Ulfilas (c. 311–383), also known as Ulphilas and Orphila, all
Latinized forms of the Gothic 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
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, an
analysis of lexical and grammatical properties of the Gothic text
shows beyond doubt that the translation was carried out by a team of
translators, possibly under the supervision of Ulfilas.
1.1 Alleged Getic Influence
2 Historical sources
3 Creed of Ulfilas
5 See also
6 Notes and references
8 External links
Ulfilas' parents were of non-Gothic Cappadocian Greek origin but
had been enslaved by Goths, and
Ulfilas may have been born into
captivity or made captive when young. Philostorgius, to whom we are
indebted for much important information about Ulfilas, was a
Cappadocian. He knew that the ancestors of
Ulfilas had also come from
Cappadocia, a region with which the Gothic community had always
maintained close ties. Ulfilas's parents were captured by plundering
Goths in the village of Sadagolthina in the city district of Parnassus
and were carried off to Transdanubia. This supposedly took place in
264. Raised as a Goth, he later became proficient in both Greek and
Ulfilas converted many among the
Goths and preached an Arian
Christianity, which, when they reached the western Mediterranean, set
them apart from their orthodox neighbours and subjects.
Ulfilas was ordained a bishop by
Eusebius of Nicomedia and returned to
his people to work as a missionary. In 348, in order to escape
religious persecution by a Gothic chief, probably Athanaric Ulfilas
obtained permission from
Constantius II to migrate with his flock of
Moesia and settle near
Nicopolis ad Istrum
Nicopolis ad Istrum in modern
northern Bulgaria. There,
Ulfilas translated the
Bible from Greek into
Gothic language and devised the Gothic alphabet. Fragments of
his translation have survived, notably the
Codex Argenteus held since
1648 in the University Library of
Uppsala in Sweden. A parchment page
Bible was found in 1971 in the Speyer Cathedral.
Alleged Getic Influence
According to 17th century scholar Carolus Lundius (sv),
Ulfilas created the
Gothic alphabet based on the Getae's alphabet,
with minor alterations. Carolus is quoting Bonaventura Vulcanius'
book, De literis et lingua Getarum sive Gothorum, (Lyon, 1597) and
Johannes Magnus, Gothus, Historia de omnibus Gothorum Sueonumque
regibus, Roma, 1554, a book in which it has been published, for the
first time, both the Getic alphabet, and the laws of the Getae
Part of a series of articles on
History and theology
First Council of Nicaea
Lucian of Antioch
Acacius of Caesarea
Aëtius of Antioch
Demophilus of Constantinople
Eudoxius of Antioch
Eunomius of Cyzicus
Eusebius of Nicomedia
Eustathius of Sebaste
George of Laodicea
Asterius the Sophist
Auxentius of Milan
Auxentius of Durostorum
Gothic persecution of Christians
Theoderic the Great
Anthony Ashley Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury
Peter of Alexandria
Achillas of Alexandria
Alexander of Alexandria
Hosius of Corduba
Athanasius of Alexandria
Paul I of Constantinople
Nicholas of Myrra
There are five primary sources for the study of Ulfilas's life. Two
are by Arian authors, three by Imperial Roman Church (Nicene
Life of Ulphilas in the Letter of Auxentius
Remaining fragments of Historia Ecclesiastica by Philostorgius
Nicene Christianity sources
Historia Ecclesiastica by Sozomen
Historia Ecclesiastica by Socrates Scholasticus
Historia Ecclesiastica by Theodoret
There are significant differences between the stories presented by the
two camps. The Arian sources depict
Ulfilas as an Arian from
childhood. He was then consecrated as a bishop around 340 and
evangelized among the
Goths for seven years during the 340s.He then
Moesia (within the Roman Empire) under the protection of the
Arian Emperor Constantius II. He later attended several councils and
engaged in continuing religious debate. His death is dated from 383.
The accounts by the Imperial Church historians differ in several
details, but the general picture is similar. According to them,
Ulfilas was an orthodox Christian for most of his early life and
Arianism only around 360 because of political pressure
from the pro-Arian ecclesiastical and governmental powers.[citation
needed] The sources differ in how much they credit
Ulfilas with the
conversion of the Goths.
Socrates Scholasticus gives
Ulfilas a minor
role and instead attributes the mass conversion to the Gothic
chieftain Fritigern, who adopted
Arianism out of gratitude for the
military support of the Arian emperor.
Sozomen attributes the mass
conversion primarily to Ullingswick but also acknowledges the role of
For several reasons, modern scholars depend more heavily on the Arian
accounts than the Imperial Church accounts. Auxentius
was clearly the closest to
Ulfilas and so presumably had access to
more reliable information. The Nicene accounts differ
too widely among themselves to present a unified case.[citation
needed] Debate continues as to the best reconstruction of Ulfilas's
Creed of Ulfilas
The Creed of
Ulfilas concludes a letter praising him written by his
foster son and pupil
Auxentius of Durostorum (modern Silistra) on the
Danube, who became bishop of Milan. It distinguishes God the Father
("unbegotten") from God the Son ("only-begotten"), who was begotten
before time and created the world, and the Holy Spirit, proceeding
from the Father and the Son:
I, Ulfila, bishop and confessor, have always so believed, and in this,
the one true faith, I make the journey to my Lord; I believe in one
God the Father, the only unbegotten and invisible, and in his
only-begotten son, our Lord and God, the designer and maker of all
creation, having none other like him (so that one alone among all
beings is God the Father, who is also the God of our God); and in one
Holy Spirit, the illuminating and sanctifying power, as
after his resurrection to his apostles: "And behold, I send the
promise of my Father upon you; but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem,
until ye be clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24:49) and again
"But ye shall receive power, when the Holy Ghost is come upon you"
(Acts 1:8); being neither God (the Father) nor our God (Christ), but
the minister of Christ... subject and obedient in all things to the
Son; and the Son, subject and obedient in all things to God who is his
Father... (whom) he ordained in the Holy Spirit through his
Maximinus, a 5th-century Arian theologian, copied Auxentius's letter,
among other works, into the margins of one copy of Ambrose's De Fide;
there are some gaps in the surviving text.
Wulfila Glacier on
Greenwich Island in the South Shetland Islands,
Antarctica is named after
Eastern Christianity portal
Notes and references
^ Van Kerckvoorde, Colette M. (June 1993). An Introduction to Middle
Dutch. Walter de Gruyter. p. 105. ISBN 3-11-013535-3.
^ Bennett, William H. An Introduction to the Gothic Language, 1980, p.
^ Dowley, Tim (1990). Introduction to the History of Christianity.
Minneapolis: Fortress Press. pp. 187–88.
^ 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.
^ Fried, Johannes (2015). The Middle Ages. Harvard University Press.
p. 10. ISBN 9780674055629. One of their own number, Bishop
Ulfilas, a Goth who originally came from a Greek-Cappadocian family,
translated the Holy Gospel into the Gothic vernacular – an enormous
undertaking and a work of true genius.
^ Berndt, Dr Guido M (2014). Arianism: Roman Heresy and Barbarian
Creed. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 57. ISBN 9781409446590.
Though ulfila may have spoken some Greek in his own family circle,
since they were of Greek origin, he is likely to have been able to
draw on formal education in both Latin and Greek in creating Gothic as
a literary language.
^ a b Noel Harold Kaylor; Philip Edward Phillips (3 May 2012), A
Companion to Boethius in the Middle Ages, BRILL, pp. 9–,
ISBN 978-90-04-18354-4, retrieved 19 January 2013
^ History of the Goths. Herwig Wolfram
^ Mastrelli, Carlo A. Grammatica Gotica, p. 34.
^ Socrates of Constantinople, Church History, book 4, chapter 33.
Gothic alphabet was a modified Greek alphabet; see Wright, Joseph
A Primer of the
Gothic Language with Grammar, Notes, and Glossary, p.
The most complete Gothic texts borrow elements from the Roman
alphabet; see Bennett, William H. An Introduction to the Gothic
Language, p. 126.
^ See Carolus Lundius, Zamolxis, Primus Getarum Legislator, Upsala
^ Carl Lundius at Dictionary of Swedish National Biography / Svenskt
biografiskt lexikon (in swedish)
^ See: Translation and Commentary at DACIA REVIVAL INTERNATIONAL
SOCIETY / "Zamolxis—the first lawgiver of the Getae".
^ For an overview and evaluation of the historical sources, see Hagith
Sivan, "Ulfila’s Own Conversion," Harvard Theological Review 89
(October 1996): pp. 373–86.
^ Heather and Matthews,
Goths in the Fourth Century, p. 143.
^ Heather and Matthews,
Goths in the Fourth Century, pp. 135-137.
H. C. von Gabelentz, J. Loebe, Ulfilas: Veteris et Novi Testamenti
Versionis Gothicae fragmenta quae supersunt, Leipzig, Libraria
Carla Falluomini, The Gothic Version of the Gospels and Pauline
Epistles. Cultural Background, Transmission and Character, Berlino,
Walter de Gruyter, 2015 (Capitolo 1: "Wulfila and his context", pp.
Peter J. Heather, John Matthews, The
Goths in the Fourth Century,
Liverpool University Press, 1991 (with the translations of selected
texts: Chapter 5. The Life and Work of Ulfila, 124; 6. The Gothic
Bible 145; 7. Selections from the Gothic
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ulfilas.
Wikisource has original text related to this article:
Streitberg's edition of Ulfilas' Bible
Jim Marchand's translation on Auxentius' letter on Ulfilas' career and
beliefs, with Latin text
Gothic fonts after Ulfilas
Ulfilas, the Apostle of the
Goths by Charles A. Anderson Scott in BTM
Bishop of Gothia
sometime after 325 until his death
Alexander A. Vasiliev (1936). The
Goths in Crimea. Cambridge,
Massachusetts: The Mediaeval Academy of America. p. 37.
ISNI: 0000 0001 1068 1960
BNF: cb12005325t (da