Daniel in Later Literature by Craig A. Evans

The central figure of the book of Daniel is very likely a fictional character, perhaps inspired by a real person from the ancient Near East known for his wisdom and good judgment (see Ezek 14:14, Ezek 14:20, Ezek 28:3). The name Daniel, which in Hebrew probably means “my judge is God,” suits the figure in the book of Daniel, given the book’s overall theme of judgment upon the kingdoms that oppose God and his people and the specific setting of Dan 7, in which God convenes the heavenly court and sits as judge.

The dangers and difficulties that Torah-observant Jews faced during the second century B.C.E., especially during the reign of the Seleucid king Antiochus IV, led to the writing and circulation of the book of Daniel and a number of related materials soon after. In due course, some of these related materials were added to the Greek version of Daniel.

These additions include the Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Youths, Susanna, and Bel and the Snake. The Prayer of Azariah is uttered by Abednego, one of the young men in the furnace (see Dan 3), who confesses Israel’s sin and petitions God to put Israel’s enemies to shame. The prayer is followed by a song of praise and an exhortation to praise God. Susanna is the story of a beautiful woman who is pursued by two lustful elders. When wrongly accused of adultery, the wise Daniel defends her. Bel and the Snake (or Dragon) comprises two stories designed to demonstrate the foolishness of idolatry and the dishonesty of the heathen priesthood. These stories teach that God’s people will persevere if they have faith.

The stories of Daniel were well-known by Jews in the second century B.C.E. On his deathbed Mattathias, father of Judah Maccabee and his brothers, reminds his sons of the example of Daniel and the three youths (1Macc 2:59-60). Daniel served as a model here and in other Maccabean literature (see 3Macc 6:6-7, 4Macc 16:3, 4Macc 18:12-13) because of his faith and observance of Jewish customs even when threatened with death.

The popularity of Daniel and the writings associated with him is attested in the Dead Sea Scrolls, which include eight fragmentary scrolls of the book of Daniel as well as stories about the repentance, prayer, and healing of the Babylonian king Nabonidus; a dialogue between Daniel and Belshazzar; an account of Israel’s history mentioning Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel alongside a prophecy of the “end of evil”; and a prophecy foretelling the coming of one who will be called “Son of God” and “Son of the Most High.” Other scrolls mention Daniel’s prophecy of a coming anointed one (Dan 9:26) and quote Dan 12:10.

Daniel receives a great deal of attention in the writings of the Jewish historian Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews 10.188-280; 11.337; 12.322), probably because Josephus saw in this figure an example of how to engage the pagan world successfully. Daniel was also popular in Christian literature, largely because of his visions and prophecies (see Matt 24:15, the apostolic fathers 1 Clement 45:6, Barnabus 4:5, and 2Esd 12:11); the book of Daniel appears allusively in a number of places in the New Testament, especially in Revelation.

Craig A. Evans, "Daniel in Later Literature", n.p. [cited 19 Feb 2018]. Online: http://www.bibleodyssey.org/en/people/related-articles/daniel-in-later-literature


Craig A. Evans

Craig A. Evans
Professor, Acadia University

Craig A. Evans is the Payzant Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Acadia Divinity College, Acadia University, in Nova Scotia, Canada. He is the director of the MA program and is the author of several books and articles. 

A region notable for its early ancient civilizations, geographically encompassing the modern Middle East, Egypt, and modern Turkey.

Ruler of the Seleucid Empire from 175 to 164 BCE, he was emperor during the Maccabean Revolt.

Of or relating to ancient lower Mesopotamia and its empire centered in Babylon.

A collection of Jewish texts (biblical, apocryphal, and sectarian) from around the time of Christ that were preserved near the Dead Sea and rediscovered in the 20th century.

A West Semitic language, in which most of the Hebrew Bible is written except for parts of Daniel and Ezra. Hebrew is regarded as the spoken language of ancient Israel but is largely replaced by Aramaic in the Persian period.

Worship of a diety or cultural value not associated with the one, true, God.

A Jewish historian from the first century C.E. His works document the Jewish rebellions against Rome, giving background for early Jewish and Christian practices.

The last ruler of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, ruled from 555–539 B.C.E. Nabonidus promoted worship of the moon god Sin over the national god of Babylon, Marduk. Nabonidus spent much of his reign at the oasis of Tayma in the Arabian desert, leaving his son Belshazzar in charge of the empire. Nabonidus was defeated by the Persians under Cyrus in 539 B.C.E.

A collection of first-century Jewish and early Christian writings that, along with the Old Testament, makes up the Christian Bible.

(n.) One who adheres to traditional or polytheistic religious and spiritual belief and practice systems; sometimes used to refer broadly to anyone who does not adhere to biblical monotheism.

An inspired message related by a prophet; also, the process whereby a prophet relates inspired messages to others.

The third division of the Jewish canon, also called by the Hebrew name Ketuvim. The other two divisions are the Torah (Pentateuch) and Nevi'im (Prophets); together the three divisions create the acronym Tanakh, the Jewish term for the Hebrew Bible.

Ezek 14:14

* Invalid citation format *

Ezek 14:20

* Invalid citation format *

Ezek 28:3

* Invalid citation format *

Dan 7

* Invalid citation format *

Dan 3

* Invalid citation format *

1Macc 2:59-60

* Invalid citation format *

Dan 9:26

* Invalid citation format *

Dan 12:10

* Invalid citation format *

Matt 24:15

* Invalid citation format *

2Esd 12:11

* Invalid citation format *

 NEH Logo
Bible Odyssey has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor
Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this website, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.