Hebrew literature  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
See also, Israeli literature.

Hebrew literature consists of ancient, medieval, and modern writings in the Hebrew language. Beyond comparison, the most important such work is the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh).

Most Jewish religious literature is written in Hebrew. The Mishna is the primary rabbinic codification of laws as derived from the Torah. It was written in Hebrew about 200 CE. Jewish worship services were compiled in book form primarily in Hebrew, originally by Amram Gaon and Saadia Gaon. Torah commentaries from Abraham ibn Ezra to Rashi and beyond were written in Hebrew. So were the codifications of Jewish law, such as the Shulchan Aruch.

These works of Hebrew literature were in many cases combined or augmented with additional literature in a language that was more familiar to Jews at the time. The Gemara was added as an Aramaic-language commentary on the Mishna to constitute the Talmud. Some of the traditional Jewish prayers are in Aramaic. Some important works of medieval philosophy, such as the Guide to the Perplexed, were originally written in Arabic.

During the golden age of Jewish culture in Spain, some prominent rabbis moved to Moorish Spain as religious repression increased elsewhere in the Muslim world. Their religious perspective depended on works in the Arabic language that their colleagues elsewhere in Europe could not read. These rabbis and their successors in Spain, Provence, and Italy translated many works of Jewish, Muslim, Greek, and Roman philosophy and science into Hebrew from Arabic. The influx of subject matter into the Hebrew language forced an expansion of its vocabulary.

In the eighteenth century, the Haskalah (Jewish enlightenment) movement worked to achieve equality and freedom for European Jews by promoting Jewish culture as equal. Moses Mendelssohn's translation of the Hebrew Bible into German inspired interest in the Hebrew language that led to the founding of a quarterly review written in Hebrew. Other periodicals followed.

In the late eighteenth century, some writers later known largely for their Yiddish writing, such as Sholom Aleichem, began to write in Hebrew under the influence of the Haskalah movement.

As Zionist settlement in Palestine intensified, Hebrew became the shared language of the various Jewish immigrant communities. Eliezer Ben-Yehuda in particular worked to adapt Hebrew to the needs of the modern world, turning to Hebrew sources from all periods to develop a language that went beyond the sacred and was capable of articulating the modern experience.

In 1966, Shmuel Yosef Agnon won the Nobel Prize for Literature for novels and short stories that employ a unique blend of biblical, Talmudic and modern Hebrew.

Among other Israeli authors who were translated into other languages and attained international recognition are Ephraim Kishon, Yaakov Shabtai, A. B. Yehoshua, Amos Oz, Irit Linur, Etgar Keret and Yehoshua Sobol.

Today thousands of new books are published in Hebrew each year, both translations from other languages and original works by Israeli authors.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Hebrew literature" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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