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A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography

Juvencus, c. Vettius Aquilinus

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Juvencus, C. Vettius Aquilinus, a Christian poet, by birth a Spaniard, descended from a noble family. He was a presbyter, and composed his poem on the gospels during the reign of peace established by Constantine ( Hist. Ev. iv. 808 sqq.; Hieron. de Vir. Ill. c. 84; Ep 70 Chronica ad 332 A.D.). His works shew an acquaintance with the chief Latin poets.

(i) Historia Evangelica. This is the only extant work attributed to him on the authority of St. Jerome. It is an hexameter poem on our Lord's life based upon the gospels. It is of interest as the first Christian epic the first effort to tell the gospel story in a metrical form. Its chief merit lies in its literal adherence to the text. Commencing with the events of Luke 1 ii. (i. 1–258) it passes to the account of St. Matthew (i. 18) and follows that to the end omitting only a few short passages (xiii. 44–53 xx. 29–34 xxi. 10–13 xxiii. 15–26 29–36 xxiv. 28) rarely supplemented from the other Synoptists (v. i. 355 ii. 43) but having large extracts from St. John viz. 1:43–4 (lib. ii. 99–348) 5:19–47 (ii. 639 sqq.) xi. (iv. 306–404). It is saved from baldness by a clear fluent style which shews a knowledge of Vergil Ovid and Lucan. It seems to have been widely known from the first and quoted with approval by St. Jerome (ad Mat_2:11) pope Gelasius Venantius Fortunatus (de Vita S. Martini 1) Isidore Jonas Scotus Bede and Alcuin (Migne Prolegg. col. 42 sqq.) It has been edited no less than 30 times. The best separate edd. are by Reusch (Frankfort 1710); Arevalo (Rome 1792) (reprinted in Migne); and esp. Huemer (Vienna 1891) in Corpus Script. Eccl. Lat. xxiv. Cf. Gebser de G. Vett. Aq. Vita et Scriptis (lib. i. with intro. and notes) Jena 1827; C. Marold Ueber d. Evang.-buch des Juvencus in seinen Verhältniss z. Bibeltext in Zeitschr. für wissenschaft. Theol. xxxiii. p 329 (1890); Kritische Beiträge zur Hist. Evang. des Juvencus von Dr. J. Huemer in Wiener Studien (Vienna 1880) pp. 81–112.

(ii) St. Jerome (u.s ) attributes to him "nonnulla eodem metro ad sacramentorum ordinem pertinentia," but these are not extant.

(iii) Historia Vet. Testamenti. Only extant in parts, and its authorship doubtful.

(iv) Some later writers attribute hymns to him, but there is no trace of any except the canticles in Hist. Ev. and Hist. Vet. Test.


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Bibliography Information
Wace, Henry. Entry for 'Juvencus, c. Vettius Aquilinus'. A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography. 1911.

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Wednesday, November 25th, 2020
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