Gothic Bible

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Page from the Codex Argenteus showing part of the Wulfila 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][3]


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).[4]
  • 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[edit]

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, until the mass Gothic conversion to Catholicism in 589, after the Third Council of Toledo.[5]

Modern importance[edit]

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, with transliteration[edit]

Lord's Prayer in Wulfila's Gothic alphabet, with transliteration - Vaterunser in Wulfila's gotischer Schrift, mit Übertragung.jpg


  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. Archived from the original on June 14, 2018. Retrieved April 8, 2018.
  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. ^ Miller, D. Gary (2019). The Oxford Gothic grammar. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 15–18. ISBN 9780198813590.
  4. ^ Carla Falluomini, 'Zum gotischen Fragment aus Bologna II: Berichtigungen und neue Lesungen', Zeitschrift für deutsches Altertum und Literatur 146.3 (2017) pp. 284-294.
  5. ^ Veríssimo Serrão, Joaquim (1979). História de Portugal (third ed.). Verbo.


External links[edit]