Ulfilas (Urphilas in Philostorgius), the
apostle of the Goths in the 4th cent. His
career is involved in much obscurity. The
5th-cent. church historians were our only
source until Waitz, in 1840, discovered a MS.
of the Louvre, containing an independent
account, written by one of Ulfilas's own
pupils, Auxentius, Arian bp. of Silistria, who
is thus an original witness. This MS. gives
details which shed light on the obscurity.
>From these two sources we learn that he was
born early in 4th cent., probably in 311. He
was consecrated bishop when 30 years of age,
possibly by Eusebius of Nicomedia, at the
council of the Dedication, held at Antioch
341. In 380 he went to Constantinople, and
died there the same year or early in 381.
The circumstances of his life raise the question
of the origin of Gothic Christianity. Philostorgius
tells us that, under Valerian and
Gallienus in the second half of cent. iii., the
Goths from N. of the Danube invaded the
Roman territory, laid waste the province of
Moesia as far as the Black Sea, crossed into
Asia and ravaged Cappadocia and Galatia,
whence they took a vast number of captives,
including many Christian ecclesiastics.
"These pious captives, by their intercourse
with the barbarians, brought over large numbers
to the true faith, and persuaded them to
embrace the Christian religion in place of
heathen superstitions. Of the number of
these captives were the ancestors of Urphilas
himself, who were of Cappadocian descent,
deriving their origin from a village called
Sadagolthina, near the city of Parnassus"
(Philost. H. E. ii. 5). The Goths carried back
these Christian captives into Dacia, where they
were settled, and where considerable numbers
embraced Christianity through their instrumentality.
Ulfilas, the child of one of these
Christian captives, was trained in Christian
principles. Socrates asserts that he was a
disciple of a bishop, Theophilus, who was
present at Nicaea and subscribed its creed.
He was at first a reader in the church. The
king of the Goths then sent him to Constantinople
as ambassador to the emperor, c. 340,
when he was consecrated bishop. He returned
to Dacia, laboured there for 7 years,
and then migrated into Moesia, driven from
his original home by a persecution, probably
between 347 and 350. About that period he
produced his great literary work, inventing
the Gothic character and translating "all the
books of Scripture with the exception of the
Books of Kings, which he omitted because they
are a mere narrative of military exploits, and
the Gothic tribes, being especially fond of
war, were in more need of restraints to check
their military passions than of spurs to urge
them on to deeds of war" (Philost. l.c.). We
next hear of him as present at the synod of
Constantinople a.d. 360, when the Acacian
party triumphed and issued a creed taking a
middle view between those of the orthodox
and Arian parties. This was the creed of the
Homoean sect, headed by Acacius in the East
and Ursacius and Valens in the West. It is
important to note its exact words, as it defines
the position of Ulfilas. The material part
994runs thus: "We do not despise the Antiochian
formula of the synod in Encoeniis, but
because the terms
occasion much confusion, and because some
have recently set up the
we therefore reject
contrary to the Holy Scriptures; the
however, we anathematize, and acknowledge
that the Son is similar to the Father in accordance
with the words of the apostle, who
calls Him the image of the invisible God. We
believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, His Son, Who
was begotten by Him before all ages without
change, the only-begotten God, Logos from
God, Light, Life, Truth, and Wisdom. . . . And
whoever declares anything else outside this
faith has no part in the Catholic church" (see
Hefele, ii. 265, Clark's ed.; and Gwatkin's
Studies of Arianism, pp. 180-182). The subsequent
history of Ulfilas is involved in much
obscurity. Sozomen (vi. 37) intimates that
Ulfilas and his converts suffered much at the
hands of Athanaric, a lively picture of whose
persecution, a.d. 372–375, will be found in the
Acts of St. Sabas (Ruinart's Acta Sincera, p.
670) and of St. Nicetas, Sept. 15 (cf. AA. SS.
Boll. Sept.), both of which documents are full
of most interesting details concerning the life
and manners of the Goths. Mr. C. A. Scott,
of Cambridge, published an interesting and
full monograph on Ulfilas, in which he discusses
his history and that of Gothic Christianity
during this period. Arianism seems
to have specially flourished during the first half of cent. iv. in the provinces along the Danube.
Ursacius, who lived
there, were the leaders of Western Arianism,
and Sulpicius Severus expressly asserts (Chron.
ii. 38) that almost all the bishops of the two
Pannonias were Arians. This would sufficiently
account for the Arianism of the Goths
who were just then accepting Christianity.
The literary fame of Ulfilas is connected with
his Gothic translation of the Bible, the one
great monument of that language now extant.
It does not exist in a complete shape.
The fragments extant are contained in (1)
the Codex Argenteus, now at Upsala; (2) the
Codex Carolinus; and (3) the Ambrosian
fragments published by Mai. A complete
bibliography of these fragments, as known till
1840, will be found in Ceillier (iv. 346), and
a complete ed. in Migne (Patr. Lat. t. xviii.)
with a Life, Gothic grammar, and glossaries.
Scott (Ulfilas, the Apostle of the Goths, 1885)
gathered together the literature after 1840,
and gave a long account of the MS. of Waitz.
He also discussed (p. 137) some fragments
attributed to Ulfilas. The best German works
on the life of Ulfilas are those of Waitz (1840),
Krafft (1860), and Bessel (1860). Works on the
Gothic Bible are by E. Bernhardt (Halle, 1875),
and Stamm (Paderborn, 1878); Bosworth's
Gothic and Anglo-Saxon Gospels (1874); Skeat,
Gospel of St. Mark in Gothic (Oxf. 1883);
An Introduction, Phonological, Morphological,
Syntactic, to the Gothic of Ulfilas, by T. Le
Marchant Douse (1886). The chief ancient
sources for the life of Ulfilas are Philostorgius,
H. E. ii. 5 ; Socr. ii. 41, iv. 33; Soz. vi. 37;
Theod. iv. 37.