jewish author that shares this tradition with the Gospel of Thomas is Philo. As I tried to point out, Klijn’s hypothesis is hardly compelling, since Philo does not seem to adhere to said myth. As for the Gospel of Thomas, a few Thomasine sayings might allude to this myth, but the Thomasine motif of becoming one can hardly be explained away by it.
My second objective was to demonstrate that becoming ⲟⲩⲁ ⲟⲩⲱⲧ in the Gospel of Thomas should not be identified with becoming asexual. The most important saying in this regard is Gos. Thom. 22. As scholars of the Gospel of Thomas have recently realized, the Coptic of the saying is quite difficult. I find the understanding of the text of the saying I have proposed in this chapter the most economical one. According to my interpretation, to become neither male nor female is one of many transformations required for becoming one.
My third objective was to show that the sayings about becoming ⲟⲩⲁ ⲟⲩⲱⲧ should be studied against the background of Platonist metaphysics. Various Platonist authors, including Philo and Clement, understood human perfection as oneness. Although the texts disagree in details, and the Gospel of Thomas is no exception, the fundamental sentiment underlying these speculations is the same.
I then discussed the meaning of the Thomasine term ⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ. I started with calling into question the hypothesis of the same Syriac or Aramaic expression underlying ⲟⲩⲁ ⲟⲩⲱⲧ and ⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ. Indeed, it is quite clear that the concepts ⲟⲩⲁ ⲟⲩⲱⲧ and ⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ are not entirely identical.
Since there are reasons to believe that the sayings about the μοναχοί were present in the “original” Gospel of Thomas, the original meaning of the word μοναχός cannot be “monk.” I believe that the word is used in the Gospel of Thomas as a technical term and has three different aspects of meaning.
That the word μοναχός has these three aspects is evident from the way it is used in the translations of Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion. First, it means “the one who is lonely.” This aspect of the term μοναχός is evident from its use in saying 16, where it designates the individuals who acquired aloneness through the dissolution of family ties. Moreover, I believe that the context in which the word is used in Gos. Thom. 75 reveals that it means “the one who is sexually abstinent.” Second, it means “the one who is unique,” “one of a kind,” which is quite in accord with the way the word is used by classical authors and in documentary papyri. The fact that the word has this aspect of meaning explains why the Gospel of Thomas associates being a μοναχός with being chosen. Third, it means “the one who is a unity.” That the word is supposed to have such a meaning may be inferred from the fact that in sayings 16:4 and 23:2 the words ⲟⲩⲁ ⲟⲩⲱⲧ and ⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ are used as if they were synonyms. Another argument in favor of this hypothesis is that those who are ⲟⲩⲁ ⲟⲩⲱⲧ and ⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ are both called “chosen.” It is, therefore, tempting to understand the Thomasine term μοναχός as an equivalent to Philo’s μονάς and Clement’s μοναδικός.
See Theophilus, Autol. 2.25; Irenaeus, Dem. ap. praed. 12; 14; Haer. 3.22.4; 3.23.5; 4.38.1–2; Clement, Protr. 11.111.1. Cf. DeConick and Fossum 1991, 134–135; Murray 2004, 304–305.
According to Plisch 2008, 86, since this phrase comes after Jesus’ command to replace the eyes, hands, and feet, ϩⲓⲕⲱⲛ “must also refer to a body part.” In support of this proposal, the Berliner Arbeitskreis (see Bethge et al. 2005, 526) refers to Acts Pet. 12 Apos., NHC VI 2.24, where the context does suggest that ϩⲓⲕⲱⲛ means “face.” Schenke 2003, 424, cites a Eucharistic prayer in Sahidic (O.Crum 4+7 and O.Hermitage inv. 1133; see Quecke 1971, 1974; see also Henner 2000, 6–8) as another example of ϩⲓⲕⲱⲛ meaning “face.” Schenke’s suggestion, however, is hardly warranted, since the relevant passage of the prayer, ⲑⲓⲕⲱⲛ ⲙ̄ⲡⲉⲓⲁⲧⲛⲁⲩ ⲉⲣⲟϥ is in fact an allusion to “the image of the invisible God” (εἰκὼν τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ἀοράτου) of Col 1:15 (cf. Crum 1902, 2) and, therefore, can hardly mean anything other than “the image of this invisible one.” Thus, Acts Pet. 12 Apos., NHC VI 2.24 appears to be the only text where ϩⲓⲕⲱⲛ possibly means “face,” making the proposal of the Berliner Arbeitskreis highly problematic. It is also worth noting that the closest parallel to the Thomasine expression ⲟⲩϩⲓⲕⲱⲛ ⲉⲡⲙⲁ ⲛ̄ⲟⲩϩⲓⲕⲱⲛ, the passage from the Letter of Peter to Philip (see the following footnote), clearly refers to images, not faces.
The Letter of Peter to Philip uses the expression “an image instead of an image” to describe the reverse process: the demiurge (ⲡⲓⲁⲩⲑⲁⲇⲏⲥ, “the arrogant one”) tries to create an imitation of the image of the divine being and makes “an image instead of an image” (Tchacos 4.16: ⲟⲩϩⲓ̂ⲕⲱⲛ ⲁⲛϯ ⲟⲩϩⲓ̂ⲕⲱⲛ; NHC VIII 136.9: ⲟⲩϩⲓ̂ⲕⲱⲛ ⲉⲡⲙ[ⲁ ⲛ̄ⲛⲟⲩϩⲓ̂ⲕⲱⲛ]). See Meyer 1981, 128.
For examples of epexegetical (or explicative) καί in the New Testament, see BDAG, s.v. “καί,” 1.c; for a discussion of this grammatical phenomenon in documentary papyri, see Ljungvik 1932, 57–59; Mayser 1934, 141.
Another possible, though less preferable, way to deal with the problem is to assume that the text is corrupt. According to the Berliner Arbeitskreis, it is possible that a certain part of the saying was accidentally omitted by a copyist. See Bethge et al. 2005, 526.
According to the suggestion of the Berliner Arbeitskreis, ⲙ̄ⲡⲕⲱⲧⲉ ⲛ̄- is an erroneous (or rather too literal) rendering of the Greek expression εἰμὶ περί τι (LSJ, s.v. “εἰμί,” C.IV.6: “to be engaged in”). See Bethge 1998, 48; Plisch 1999, 527–528.
These examples are from Blass, Debrunner, and Funk 1961, 247 and 255–256. See also the examples from classical literature in LSJ, s.v. “ἵνα,” B.II.3.a (correct “D. [= Demosthenes] 45.5” to “D. 24.14”).
The Berliner Arbeitskreis supplies ϫⲉ (understood as a recitative ὅτι) in Gos. Thom. 114:3 with the same expression. See Bethge 1998, 50; Plisch 1999, 528.
It should be noted, however, that a few alternative suggestions can be offered. In a paper presented at the 2013 Society of Biblical Literature International Meeting at St. Andrews, Scotland, Calogero A. Miceli argued that the emphasis in Gos. Thom. 22:2 is on the fact that the infants are being nourished (ϫⲓ ⲉⲣⲱⲧⲉ, “take milk”). If this is the case, the simile probably refers to receiving and “ingesting” Jesus’ teaching; the content of this teaching is then explicated in Gos. Thom. 22:4–7.
As Miceli points out in his paper (see previous note), the misunderstanding of the disciples in Gos. Thom. 22:3 is quite similar to the story of Jesus and Nicodemus in John 3:1–9. Cf. Plisch 2008, 85–86.
The restoration of the lacuna in P.Oxy. 4.654, l. 26 with [εἰς ἓν καταντήσου]σιν was suggested in Marcovich 1988, 63–64. Surprisingly, the Berliner Arbeitskreis and April DeConick follow the suggestion of Otfried Hofius, restoring the lacuna with [εἷς γενήσου]σιν (see Hofius 1960, 32; Bethge et al. 2005, 520; DeConick 2007, 58–59). Needless to say, this restoration is impossible, since γίγνομαι is a deponent verb.
It is worth noting that Gos. Thom. 4:2b is omitted in the Coptic version. Given that the version of the saying about the first and the last preserved in the Greek text of the Gospel of Thomas is identical with the version preserved in the Synoptics (see, e.g., Mark 10:31), it seems that the omission of Gos. Thom. 4:2b in the Coptic version is secondary; cf. Plisch 2008, 45–46.
The notion that the blessed ones dwell on continents probably comes from the myth Plato narrates in Phaedo. See Tarán 1975, 349–350.
For the view of God as a monad, see Xenocrates, fr. 15 Heinze (= fr. 213 Isnardi Parente): the monad (ἡ μονάς) is the first god (πρῶτος θεός); see also Numenius, fr. 52 des Places = Calcidius, Comm. Tim. 295: God (“deus”—i.e., ὁ πρῶτος θεός, “the first god”) is “singularity” (“singularitas”—i.e., μονάς); cf. van Winden 1959, 106–107.
In a similar fashion, the anonymous author of Theologoumena arithmeticae—in a passage which seems to have been excerpted from Nicomachus’ treatise of the same title—argues that the monad resembles God but does not claim that God is the monad (pace O’Meara 1989, 21; Dillon 1996, 355): according to Nicomachus, “the monad corresponds to God (τὸν θεόν τῇ μονάδι ἐφαρμόζειν)” (Theol. arithm. 3.1–2 De Falco); it resembles God as a unifying principle (Theol. arithm. 3.14–17 De Falco) and as “a sort of creative principle (λόγος τις τεχνικός)” (Theol. arithm. 4.6–7 De Falco).
Surprisingly enough, in another lost work, De Pythagoreis (fr. 13 Ross = Alexander, Comm. Metaph. 39.13–15 Hayduck; on the attribution of this passage to Aristotle, see Wilpert 1940, 372), Aristotle ascribes the view that τὸ ἕν is νοῦς to the Pythagoreans. As Zhmud 2012, 431, points out, this testimony is not historically reliable. The same certainly holds true for the report of the author of Placita philosophorum, who claims that Pythagoras himself taught that ἡ μονάς was νοῦς (1.3.8 and 1.7.18; Diels 1879, 281–282 and 302).
Cf. a similar train of thought in Tg. Ps.-J. Gen 3:22, where God says, “Behold, Adam was alone on the earth as I am alone in the heavens on high” (trans. M. Maher); see also Tg. Neof. Gen 3:22.
As John Whittaker points out, the same concept occurs in the Gospel of Truth: “It is within Unity (ϯⲙⲛ̄ⲧⲟⲩⲉⲉⲓ) that each one will attain himself; within knowledge he will purify himself from multiplicity (ⲟⲩⲧⲟ ⲛ̄ⲣⲏⲧⲉ) into Unity” (NHC I 25.10–15; trans. H.W. Attridge and G.W. MacRae). See Whittaker 1969a, 191.
Plutarch understands the name Ἀπόλλων as privative ἀ + πολλά. This etymology is attested in various sources; see Whittaker 1969a, 187.
According to Whittaker 1978, 216–217, this saying is identical with the “vetus dictum” quoted by Ambrose in his Ep. ex. coll. 14 (63).60: “Assuesce unus esse.”
As Colson 1921, 156–158, pointed out, ἀπαρέμφατος is a grammatical term that signifies the infinitive mood. Thus, Clement’s point is that “the idea of the Son does not call up the thought of powers exhibited singly and one to the exclusion of another, but of powers blended into a single whole.”
Cf. Irenaeus, Haer. 1.21.3 (= Epiphanius, Pan. 34.20.2). Clement uses the phrase εἰς ἕνωσιν in Strom. 220.127.116.11: “every man who is won over for holiness is enlightened into an indissoluble unity (ἐκφωτιζομένου εἰς ἕνωσιν ἀδιάκριτον παντὸς τοῦ ἀναληφθέντος εἰς ἁγιωσύνην ἀνθρώπου)” (trans. J.B. Mayor and H. Chadwick). It is worth noting that Clement also seems to use the expression in a baptismal context, since, as Joseph B. Mayor pointed out, “The word φωτισμός was commonly used for baptism” (Hort and Mayor 1902, 220).
I agree with Robert Pierce Casey that τοῖς ἄρρεσιν belongs to εἰς ἕνωσιν (pace Sagnard 1970, 101, and Thomassen 2006, 379). Cf. Exc. 21.3: “the females, becoming men, are united to the angels (ἑνοῦται τοῖς ἀγγέλοις) and pass into the Pleroma” (trans. R.P. Casey).
Sagnard 1970, 138, and Thomassen 2006, 382, assume that τῷ ἑνί refers to Jesus. It is quite possible, however, that Casey’s translation is accurate and it is τὸ ἕν that is implied in the text; in this case “the One” designates the divine realm as a whole.
See Klijn 1962, 271–272. It worth noting that Klijn avoids the question of the original language of the Gospel of Thomas. Elsewhere (Klijn 1972), he argues that the Gospel of Thomas was written in a multilingual environment, where Syriac, Aramaic, and Greek coexisted.
Bumazhnov follows the suggestion of the Berliner Arbeitskreis that ⲁⲩⲱ in the expression ⲛⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ ⲁⲩⲱ ⲉⲧⲥⲟⲧⲡ renders an epexegetical καί. See Bumazhnov 2007, 256. I do not find this suggestion appealing (see below, p. 125).
Judge 1977, 86. For a list of fourth-century documentary papyri in Greek and Coptic employing the word μοναχός, see Choat 2002, 9–10.
Unfortunately, it does not seem possible to ascertain the date of the Coptic translation of any individual text from the Nag Hammadi codices. “The original translation from Greek into Coptic, in any given case, may date as far back as the second half of the third century, or it may have taken place during the years around 350, shortly before the production of the copy known to us. The Nag Hammadi collection of texts may well include any number of specimens located somewhere between these extremes, but there is no way of identifying them” (Funk 1995, 143). It is tempting to suggest a third-century date for the Coptic translation of the Gospel of Thomas, since the Nag Hammadi version of this text seems to presuppose a complex history of dialectal editing. According to Funk 1993, 170–171, it is likely that the original Coptic Gospel of Thomas was written in a southern dialect, but at some point in its transmission was more or less successfully “Sahidicized.” Moreover, the person who edited the Coptic text of the Gospel of Thomas cannot be identified with the scribe of NHC II, since the latter was quite reluctant “to impose his own standards of spelling on his work” (Funk 1995, 133). Yet we must keep in mind that, as Funk 1995, 144, notes, “The most extensive dialectal rewriting and editing, even if it involved several stages and a number of different persons in different places, may have been implemented, theoretically, only a few weeks before the production of our codices.”
Another alternative is to suppose that sayings 16, 49, and 75 were part of the “original” text, but that these sayings did not contain the word μοναχός. Klijn (see above, p. 116) seems to entertain this possibility and think that the Coptic translator might have used the word ⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ to render Greek εἷς. According to Klijn 1962, 272, by doing so the translator “obviously tries to render a term unknown to him with the help of a word familiar to his readers.” As I have already pointed out, this hypothesis seems to be very unlikely, since it leaves unclear why the translator was inconsistent—i.e., why he did not always render εἷς with ⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ, but occasionally used ⲟⲩⲁ and ⲟⲩⲁ ⲟⲩⲱⲧ. It is also worth noting that, as I have pointed out in chapter 2 (p. 48), the Coptic translator seems to have tried to be careful with terminology of the Gospel of Thomas and not to render a Greek word with a different Greek word.
It is worth noting that some scholars hypothesize about the monastic setting of the Nag Hammadi codices. For a discussion of this hypothesis see, e.g., Khosroyev 1995; Jenott and Pagels 2010; Lewis and Blount 2014; Lundhaug and Jenott 2015.
For the sake of the reader’s convenience, I leave the translation of the Berliner Arbeitskreis unaltered, even though a more justified approach would be to leave the word μοναχός without any translation, since the point of the present chapter is that the word μοναχός has several different meanings.
See Plisch 2008, 179 and 227. That the same Greek word is sometimes translated and sometimes retained should come as no surprise: cf., e.g., ⲉⲙⲡⲟⲣⲟⲥ in Gos. Thom. 64:3 and ⲉϣⲱⲧ in Gos. Thom. 64:12 and 76:1–2.
Valentinians adhered to a somewhat similar view. According to Irenaeus, Haer. 1.7.1 (= Epiphanius, Pan. 31.21.12), οἱ πνευματικοί “will be given as brides (νύμφαι) to the angels who surround Savior” (trans. D.J. Unger and J.J. Dillon); cf. Exc. 64. See also Thomassen 2006, 405.
In this instance, I also prefer Lambdin’s translation to that of the Berliner Arbeitskreis. As I argue below (p. 125), there is no reason to think that ⲁⲩⲱ in this saying renders an epexegetical καί.
Preisigke 1915, 127; cf. Preisigke 1910, 205; Preisigke 1912–1920, 1:109; Preisigke and Kießling 1925–1931, 2:114–115.
According to Funk 2002, 86, the anarthrous form ⲧⲃⲁ is problematic. It is possible that the original Coptic text read ϩⲛ̄ ϩⲛ̄ⲧⲃⲁ (a literal rendering of ἐκ μυρίων) and that later the plural definite article ϩⲛ̄ has dropped out through haplography.
Gos. Thom. 23:1 has multiple parallels in early Christian literature. See Irenaeus’ report on Basilides (Haer. 1.24.6; cf. Epiphanius, Pan. 24.5.4); Pistis Sophia (134 = 350.11–12 Schmidt). According to Carlson 2014, 146–148, Gos. Thom. 23:1 is the source of a quotation in Origen’s Pasch. 1.101 (= 126.11–12 Witte): εἷς που [ἐκ] χιλίων καὶ δύο ἐκ μυρίων, “perhaps one [from] a thousand, and two from ten thousand.” For the quotations of Gos. Thom. 23:1 in Manichaean literature, see Funk 2002, 85–92.
Having established that the Thomasine term μοναχός presupposes the notion of oneness as perfection, we may take a closer look at Gos. Thom. 16:2, where Jesus says that he brought “divisions,” ϩⲛ̄ⲡⲱⲣϫ, into this world. Going through these “divisions” is a prerequisite of becoming a μοναχός. Thus, just like saying 75, saying 16 presents the reader with a paradox: according to saying 75, the bridal chamber is for the celibates; according to saying 16, division brings unity.