Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Silver Gospel

Lat night the men were discussing history as usual and the Goths came up in conversation. I mentioned casually that there was a Bible translation into Gothic in the fourth century. They were ruminating on military campaigns. However, one guest paused in thought and said, "Gothic, fourth century - I didn't think it was written that early."

So here it is. This is the Lord's Prayer in the Silver Gospel and there are almost endless internet resources on it. It is officially called the Codex Argenteus and is a copy of the Gothic Bible which was translated by the Gothic bishop Wulfila, who designed the Gothic alphabet.

More about the Codex Argenteus and its significance in studying early Gothic here.

"The manuscript, the Codex argenteus, is probably written in Ravenna during the Ostrogothic empire, and probably for the Ostrogothic king, Theodoric the Great, in the beginning of the sixth century. It is written on very thin purple-coloured vellum of high quality with gold and silver ink. The silver text is dominating, and therefor the manuscript is called the »silver book«, or » codex argenteus «. It was made to be an admirable book, which may be difficult to see today, when hastily looking at its roughly handled remnants in Carolina Rediviva in Uppsala. Probably it originally had a splendid binding with pearls and precious stones. The text of the Silver Bible is one of the oldest and most comprehensive documents in the Gothic language known today. Beside the Silver Bible, there are very few text lines in Gothic handed down to posterity."

Now for the good stuff. There is a Project Wulfila with resources on the Gothic language and each word of the Lord's Prayer above can be read in Gothic and compared to the English and the Greek. The Lord's prayer is in Matt.6:9 starting in the middle of the verse. Notice that the word order of the Gothic follows the word order of the Greek, since it is a very literal translation. Each word of the Gothic is clickable so you can crosscheck. I believe this is the earliest record of a language ancestor to English. (direct ancestor - not PIE)

Notes: The image above is from Alfabetos de Ayer y de Hoy.

Thanks for this comment from Curtis.

Gothic is classified as East Germanic, while English is West Germanic; Gothic is at best a cousin to English, not a direct ancestor. See e.g.,


Anonymous Curtis said...

Gothic is classified as East Germanic, while English is West Germanic; Gothic is at best a cousin to English, not a direct ancestor. See e.g.,


12:18 PM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

It's my understanding that the Bible was translated into Gothic by a bishop who was a Goth convert. Apparently he chose to not translate the Book of Joshua as he felt that all the talk of conquest may ignite some un-Christian emotions in the Goth populace.

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