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The Goths were a Germanic gens who, in the second century, spread from the Vistula to the Danube. Some of them were converted in the third century to Christianity. Theophilus, the Gothic bishop, sat in the Council of Nice, and signed the decree of the Consubstantiality of the Son of God. In the fourth century, they were expelled from their lands by the Huns. They receded Eastward, and took up their abode within the realm of the Byzantine Empire. As Arianism was in the ascendancy at the court of the Emperor Valens, and in the realm, they soon lapsed into that heresy.

The Gothic version is inseparably associated with Ulfilas. According to Philostorgius his contemporary Ulfilas was born of Christian parents in Dacia between 310 and 313. He was consecrated bishop about the year 340. It seems probable that it was after the retreat of the Goths into Moesia that Ulfilas translated the Scriptures. It is probable that at that time he had embraced the Arian heresy.

The Goths in that age had no alphabet. Ulfilas adopted the old Runic characters with some additions from the Greek.

Philostorgius testifies: that Ulfilas translated into his mother tongue, all the books of Holy Scripture except the books of Kings, for the reason that these contain the account of wars, and the Goths naturally delight in warfare, and have more need to be held back from battles than to be spurred on to warlike deeds. (Hist. Eccles. XI. 5.) This seems improbable, and is disproven by the discovery by Mai, in 1817, in the Ambrosian Library, of a palimpsest fragment of the Gothic text of Kings.

The version of Ulfilas was in universal use among the Goths, while they retained their individuality as, a race but later their language, and their version passed into oblivion.

In 1669, the Chancellor of Queen Christina of Sweden, Gabriel de la Gardie, presented to the University of Upsal several MSS, among which was one which is since known as the Codex Argenteus. Investigation proved it to be a Codex of the Gothic Gospels. It is called Argenteus, either because its binding is of massive silver, or because its letters are of silver.

In 1817 Cardinal Mai discovered among some palimpsest Codices in the Ambrosian library at Milan fragments of Kings, Ezra, Nehemiah of the Gothic version. By the help of Carolo Ottavio Castillionei five other fragments were deciphered under other writings.

The portions of the Gothic version of the Old and New Testament, printed by Signors Mai and Castillionei, are I. Nehemiah, Chap. 5 verses 13–18; Chap. 6:14–19, and 8:1–3; II.; a Fragment of Saint Matthews Gospel, containing Chap. 25:38–46; 26:1–3; 65–75, and 27:1; III.; part of St. Pauls Epistle to the Philippians, Chap. 2:22–30, and 3:1–16; IV.; Saint Pauls Epistle to Titus, Chap. 1:1–16; 2:1; and V. Verses 11–23 of his Epistle to Philemon.

It is to be regretted that we have no critical edition of the Gothic Scriptures.








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