Hebrew literature is cataloged within classical literature. It corresponds to the compilation of works (in prose and verse) written in Hebrew by Jewish and non-Jewish authors, whose origins stem from the 12th century B.C.

Hebrew literature is one of the world’s most widespread and extensive cultural manifestations. The great extension of this genre is because it was produced in different historical moments, showcasing its maximum splendor between medieval and modern times. The most representative works belong to sacred books. As the Jewish people spread to various parts of the globe, Hebrew literature came to be blended with other genres, which permitted a crucial literary enrichment.

Origins and History

The first antecedents of Hebrew Literature date from the oral and expression lessons from Abraham, considered one of the most influential figures in Judaism and Christianity. This sacred language was translated into what Jews have known as The Law, a.k.a. the Torah. Here, we find everything concerning the Israelite people’s inheritance: from the world’s origin to the delivery of the tablets with the Ten Commandments.

            In the modern era, Hebrew authors went a little deeper by exploring other genres, such as written essays and fiction, which was an addition to the poetry that had already flourished for the time. In this era, one begins to write about the Jews’ inconveniences in exile. The diversity of Jewish works in recent times has also allowed the expression of conflicts of religious and political tendencies among practitioners of Judaism.

The Books of The Bible

The books in the Bible are the earliest, most important, and most commercially successful works of Hebrew literature. These were written over centuries by numerous authors (primarily anonymous) and prophets. 

            Over time, the biblical books underwent many revisions until their final codification, sometime in the early first millennium C.E. The books in the Bible vary in genre enormously, starting with creation and historical myths and moving onto legal codes, histories, poetry, and wisdom literature. Apocryphal books. These Hebrew books from the same period did not make it into the Holy Scriptures but had the same general themes. Like the Book of Ben Sira (from around 180 B.C.E.), which imparts wisdom in the Ecclesiastes’ veins.

The Apocalypse Soon

The Book of Daniel is an early kind of apocalyptic literature that became popular in the 1st millennium B.C.E. and the 1st C.E. This end-of-day theme generally has God eliminating the wicked, destroying the planet, and elevating the righteous. 

After the chaos of the Jerusalem Temple and the revolt at the end of the Bar Kokhba versus the Romans in 135 C.E., Apocalyptic literature gave way to legal writing. This literature concerns how Jewish life is to be lived here and now: it is practical, not philosophical, literary, or poetic.

Come The Philosophers

            The most significant number of Hebrew philosophy books at this phase was in the field of ethics. It features ethical wills written by fathers to their sons, explaining how one should live his life. This period also gave rise to much mystical literature. 

The First Hebrew Fiction and Novelist

            It was in the 17th century when the first steps toward Hebrew fiction were made. Arguably the very first of these was “Sefer HaSha’ashuim,” it is about a weird tale of a man conferring with the devil on various subjects, including folktales, philosophy, and science.

            Further, this was also the setting for the first Hebrew novelist, Abraham Mapu, who had his book published in 1853. He was followed by other Hebrew novelists, most notably Reuben Asher Braudes and Peretz Smolenskin.

Inevitably, Hebrew writing will continue to evolve. And like all evolution, no one can say what path it will take. Perhaps the next master of Hebrew prose is searching for a publisher for his magnum opus – the remarkable Israeli novel.

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