Hebrew literature: what it is, its history, literary development, characteristics and representatives


What is Hebrew literature?

Hebrew literature, which developed from the 12th century B.C., counted with the participation of both Jews and non-Jews and is known as one of the most important cultural manifestations worldwide, due to the literary production generated as well as its great diffusion in different regions, being the medieval period with the medieval literature, one of its greatest moments of flourishing.

One of the main features of Hebrew literature will be the religious content, which will give rise to a series of fundamental works for the universal literature together with the Hebrew language, whose history includes antecedents of the Jewish and Christian people, which will be collected in the Torah. The Hebrews were mainly located in the region of Palestine, located in the central western part of the Asian continent.

History and origin of Hebrew literature

The emergence of Hebrew literature dates back to the doctrines that were dictated orally at the time of Abraham, one of the most relevant characters in Christianity and Judaism. These manifestations will take place in the oral language known as The Law, or the Torah.

After the Bible, Hebrew literature undergoes one of the most important changes, since it begins with the establishment of laws that are composed of both ethical and moral norms, which will determine the path to be followed by the Jew. During this same moment, a series of literary sub-genres emerged, among which we find formats that have both religious and non-religious content. When Hebrew literature reaches the modern era, it begins to use another series of formats previously exposed, among which we find the essay, fictional texts and poetry.

Thus, during the first stages of Hebrew literature, the Old Testament was written, entering the poetic subgenre. Subsequently, narrative began to develop within the psalms and oracles written by some prophets. And later, in the last stages of development, they reach the philosophical and ethical production, but not for long, because it will be replaced by the mythical writings.

Development of Hebrew literature 

Hand in hand with Hebrew literature, important fields of literary expression will develop, among which we find the historical formats, which cover almost all types of stories and in which it is possible to include from myths and legends, to informative documents, biographies, stories, among others. Likewise, the laws or set of rules and precepts to which the Hebrew people are subjected and which consist of both corrections made by the political power and religion are determined.

In addition to this, the sayings and speeches that were pronounced by the messengers, who were known as prophets and who related symbolic actions, biographical stories, visions and other series of contents, also emerged. Poetic texts will be worked on to a greater extent, maintaining a writing in verse with the expression and exaltation of the deepest feelings of the authors, as well as songs that will be directed to love, pain, religion, among others.

The literary composition will also include a series of wisdom contents of the time, containing collections of sentences and other contents such as proverbs and sayings that are expressed in a popular way and that will serve as teaching of the wise men, reasoned by their own experience.

What is Hebrew literature

The main characteristics of Hebrew literature 

Among the main characteristics of this literature are the following:

Theme of the works: a large part of the content covered by the works of Hebrew literature are inscribed within the religious framework, which is why its recognition is due to works based on teachings of prophets and other figures that compile the sacred works and that come from oral transmission by the Jewish peoples. Thus, the first works of Hebrew literature date from situations that were related to characters or prophets who had personal communication with God.

From this, the content of the texts will also include teachings, historical accounts, songs and poems with the aim of continuing to extend both the teachings and the rules of the religion, which will be seen later in the Old Testament, a text that is part of the Bible and that has translations made in almost all languages.

Importance of orality: during this period, oral transmission became very important, especially in the religious content, since the teachings and precepts found in works such as the Torah, came from content exposed and taught through orality by the first Jewish peoples.

Main works and most important authors 

Undoubtedly, one of the most important works not only of Hebrew literature but of universal literature is the Old Testament, which consists of a series of canonical books written before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. This text includes accounts of the story of the creation of the world in the book of Genesis, as well as the fall of Adam from the Garden of Eden, the Flood, among others. On the other hand, the Tanakh is considered the main work of Hebrew literature, a work that brings together a series of sacred laws that govern the lives of both Christian and Jewish followers. This text is composed of the Writings, the Prophets and the Law or also called Torah.

As for the main representatives of Hebrew literature, we find prophets such as Joshua and Isaiah, as well as Dunash ben Labrat, Shmuel Yosef Agnon, Semuel ibn Nagrella, among others.