Wisdom literature

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Hesiod's Works and Days, this is a printing from the 16th century

Wisdom literature is a genre of literature that was common in the ancient Near East. Wisdom literature is about sayings of wisdom that teach about divinity and wisdom. The story-telling used is the same than in other forms of literature. Wisdom literature tells the reader has about how nature is made, and what reality is. There are two kinds of wisdom literature:

  • Sayings
  • Speculative wisdom literature

Sayings are generalized. Speculative wisdom literature are about a person, and its relationship to questions such as the meaning of life, suffering or the relationship between that person and a deity.

Christianity[change | change source]

The Jews sometimes say the Old Testament is the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. Included inside the Writings are Psalms and wisdom materials like Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. These wisdom books are related to certain people called "wise men" who were an important part of Israelite society. (Jeremiah 18 18)

Examples[change | change source]

  • The collection of Ptah-Hotep, dated to about 2450 BCE.
  • In the second half of the second millennium BCE, there are a number of writings from Ugarit, Emar and other centres in Western Syria
  • Certain books of the Bible are classified as Wisdom literature
  • Mirrors for princes writings have a long history in Islamic and Western literature. These writings are secular though.
  • In Classical Antiquity there was "advice poetry", for example Hesiod's Works and Days