Apollinaris (or, according to Greek orthography, Apollinarius ) the Elder , of Alexandria, was born about the beginning of the 4th cent. After teaching grammar for some time at Berytus in Phoenicea, he removed, A.D. 335, to Laodicea, of which church he was made presbyter. Here he married and had a son, afterwards the bp. of Laodicea. [See Apollinaris the Younger.] Both father and son were on intimate terms with the heathen sophists Libanius and Epiphanius of Petra, frequenting the lecture-room of the latter, on which account they were admonished and, upon their venturing to sit out the recitation of a hymn to Bacchus, excommunicated by Theodotus, bp. of Laodicea, but restored upon their subsequent repentance (Socr. Eccl. Hist. iii. 16; Soz. vi. 25).
The elder Apollinaris is chiefly noted for his literary labours. When the edict of Julian, A.D. 362, forbade the Christians to read Greek literature, he undertook with the aid of his son to supply the void by reconstructing the Scriptures on the classical models. Thus the whole Biblical history down to Saul's accession was turned into 24 books of Homeric hexameters, each superscribed, like those of the Iliad, by a letter of the alphabet. Lyrics, tragedies, and comedies, after the manner of Pindar, Euripides, and Menander, followed. Even the Gospels and Epistles were adapted to the form of Socratic disputation. Two works alone remain as samples of their indomitable zeal: a tragedy entitled Christus Patiens, in 2601 lines, which has been edited among the works of Gregory Nazianzen; and a version of the Psalms, in Homeric hexameters. The most that can be said of this Psalter is that it is better than the tragedy, and that as a whole it fully bears out the reputation of the poet (Basil. Ep. 273, 406) that he was never at a loss for an expression. Socrates, who is more trustworthy than Sozomen (v. 18), ascribes the O.T. poems to the father (iii. 16), and adds that the son as the greater rhetorician devoted his energies to converting the Gospels and Epistles into Platonic dialogues. He likewise mentions a treatise on grammar compiled by the elder Apollinaris, χριστιανικῷ τύπῳ . For different opinions as to the authorship of father and son, cf. Vossius, de Hist. Graec. ii. 18; de Poet. Graec. c. 9; Duport, Praef. ad Metaph. Psalm. (Lond. 1674).
The Metaphrasis Psalmorum was published at Paris 1552; by Sylburg, at Heidelberg, 1596; and subsequently in various collections of the Fathers. The latest edition is that in Migne's Patr. Gk. xxiii.