The older layer of the Gothic version

This concludes a series of articles exploring places where the use of synonyms could indicate that the biblical text was translated into Gothic at two different times or by two different translators. The main attraction of this article is the table where we compare the conclusions of my vocabulary study of Gothic Luke with Dieter T Roth’s reconstruction of Marcion’s version of Luke.

It is colour-coded according to how strongly it indicates the presence or not of the text in the respective early version.
Blue = maximum certainty of presence.
Green = probably present.
Yellow = hard to say.
Orange = probably absent.
Red = maximum certainty of absence.
Roth doesn’t use colours to designate levels of certainty, but I allowed myself to interpret from descriptions like “[…] attested but no insight into wording can be gained.” to the colour displayed for Luke 18:12, and so on.

Reference Greek corr. Gothic lexeme Rec. Marcion
1:9   ἔθος   biuhti   —
2:8   χωρα   land   —
2:27   εἰθισμένον   biuhti   —
2:42   ἔθος   biuhti   —
3:1   χωρας   land   —
3:17   κατακαίω   intandjan   —
4:14   χωρας/περιχωρον   gawi   —
4:16   εἰωθὸς   biuhti   —
4:37   περιχωρον   land   —
4:40   ἡλίου   sunno   —
7:41   δηνάρια   skatts   —
8:16   ἅψας   tandjan   —
8:26   χωραν   gawi   —
9:3   αργύριον   skatts   —
15:8   ἅπτει   tandjan   —
15:12   μέρος   dails   —
15:13   χωραν   land   —
15:14   χωραν   gawi   —
15:15   χωρας   gawi   —
18:12   expr.   dails   —
18:20   κλέψῃς   hlifan   κλέψῃς
19:13   μνᾶς   dails/daila   μνᾶς
19:16   μνᾶ   skatts   —
19:18   μνᾶ   skatts   —
19:20   μνᾶ   skatts   —
19:24   μνᾶ … μνᾶς   skatts … daila   —
19:25   μνᾶς   dails/daila   —
20:24   δηνάριον   skatts   δηνάριον

The first minus (absence of text) in Marcion recounts Jesus birth and youth (Luke 1:1 — 2:52). It is commonly beleived by textual critics to be non-original, but this study rather indicates that it probably was in the first translator’s exemplar, and so would be very old. The indication is very weak as it hinges heavily on the usage of biuhti rather than sidus and the fact that such a long text, if it were translated by the second translator, would probably contain one or another clue to its lateness.

The second minus (Luke 15:11-32) is the parable of the prodigal son. It is very popular. Here, the vocabulary indicates that it may well have been absent from the first Gothic translator’s exemplar. Again, the indication is somewhat weak as it hinges heavily on the use of gawi in the sense of land/country.

Vocabulary indicates that the text of Luke’s gospel is relatively safe, compared to the other gospels and pauline epistles. However, there seems to have existed a text with several minuses compared to the present Byzantine (and Alexandrian) textual type(s), so it is not safe to say that Marcion would have excised all, or even most, of the portions of text that are missing when compared to the prevailing text. They may have been missing in some of his vorlages.

Many of the oldest manuscripts and fragments of the gospels were preserved in Egypt, thanks to the dry climate. These were often corrected/altered to read more like the standard text of the Byzantine Empire. I suggest this was done to the Gothic version aswell, in the sense of adding that text from the Byzantine standard manuscripts which was absent in the Gothic, and that this would have been the task of the second translator.

Here is a list of the artcles I have written as part of this study:
Hlifan vs stilan,
Skatts vs dails/daila,
Tandjan vs *brannjan,
Biuhti vs sidus,
Sunno vs sauil and land vs gawi


  1. We could probably add a comparison of Luke 15:16: “jah gairnida sad ïtan haurne” & Luke 16:21 “jah gairnida saþ ïtan drauhsno”.

    Since for /θ/: [θ] > [d] in Scandinavian, and since I hypothesised that the parable of the Lost Son would have been translated to Gothic by a Scandinavian, this seems to corroborate.

    Luke 16:21 was almost certainly present in Marcion with the mainstream reading, as Roth found it in the Adamantius Dialogue (Ad. 76,16 – 78,6; Roth p379): ” καὶ ἐπιθυμῶν χορτασθῆναι ἀπὸ τῶν πιπτόντων …/ desiderans saturari de micis …”.

    Rod’s book is very good. Get it! 😉

    Against my view, one can argue the Gothic text follows the Byzantine variant in 16:21. So, this example really only has force if the Byz variant is original. I think it is, because it has strong manuscript support with f1, f13, 1241, a, aur and Peshitta, and because the omission of των ψιχιων is a very Alexandrian thing to do.

    Another case is Philippians 4:12 “… sads wairþan …”. Balg mentions it with the form “sad” in Middle English and Old Saxon, “saddr” in Old Nordic.

  2. Oh and then we have bringiþ, bringandans instead of briggiþ, briggandans in verses 22 and 23 respectively.

    This is where it starts to feel like an established scientific fact that the Parable of The Lost Son was absent from Wulfila’s first edition. Please oppose me! Mwahahaha


    Here, they say we have no explanation for why there are two different spellings of the name Mary in the Gothic version. If I were to comment under the clip, I would have to create a channel. I won’t bother with that as I would just get deplatformed if I added content to YT.

    But yes, it seems my hypothesis explains this too. There is one form spelled Mari* which is only preserved in the first two chapters of Luke. The other form is spelled Marj* and occurs in:
    Matthew 27:56-61;
    John 11:1-12:3;
    Luke 8:2;
    Mark 6:3; 15:40,47 and 16:1,9.

    All these passages are text critically suspect, so I propose Mari* was used by the first translator and Marj* by the Byzantine reviser. It could be the other way around of course.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *