Wisdom literature

genre of literature common in the ancient Near East

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

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.



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)