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Hebrew literature from the biblical days to the present embraces a period of approximately 3,500 years. The Bible, the cornerstone of the Jewish religion, law, and ethics, has been the source of inspiration for Hebrew literary activity throughout Jewish history. The monumental works of the Talmud and Midrashic literature are essentially interpretations of and commentaries on the Bible, or writings stimulated by it.

The books of the Bible were not the only spiritual and literary treasures of this early period in Jewish history. The Bible itself mentions the Book of Wars of the Lord, The Book of the Righteous, and the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah and Israel, all of which have been lost in antiquity. It is likely that many more such epic works have similarly disappeared.

The period following the return of the Jews from Babylonia (538 B.C.E.) and the reestablishment of the Jewish commonwealth witnessed the revival of Hebrew literary activity. Many works followed the pattern and character of the Bible. Because they were of a later period, these works were not deemed worthy to be included among the sacred books of the Bible. Most of the Apocrypha, as these books are called, were written in Hebrew and represent a link between the Bible and the subsequent Midrashic literature. Parts of the original Hebrew text of one of the Apocryphal Wisdom books, Ben Sira, have recently been recovered. Other Apocrypha have come down to us in their Greek, Latin and Syriac translations. Of great historical and literary value are the recently found Dead Sea Scrolls

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