Juvencus, Caius Vettius Aquilinus
Juvencus, Caius Vettius Aquilinus, one of the earliest Church historians and Christian poets, a native of Spain, was a contemporary of Constantine, and a presbyter of the Church. Living at the time when Christianity ascended the throne of the Caesars, he attempted to clothe the recital of Biblical events in the classic and elegant style of the best profane writers. About 330 he composed his Historia evangelica, a work in four books, dedicated to Constantine. It is the reproduction of the Gospels in Latin hexameters, following the text closely, especially St. Matthew's, and in the style imitating Lucretius, Ovid, and especially Virgil, thus making a sort of epic poem, after the model of the AEneid. "The liberal praises bestowed upon Juvencus by divines and scholars, from St. Jerome down to Petrarch, must be understood to belong rather to the substance of the piece than to the form in which the materials are presented. We may honor the pious motive which prompted the undertaking, and we may bestow the same commendation upon the laborious ingenuity with which every particular recorded by the sacred historians, and frequently their very words, are forced into numbers, but the very plan of the composition excludes all play of fancy and all poetical freedom of expression, while the versification, although fluent and generally harmonious, too often bids defiance to the laws of prosody; and the language, although evidently in many places copied from the purest models, betrays here and there evident indications of corruption and decay. The idea that this production might be employed with advantage in the interpretation of the Scriptures, inasmuch as it may be supposed to exhibit faithfully the meaning attached to various obscure passages in the early age to which it belongs, will not, upon examination, be found to merit much attention" (Professor Ramsay, in Smith, ut infra). He also wrote parts of the Old Testament in the same manner, but of these we know only his Liber in Genesin (according to Jerome, De script. ill. 84, he wrote "nonnulla codem metro ad sacramentorum ordinem pertinentia"). The Historia evangelica was first printed by Deventer, s. 1. (probably 1490); then often reprinted, as in the Collectio vet. Poet. eccl. of Fabricius (Basil. 1564); the Bibl. M. Lugd. 4, 55 sq.; by E. Reusch (Francfort and Lpz. 1710); and later from a manuscript in the collection of the Vatican by F. Arevale (Rome, 1792, 4to), and in the first book of Gebser. Extracts of the Genesis were given in Martene's Nov. Collect. tom. 9; and lately J.B. Pitra, in his Spicilegium Solesmense (Paris, Didot, 1852; comp. Proleg. 42 sq.), published both these verses from the Genesis, and other fragments from the Old Testament, forming 6000 verses, and gained great credit by his efforts to prove their authenticity as works of Juvencus. See Schröckh, Kirchengesch. 5, 277; Fabricius, Bibl. med. et inf. Lat. 4, 212; Gebser, De Juvenci vita et scriptis adj. lib. i. hist. evang. (Jena, 1827); Bahr, Rom. Lit. Gesch. (Suppl. 1); Smith, Dict. Grk. and Rom. Biog. 2, s.v.