Gothic Bible

The Gothic Bible or Wulfila Bible is the Christian Bible in the Gothic language spoken by the Eastern Germanic (Gothic) tribes in the early Middle Ages.[1]

The translation was allegedly made by the Arian bishop and missionary Wulfila in the fourth century. Recent scholarly opinion, based on analyzing the linguistic properties of the Gothic text, holds that the translation of the Bible into Gothic was not or not solely performed by Wulfila, or any one person, but rather by a team of scholars.[2]

Wulfila bibel
Page from the Codex Argenteus containing the Wulfila Bible.


Surviving fragments of the Wulfila Bible consist of codices and one lead tablet from the 5th to 8th century containing a large part of the New Testament and some parts of the Old Testament, largely written in Italy. These are:

  • Codex Argenteus, the longest and most celebrated of the manuscripts, which is kept in Uppsala,
  • Codex Ambrosianus A through Codex Ambrosianus E, containing the epistles, Skeireins (in a fragment of Codex Ambrosianus E known as the Codex Vaticanus Latinus 5750), and Nehemiah 5–7,
  • Codex Carolinus, a Gothic-Latin diglot palimpsest containing Romans 11–14,
  • Codex Gissensis, apparently also a Gothic-Latin diglot, containing fragments of the Gospel of Luke,
  • Gothica Bononiensia (also known as the Codex Boniensis), a recently discovered (2009) palimpsest fragment with what appears to be a sermon, containing direct Bible quotes and allusions, both from previously attested parts of the Gothic Bible (the text is clearly taken from Ulfilas' translation) and previously unattested ones (e.g. Psalms, Genesis).[3]
  • Fragmenta Pannonica (also known as the Hács-Béndekpuszta fragments or the Tabella Hungarica) , which consist of 1 mm thick lead plates with fragmented remnants of verses from the Gospels.

Historic context

During the third century, the Goths lived on the northeast border of the Roman Empire, in what is now Ukraine, Bulgaria and Romania. During the fourth century, the Goths were converted to Christianity, largely through the efforts of Bishop Wulfila, who is believed to have invented the Gothic alphabet. The translation of the Bible into the Gothic language is thought to have been performed in Nicopolis ad Istrum in today's northern Bulgaria. Traditionally ascribed to Wulfila, in reality the translation was performed by a group of scholars (see above). Portions of this translation survive, affording the main surviving text written in the Gothic language.

During the fifth century, the Goths overran parts of the Western Roman Empire, including Italy, southern France, and Spain. Gothic Christianity reigned in these areas for two centuries, before the re-establishment of the Catholic Church, and, in Spain, till the mass Gothic conversion to Catholicism in 589, after the Third Council of Toledo.[4]

Modern importance

The Wulfila Bible, although fragmentary, is the only extensive document in an ancient East Germanic language and one of the earliest documents in any Germanic language. Since the other East Germanic texts are of very limited extent, except maybe Skeireins, it is of great significance for the study of these languages.

Text of The Lord's Prayer in the Wulfila Bible

atta unsar þu in himinam,
weihnai namo þein.
qimai þiudinassus þeins.
wairþai wilja þeins,
swe in himina jah ana airþai.
hlaif unsarana þana sinteinan gif uns himma daga.
jah aflet uns þatei skulans sijaima,
swaswe jah weis afletam þaim skulam unsaraim.
jah ni briggais uns in fraistubnjai,
ak lausei uns af þamma ubilin;
unte þeina ist þiudangardi jah mahts jah wulþus in aiwins.

𐌰𐍄𐍄𐌰 𐌿𐌽𐍃𐌰𐍂 𐌸𐌿 𐌹𐌽 𐌷𐌹𐌼𐌹𐌽𐌰𐌼,
𐍅𐌴𐌹𐌷𐌽𐌰𐌹 𐌽𐌰𐌼𐍉 𐌸𐌴𐌹𐌽.
𐌵𐌹𐌼𐌰𐌹 𐌸𐌹𐌿𐌳𐌹𐌽𐌰𐍃𐍃𐌿𐍃 𐌸𐌴𐌹𐌽𐍃.
𐍅𐌰𐌹𐍂𐌸𐌰𐌹 𐍅𐌹𐌻𐌾𐌰 𐌸𐌴𐌹𐌽𐍃,
𐍃𐍅𐌴 𐌹𐌽 𐌷𐌹𐌼𐌹𐌽𐌰 𐌾𐌰𐌷 𐌰𐌽𐌰 𐌰𐌹𐍂𐌸𐌰𐌹.
𐌷𐌻𐌰𐌹𐍆 𐌿𐌽𐍃𐌰𐍂𐌰𐌽𐌰 𐌸𐌰𐌽𐌰 𐍃𐌹𐌽𐍄𐌴𐌹𐌽𐌰𐌽 𐌲𐌹𐍆 𐌿𐌽𐍃 𐌷𐌹𐌼𐌼𐌰 𐌳𐌰𐌲𐌰.
𐌾𐌰𐌷 𐌰𐍆𐌻𐌴𐍄 𐌿𐌽𐍃 𐌸𐌰𐍄𐌴𐌹 𐍃𐌺𐌿𐌻𐌰𐌽𐍃 𐍃𐌹𐌾𐌰𐌹𐌼𐌰,
𐍃𐍅𐌰𐍃𐍅𐌴 𐌾𐌰𐌷 𐍅𐌴𐌹𐍃 𐌰𐍆𐌻𐌴𐍄𐌰𐌼 𐌸𐌰𐌹𐌼 𐍃𐌺𐌿𐌻𐌰𐌼 𐌿𐌽𐍃𐌰𐍂𐌰𐌹𐌼.
𐌾𐌰𐌷 𐌽𐌹 𐌱𐍂𐌹𐌲𐌲𐌰𐌹𐍃 𐌿𐌽𐍃 𐌹𐌽 𐍆𐍂𐌰𐌹𐍃𐍄𐌿𐌱𐌽𐌾𐌰𐌹,
𐌰𐌺 𐌻𐌰𐌿𐍃𐌴𐌹 𐌿𐌽𐍃 𐌰𐍆 𐌸𐌰𐌼𐌼𐌰 𐌿𐌱𐌹𐌻𐌹𐌽;
𐌿𐌽𐍄𐌴 𐌸𐌴𐌹𐌽𐌰 𐌹𐍃𐍄 𐌸𐌹𐌿𐌳𐌰𐌽𐌲𐌰𐍂𐌳𐌹 𐌾𐌰𐌷 𐌼𐌰𐌷𐍄𐍃 𐌾𐌰𐌷 𐍅𐌿𐌻𐌸𐌿𐍃 𐌹𐌽 𐌰𐌹𐍅𐌹𐌽𐍃.


  • Carla Falluomini (2015). The Gothic Version of the Gospels and Pauline Epistles: Cultural Background, Transmission and Character. Berlin: de Gruyter. ISBN 978-3-11-033469-2.
  • H. C. von Gabelentz, J. Loebe, Ulfilas: Veteris et Novi Testamenti Versionis Gothicae fragmenta quae supersunt, Leipzig, Libraria Schnuphasiana, 1843.
  • Wilhelm Streitberg (ed.), Die Gotische Bibel (1908), Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag C. Winter, 2000, (7th edition) ISBN 3-8253-0745-X
  • Carla Falluomini. "Textkritische Anmerkungen zur gotischen Bibel" (PDF). AnnalSS. 5, 2005 (2009): 311–320.


  1. ^ Falluomini, Carla (2015). The Gothic Version of the Gospels and Pauline Epistles: Cultural Background, Transmission and Character. Berlin: de Gruyter. ISBN 978-3-11-033469-2.
  2. ^ Ratkus, Artūras (2018). "Greek ἀρχιερεύς in Gothic translation: Linguistics and theology at a crossroads". NOWELE. 71 (1): 3–34. doi:10.1075/nowele.00002.rat.
  3. ^ Carla Falluomini, 'Zum gotischen Fragment aus Bologna II: Berichtigungen und neue Lesungen', Zeitschrift für deutsches Altertum und Literatur 146.3 (2017) pp. 284-294.
  4. ^ Veríssimo Serrão, Joaquim (1979). História de Portugal (third ed.). Verbo.

External links

Anders Uppström

Anders Uppström (29 June 1806 – 21 January 1865) was a Swedish philologist, particularly known for his work on the Codex Argenteus, the manuscript of Bishop Wulfila's Gothic Bible translation held by the Uppsala University Library.

Born into the family of a factory worker at Hammarby bruk in Gästrikland, Uppström had his education partly paid for by his father's employer Tore Petré. After completing school in Gävle, he enrolled at Uppsala University in 1824, and was awarded the highest degree at the Faculty of Philosophy, filosofie magister, in 1833. He worked as a teacher of Greek and Hebrew at the Uppsala Cathedral School between 1835 and 1859 (as kollega from 1834, förste adjunkt from 1845, and lektor — lecturer — from 1858). He was appointed docent of the Gothic language at the University in 1850, and professor extraordinary of "Mesogothic and related languages" in 1859.

Uppström started studying Gothic in 1834 and became docent based on his dissertation, Aivaggeljo þairh Matþaiu eller Fragmenterna af Matthæi Evangelium på götiska jemte ordförklaring och ordböjningslära, for which the Swedish Academy awarded him its Royal Prize. In 1854, he published an edition of the parts of Wulfila's Gothic Bible translation that were known from the manuscript Codex Argenteus. This codex had been kept in Uppsala since the late seventeenth century and is thought to have originated at the court of Ostrogothic king Theodoric the Great (d. 526). His edition contained only the text from the 177 manuscript leaves then extant, ten leaves having mysteriously disappeared between 1821 and 1834. The ten missing leaves were recovered in 1857, returned to Uppström by an old library janitor on his deathbed. Uppström published a supplement to his previous edition, Decem Codicis argenteæ rediviva folia the same year.

A journey in 1860 to Rome, Milan, and Wolfenbüttel, financed by the sons of his childhood patron Petré, resulted in Fragmenta gothica selecta (1861) and another journey to the Ambrosian Library in Milan in 1863 to study the so-called Ambrosian Gothic manuscripts led to Codices gotici ambrosiani, which was published posthumously by his son Anders Erik Wilhelm Uppström in 1868.

Uppström also published works on comparative Indo-European linguistics, Swedish dialects, and a variety of other topics.

Biblical infallibility

Biblical infallibility is the belief that what the Bible says regarding matters of faith and Christian practice is wholly useful and true. It is the "belief that the Bible is completely trustworthy as a guide to salvation and the life of faith and will not fail to accomplish its purpose. Some equate "inerrancy" and "infallibility"; others do not."

Codex Ambrosianus

The Codex Ambrosianus refers to five manuscripts, c. 6th-11th century CE, written by different hands and in different alphabets. The codices contain scattered passages from the Old Testament (Nehemiah) and the New Testament (including parts of the Gospels and the Epistles), as well as some commentaries known as Skeireins, rare survivals in the Gothic language. It is therefore likely that the text had been somewhat modified by copyists.

Codex Argenteus

The Codex Argenteus (Latin for "Silver Book/Codex") is a 6th-century manuscript, originally containing a 4th century translation of the Bible into the Gothic language. Traditionally ascribed to bishop Ulfilas, it is now established that the Gothic translation was performed by several scholars, possibly under Ulfilas's supervision. Of the original 336 folios, 188—including the Speyer fragment discovered in 1970—have been preserved, containing the translation of the greater part of the four gospels. A part of it is on permanent display at the Carolina Rediviva library in Uppsala, Sweden.

Codex Carolinus

Codex Carolinus is a Gothic-Latin diglot uncial manuscript of the New Testament on parchment, dated to the 6th or 7th century. The Gothic text is designated by siglum Car, the Latin text is designated by siglum gue (traditional system) or by 79 (on the list of Beuron), it represents the Old Latin translation of the New Testament. It is housed in the Herzog August Bibliothek.

It is one of very few manuscripts of Wulfila's Gothic Bible. The manuscript is fragmentary. The four leaves of the codex were used as raw material for the production of another manuscript – Codex Guelferbytanus 64 Weissenburgensis. It is a palimpsest, and its text was reconstructed several times. Franz Anton Knittel was the first to examine it and decipher its text.

Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture

The Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture (abbreviation: EIEC) is an encyclopedia of Indo-European studies and the Proto-Indo-Europeans. The encyclopedia was edited by J. P. Mallory and Douglas Q. Adams and published in 1997 by Fitzroy Dearborn. Archaeological articles are written by Mallory, linguistic articles are written by Adams, and includes a distinguished Who's Who of 1990s Indo-Europeanists who made contributions as sub-editors. While not a polemic, the work in part responds to Colin Renfrew's Anatolian hypothesis of Indo-European origins.

God (word)

The English word god continues the Old English god (guþ, gudis in Gothic, guð in Old Norse, god in Frisian and Dutch, and Gott in modern German), which is derived from Proto-Germanic *ǥuđán.

Gothic language

Gothic is an extinct East Germanic language that was spoken by the Goths. It is known primarily from the Codex Argenteus, a 6th-century copy of a 4th-century Bible translation, and is the only East Germanic language with a sizable text corpus. All others, including Burgundian and Vandalic, are known, if at all, only from proper names that survived in historical accounts, and from loanwords in other languages such as Portuguese, Spanish, and French.

As a Germanic language, Gothic is a part of the Indo-European language family. It is the earliest Germanic language that is attested in any sizable texts, but it lacks any modern descendants. The oldest documents in Gothic date back to the fourth century. The language was in decline by the mid-sixth century, partly because of the military defeat of the Goths at the hands of the Franks, the elimination of the Goths in Italy, and geographic isolation (in Spain the Gothic language lost its last and probably already declining function as a church language when the Visigoths converted to Catholicism in 589).

The language survived as a domestic language in the Iberian peninsula (modern Spain and Portugal) as late as the eighth century. Gothic-seeming terms are found in manuscripts subsequent to this date, but these may or may not belong to the same language. In particular, a language known as Crimean Gothic survived in the lower Danube area and in isolated mountain regions in Crimea. Lacking certain sound changes characteristic of Gothic, however, Crimean Gothic cannot be a lineal descendant of Bible Gothic.The existence of such early attested texts makes it a language of considerable interest in comparative linguistics.

Gothic paganism

Gothic paganism was the original religion of the Goths.


Kindins is a Gothic word (attested only in the Gothic Bible, translating Greek ἡγεμών) that is identified by some scholars as the vernacular title for what may have been a political or judicial position among the 4th century Goths, identified in Greek and Latin sources as a "judge" (iudex, δικαστής).Patrick J. Geary described the position as a "super-royal judge".Herwig Wolfram suggested that the term also equated with the Burgundian hendinos and carried the meaning "representative of the kindred". Peter Heather considered the word þiudans could have also been understood to mean the same designation. Heather also noted that the title of this type of judge passed from father to son through Ariaric, Aoric and Athanaric. Wolfram described the office of kindins as "the judge who, elected for the duration of a specific threat and limited in his authority to the territory of the tribal confederation, exercised special monarchical power." He noted the root of the word kind meant "race" or "lineage" and how the passage of history transformed the word kindins from its original meaning of "clan chief". Knut Helle referred to the position of kindins as a "war leader" that would be appointed upon a council of several reiks during special conditions in times of crisis or war.Wolfram considered Ariaric likely to have been the first reliably and independently recorded Thervingian kindins.

Norse clans

The Scandinavian clan or ætt/ätt (pronounced [ˈæːtː] in Old Norse) was a social group based on common descent.

Novotitorovka culture

Novotitorovka culture, 3300–2700 BC, a Bronze Age archaeological culture of the North Caucasus immediately to the north of and largely overlapping portions of the Maykop culture facing the Sea of Azov, running from the Kerch Strait eastwards, almost to the Caspian, roughly coterminous with the modern Krasnodar Krai region of Russia.

It is distinguished by its burials, particularly by the presence of wagons in them and its own distinct pottery, as well as a richer collection of metal objects than those found in adjacent cultures, as is to be expected considering its relationship to the Maykop culture.

It is grouped with the larger Indo-European Yamna culture complex, and in common with it, the economy was semi-nomadic pastoralism mixed with some agriculture.

Patrologia Latina

The Patrologia Latina (Latin for The Latin Patrology) is an enormous collection of the writings of the Church Fathers and other ecclesiastical writers published by Jacques-Paul Migne between 1841 and 1855, with indices published between 1862 and 1865. It is also known as the Latin series as it formed one half of Migne's Patrologiae Cursus Completus, the other part being the Patrologia Graeco-Latina of patristic and medieval Greek works with their (sometimes non-matching) medieval Latin translations.

Although consisting of reprints of old editions, which often contain mistakes and do not comply with modern standards of scholarship, the series, due to its availability (it is present in many academic libraries) and the fact that it incorporates many texts of which no modern critical edition is available, is still widely used by scholars of the Middle Ages and is in this respect comparable to the Monumenta Germaniae Historica.

The Patrologia Latina includes Latin works spanning a millennium, from Tertullian (d. 230) to Pope Innocent III (d. 1216), edited in roughly chronological order in 217 volumes;

volumes 1 to 73, from Tertullian to Gregory of Tours, were published from 1841 to 1849, and volumes 74 to 217, from Pope Gregory I to Innocent III, from 1849 to 1855.

Although the collection ends with Innocent III,

Migne originally wanted to include documents all the way up to the Reformation; this task proved too great, but some later commentaries or documents associated with earlier works were included.

Most of the works are ecclesiastic in nature, but there are also documents of literary, historical or linguistic (such as the Gothic bible in vol. 18) interest.

The printing plates for the Patrologia were destroyed by fire in 1868, but with help from the Garnier printing house they were restored and new editions were printed, beginning in the 1880s. These reprints did not always correspond exactly with the original series either in quality or internal arrangement, and caution should be exercised when referencing to the PL in general.


Reiks (pronunciation /ri:ks/; Latinized as rix) is a Gothic title for a tribal ruler, often translated as "king".

In the Gothic Bible, it translates to the Greek árchōn (ἄρχων).

It is presumably translated as basiliskos (βασιλίσκος "petty king") in the Passio of Sabbas the Goth.The Gothic Thervingi were divided into subdivisions of territory and people called *kunja (singular kuni, cognate with English kin), led by a reiks. In times of a common threat, one of the reiks would be selected as a kindins, or head of the Empire (translated as "judge", Latin iudex, Greek δικαστής).Herwig Wolfram suggested the position was different from the Roman definition of a rex ("king"), and is better described as that of a tribal chief (see Germanic king).A reiks had a lower order of optimates or megistanes (μεγιστάνες, presumably translating mahteigs) beneath him, on whom he could call on for support.It also figures prominently as second element in Gothic names, Latinized and often anglicized as -ric, e.g. in Theoderic (Þiuda-reiks).

The use of the suffix extended into the Merovingian dynasty, with kings given names such as Childeric, and it survives in modern German and Scandinavian names such as Ulrich, Erik , Dietrich, Heinrich, Richard, Friedrich.


The Skeireins (Gothic: 𐍃𐌺𐌴𐌹𐍂𐌴𐌹𐌽𐍃; pronounced [ˈskiːriːns]) is the longest and most important monument of the Gothic language after Ulfilas' version of the Bible. It consists of eight fragments of a commentary on the Gospel of John which is commonly held to have originally extended over seventy-eight parchment leaves. It owes its title to the 19th-century German scholar Hans Ferdinand Massmann, who was the first to issue a comprehensive and correct edition of it: "Skeireins" means "explanation" in Gothic. The manuscript containing the Skeireins text is a palimpsest.

Currently it is housed at the Vatican Library (Vat. lat. 5750) in Rome.

There are conflicting views on whether the Skeireins was written directly in Gothic by a native speaker or whether it was a translation from a Greek original. Schäferdiek (1981) observes striking similarities between the Gothic of the Skeireins and the Greek of Theodore of Heraclea's commentary on the Gospel of John.

Sredny Stog culture

The Sredny Stog culture (Russian: Среднестоговская культура) is a pre-kurgan archaeological culture from the 5th millennium BC. It is named after the Russian term for the Dnieper river islet of today's Seredny Stih, Ukraine, where it was first located. It was situated across the Dnieper river on both its shores, with sporadic settlements to the west and east. One of the best known sites associated with this culture is Dereivka, located on the right bank of the Omelnik, a tributary of the Dnieper, and is the most impressive site within the Sredny Stog culture complex, being about 2,000 square meters in area.


Ulfilas (c. 311–383), also known as Ulphilas and Orphila, all Latinized forms of the Gothic 𐍅𐌿𐌻𐍆𐌹𐌻𐌰 Wulfila, literally "Little Wolf", was a Goth of Cappadocian Greek descent who served as a bishop and missionary, is credited with the translation of the Bible into the Gothic Bible, and participated in the Arian controversy. He developed the Gothic alphabet in order for the Bible to be translated, sans Kings due to the war narratives he feared would entice the Goths, into the Gothic language. Although traditionally the translation of the Bible into the Gothic language has been ascribed to Ulfilas, analysis of the Gothic text indicates the involvement of a team of translators, possibly under the supervision of Ulfilas.

Wycliffe Global Alliance

Wycliffe Global Alliance is an alliance of organisations with the common objective of translating the Bible for every language group that needs it. Wycliffe was founded in 1942 by William Cameron Townsend. Before 1942, it was known as Camp Wycliffe, after which it became Wycliffe Bible Translators. The organization is named after John Wycliffe, who was responsible for the first complete English translation of the whole Bible into Middle English.Up until 1991, Wycliffe was a single organization with divisions in various countries. It has been restructured, so that the Wycliffe organizations in each country became fully independent, causing Wycliffe International to become an association of organizations. In February 2011, Wycliffe International took on a new "doing business as" name, Wycliffe Global Alliance, with current headquarters in Singapore.Wycliffe is most often associated with the Protestant section of Christianity. There are currently over 100 Wycliffe member organizations from over 60 countries. Wycliffe Global Alliance is also a member of the Forum of Bible Agencies International.

As of November 2012, translations of either portions of the Bible, the New Testament, or the whole Bible exist in over 2,800 of the 6,877 languages used on Earth.

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