About Maximapedia

Daniel, Biblical Figure

DANIEL, BIBLICAL FIGURE, the name given to the central figure l of the biblical Book of Daniel (see below), which is now generally regarded as a production dating from the time of Antiochus Epiphanes (175-164 B.C.).

1 Four personages of the name of Daniel appear in the Old Testament: (i) the patriarch of Ezekiel (see above); (2) a son of David (i Chron. iii. i) ; (3) a Levite contemporary with Ezra (Ezra viii. 2 ; Neh. x. 6) ; (4) our Daniel.

There are no means of ascertaining anything definite concerning the origin of the hero Daniel. The account of him in Dan. i. has been generally misunderstood. According to i. 3, the Babylonian chief eunuch was commanded to bring " certain of the children of Israel, and of the king's seed, and of the nobles " to serve in the court. Many commentators have considered this to mean that some of the children were of the royal Judaean line of Jewish noble families, an interpretation which is not justified by the wording of the passage, which contains nothing to indicate that the author meant to convey the idea that Daniel was either royal or noble. Josephus, 2 never doubting the historicity of Daniel, made the prophet a relative of Zedekiah and consequently of Jehoiakim, a conclusion which he apparently drew from the same passage, i. 3. Pseudo-Epiphanius, 3 again, probably having the same source in mind, thought that Daniel was a Jewish noble. The true Epiphanius 4 even gives the name of his father as Sabaan, and states that the prophet was born at Upper Beth- Horon, a village near Jerusalem. The after life and death of the seer are as obscure as his origin. The biblical account throws no light on the subject. According to the rabbis, 5 Daniel went back to Jersualem with the return of the captivity, and is supposed to have been one of the founders of the mythical Great Synagogue. Other traditions affirm that he died and was buried in Babylonia in the royal vault, while the Jewish traveller Benjamin of Tudela (i2th cent. A.D.) was shown his tomb in Susa, which is also mentioned by the Arab, Abulfaragius (Bar-hebraeus). The author of Daniel did not pretend to give any sketch of the prophet's career, but was content merely with making him the central figure, around which to group more or less disconnected narratives and accounts of visions. In view of these facts, and also of the generally inaccurate character of all the historical statements in the work, there is really no evidence to prove even the existence of the Daniel described in the book bearing his name.

The question at once arises as to where the Maccabaean author of Daniel could have got the name and personality of his Daniel. It is not probable that he could have invented both name and character. There is an allusion in the prophet Ezekiel (xiv. 14, 20, xxviii. 3) to a Daniel whom he places as a great personality between Noah and Job. But this could not be our Daniel , whom Ezekiel, probably a man of ripe age at the time of the Babylonian deportation of the Jews, would hardly have mentioned in the same breath with two such characters, much less have put him between them, because, had the Daniel of the biblical book existed at this time, he would have been a mere boy, lacking any such distinction as to make him worthy of so high a mention. It is evident that Ezekiel considered his Daniel to be a celebrated ancient prophet, concerning whose date and origin, however, there is not a single trace to guide research. Hitzig's 6 conjecture that the Daniel of Ezekiel was Melchizedek is quite without foundation. The most that can be said in this connexion is that there may really have been a spiritual leader of the captive Jews who resided at Babylon and who was either named Daniel, perhaps after the unknown patriarch mentioned by Ezekiel, or to whom the same name had been given in the course of tradition by some historical confusion of persons. Following this hypothesis, it must be assumed that the fame of this Judaeo-Babylonian leader had been handed down through the unclear medium of oral tradition until the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, when some gifted Jewish author, feeling the need of producing a work which should console his people in their affliction under the persecutions of that monarch, seized upon the personality of the seer who lived during a time of persecution bearing many points of resemblance to that of Antiochus IV., and moulded some of the legends than extant about the life and activity of this misty prophet fnto such a form as should be best suited to a didactic purpose. 7

2 Ant. x. 10, I. * Chap, x., on the Prophets.

Panarion, adv. Haeres. 55, 3. 6 Prince, Dan. p. 26, n. 6.

* Dan. p. viii.

7 The account in chap. ii. of the promotion of Daniel to be governor of Babylon, as a reward for his correct interpretation of Nebuchadrezzar's dream, is very probably an imitation of the story of Joseph in Gen. xl-xli. The points of resemblance are very striking. In both accounts, we have a young Hebrew raised by the favour of a heathen.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

Privacy Policy | Cookie Policy | GDPR