JUVENCUS, ju-ven'cus, CAIUS VETTIUS AQUILINUS (or AQUILIUS): Spanish presbyter and Teligious poet, in the reign of Constantine the Great, to whom he refers at the close of his principal poem. This is a rendering of the Gospels into Latin dactylic hexameters, with a close adherence to the original text, and contains 3,210 lines. The proIogue speaks of earlier poets such as Homer and Vergil, whose names are well-nigh immortal though their subjects were only the deeds of men, and their narratives fictitious; places on a much higher plane the acts of Christ; and hopes, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to create a work that shall worthily set them forth, last beyond the conflagration of the world, and save the author himself from the fire. The events of the life of Christ are narrated now from one Evangelist and now from another, in what seemed to the author chronological order. Matthew is throughout his main source, and Mark does not seem to be used at all. The division into four books seems to have been an afterthought, intended to correspond with the number of the Evangelists. Juvencus adheres closely to the scriptural account, and is apparently withheld by reverence from any attempt to enlarge upon it. He was evidently at home in classical literature, and his diction is full of Vergilian echoes; the verse is flowing and for its period strikingly correct. This first Christian epic, although it made no pretense to be a complete narrative or a scientific harmony of the Gospels, and although it does not offer much help in the way of exegesis, of the history of dogma, or of textual criticism (it is based on the Itala as a text), was yet highly regarded in the early Church and continued to be prized throughout the Middle Ages, being frequently used as a text-book in schools. Its popularity is attested by the large number of manuscripts in which it is preserved. A work by Juvencus on the sacraments mentioned by Jerome has been lost. Some of the later manuscripts give under the name of Juvencus two other poems, De laudibus Domini and Trumphus Christi, of 148 and 108 verses. The former is probably older than Juvencus and the work of a rhetorician from Augustodunum (Autun). The 6,000 verses on the Old-Testament history which Cardinal Pitra discovered and attributed to Juvencus are now thought to have been written by a fifth-century Gallic Cyprian (not the famous Carthaginian bishop). The style is dry and jejune, and the poetical execution far inferior to that of Juvencus. Nor is it possible now to attribute to him the Liber in Genesim (1441 verses) which Martène published in 1723 from a Codex Corbeiensis, and which Galland, Arevolo, Gebser, Bähr, Teuffel and others believed to be his.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: The poem has often been edited and printed since the editio princeps of Paris, 1449, is in MPL, xix.; ed. C. Marold, Leipsic, 1886; and, ed. J. Huemer, in CSEL, xxiv., Vienna, 1891. Consult: J. Huemer in Wiener Studien, ii. 81-112, Vienna, 1880; A. R. Gebser, Dissertatio de . . . Juvenci vita et scriptis, Jena, 1827; A. Ebert Allgemeine Geschichte der Literatur de Mittelalters, i. 109 sqq, Leipsic, 1889; J. T. Hatfield, A Study of Juvencus, Bonn, 1890; Ceillier, Auteurs sacrés, iii. 116-118; DCB, iii. 598-599.
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