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Codex Argenteus

The Codex Argenteus or the "Silver Bible" was based on Gothic Bishop Ulfilas's translation of parts of the bible into the Gothic language. The Goth were Arians, meaning that they followed the teachings of Arius of Egypt about the person and nature of Jesus Christ.

The conversion of the Germanic peoples to Arianism was a historical accident rather than a political decision to avoid the dominant religion of the Roman Empire. Ulfilas was trained in Constantinople during a period of Arian ascendency and sent back to his people as a missionary. He left Constantinople at about the same time that orthodox trinitarianism prevailed against Arianism, leaving the Germanic peoples in a religious minority once they entered the Roman Empire.

The "Silver Bible" was probably written for the Ostrogothic King Theodoric the Great at his royal seat in Ravenna. It was made as a special and impressive book written with gold and silver ink on high-quality vellum with an ornate binding. After Theodoric's death the Silver Bible is not mentioned in inventories or book lists for a thousand years.

Parts of the "Codex Argenteus" were preserved at Werden, Rhineland, Germany. In the 16th century Werden was in the Holy Roman Empire. The book, or the remaining part of it, came to Emperor Rudolph II at his imperial seat in Prague. At the end of the Thirty Years' War in 1648 it was taken as war booty to Stockholm, Sweden, to the Queen Christina Library. After her conversion to Catholicism and her abdication, the book wound up in the Netherlands. Later it was taken to Sweden to Uppsala University, where it remains to this day at the library Carolina Rediviva[?].

It is unknown whether the other half of the book survived. One leaf is at Speyer in Germany. Great mysteries surround the wanderings of this Codex, the disappearance for a thousand years and possible fragmental remains.

Some Gothic language texts are found today in a few palimpsets and in other fragments, such as the Codex Carolinus in Wolfenbuettel, as well as codices in Milan, Turin and the Vatican.

Based on : Lars Munkhammar of Uppsala University Library

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