Gothic Christianity refers to the Christian religion of the Goths and sometimes the Gepids, Vandals, and Burgundians, who may have used Wulfila's translation of the Bible into Gothic and shared common doctrines and practices. Gothic Christianity is the earliest instance of the Christianization of a Germanic people, completed more than a century before the baptism of Frankish king Clovis I.
During the 3rd century, East-Germanic peoples, moving in a southeasterly direction, migrated into Dacian territories previously under Sarmatian and Roman control, and the confluence of East-Germanic, Sarmatian, Dacian and Roman cultures resulted in the emergence of a new Gothic identity. Part of this identity was adherence to a pagan religion, the exact nature of which, however, remains uncertain. In 238 AD, an army described by the Romans as Gothic crossed the Danube and plundered the Roman province of Moesia Inferior, taking numerous hostages, which were later returned to the Romans in exchange for monetary compensation. Within two years - possibly on the basis of a contractual agreement which ended the same raid - Goths were enlisted into the Roman Army for Gordian III' campaign against the Persians, which ended in 243-244 AD. At the conclusion of this campaign, the Gothic soldiers were released from military duty and all subventions were stopped. This was met with widespread disapproval, and by 250 AD a large army consisting of Goths, Vandali, Taifalae, Bastarnae and Carpi assembled under the Gothic king Cniva. In 251 AD, the Gothic army raided the Roman provinces of Moesia and Thrace, defeated and killed the Roman emperor Decius, and took a number of (predominately female) captives, many of which were Christian. This is assumed to represent the first lasting contact of the Goths with Christianity.
The conversion of the Goths to Christianity was a relatively swift process, facilitated on the one hand by the assimilation of (primarily female) Christian captives into Gothic society and on the other by a general equation of participation in Roman society with adherence to Christianity. Within a few generations of their appearance on the borders of the Empire in 238 AD, the conversion of the Goths to Christianity was nearly all-inclusive. The Christian cross appeared on coins in Gothic Crimea shortly after the Edict of Tolerance was issued by Galerius in 311 AD, and a bishop by the name of Theophilas Gothiae was present at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. However, fighting between Pagan and Christian Goths continued throughout this period, and religious persecutions - ecoing the Diocletianic Persecution (302-11 AD) - occurred frequently. The Christian Goths Wereka, Batwin and others were martyred by order of Wingourichos ca. 370 AD, and Saba was martyred by order of Athanaric in 372 AD.
The initial success experienced by the Goths encouraged them to engage in a series of raiding campaigns at the close of the 3rd century - many of which resulted in having numerous captives sent back to Gothic settlements north of the Danube and the Black Sea. Wulfila, who became bishop of the Goths in 341 AD, was the grandson of one such female Christian captive from Sadagolthina in Cappadocia. He served in this position for the next seven years. In 348, one of the remaining Pagan Gothic kings (reikos) began persecuting the Christian Goths, and Wulfila and many other Christian Goths fled to Moesia Secunda in the Roman Empire. He continued to serve as bishop to the Christian Goths in Moesia until his death in 383 AD.
Wulfila was ordained by Eusebius of Nicomedia, the bishop of Constantinople, in 341 AD. Eusebius was a pupil of Lucian of Antioch and a leading figure of a faction of Christological thought that became known as Arianism, named after his friend and fellow student, Arius of Alexandria.
Between 348 and 383, Wulfila translated the Bible from Greek into the Gothic language. Thus, some Arian Christians in the west used vernacular languages - in this case Gothic - for services, as did Nicaean Christians in the east (Eastern Orthodox), while Nicaean Christians in the west (Roman Catholics) only used Latin.
After 493, the Ostrogothic kingdom included two areas, Italy and much of the Balkans, which had large non-Nicaean churches.
The Gothic Christians were followers of a doctrine (Homoianism) associated by their opponents with the priest Arius,. The theological differences between this and orthodox Christianity are discussed under Arianism. The Goths translated the Bible into the Gothic language. Portions of this translation survive.
After their sack of Rome, the Visigoths moved on to occupy Spain and southern France. Having been driven out of France, the Spanish Goths formally embraced Catholicism at the Third Council of Toledo in 589.