A Brief History
On December 17, 2017, Orthodox Christians celebrate the Feast of Daniel, a recognized prophet in Christianity, a recognized nabi in Islam (saintly or righteous man), and although Judaism does not consider Daniel a prophet, it does accord him status as a legendary example of a pious and good man. (Roman Catholic Feast of Daniel is July 21st.)
The story of Daniel is told in the Bible, appropriately in The Book of Daniel. The Bible relates that Daniel was a noble Jew from Jerusalem that was captured as a youth by the Babylonians and taken to Babylon where he served King Nebuchadnezzar (605-562 BC) with wisdom and loyalty, all the while keeping strictly to his Jewish faith. Daniel had prophetic visions and also is credited with some healing, as well.
Among the accomplishments of Daniel was the saving of a girl’s reputation when she was falsely accused by 2 Jewish elders of being promiscuous, when in reality they were attacking her for refusing their advances. Another wrong put right by Daniel is exposing the fraud of heathen priests that claimed their idols were eating and drinking offerings left by the faithful, when it was really the priests partaking of the offerings.
When the Persians take over Babylon, Daniel continues to serve the new Persian leader, Darius the Mede, enraging Persians vying for the favor of Darius. These scheming connivers tell lies about Daniel and make much of Daniel honoring God instead of the King, and have Daniel thrown into a lion’s den, a form of gruesome execution. Ah, but an angel comes and saves Daniel, who is restored to his place at the side of the King. The instigators are thus foiled and destroyed! (Lots of that sort of thing in the Bible!)
Daniel is presumed to serve the Persian kings until he is killed by Haman, a wicked Persian minister. A total of 6 separate cities claim to house the remains of Daniel, and all those places are currently in Muslim majority countries, where the supposed tomb of Daniel is venerated.
Not only is the story of Daniel’s death and the location of his tomb a matter of disagreement, scholars question if any such person as Daniel even existed, or if the story of Daniel is apocryphal, a matter of legend made up to teach a lesson about humility and loyalty to God and rulers. The gospel of Matthew says that Jesus recognized Daniel as a prophet, the only mention of Daniel in the New Testament. Daniel is considered a Saint as well as a prophet by Christians.
(The name Daniel means “God is my judge.” Today, Daniel is the 12th most popular boys name in the United States (only 17th for 2017 newborn boys), and over 1.5 million American males are named Daniel. In the US, the late 1980’s was the peak of popularity for the name. The female equivalent of Daniel is Danielle, or Danila, Daniella, etc. For 2017 the name Danielle ranks 370th in the US for newborn girls. The name Danielle peaked in the US around the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. While the author worked on a police department of about 100 people, there were actually 8 Daniels at one time!)
Decide for yourself if the Biblical Daniel truly existed or not, and whether or not the stories of his amazing life are true. Either way, there are one heck of a lot of historically provable people named Daniel (including yours truly), such as Daniel Boone, Daniel Webster, Daniel Radcliffe, Dan Rather, Dan Aykroyd, Daniel Beard, Dan Marino, Daniel Day Lewis, Daniel Dae Kim, Daniel Defoe, and one of our favorites, comedian Daniel Tosh! Question for students (and subscribers): Who is your favorite Dan or Daniel? (How about Danielle?) Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Richards, Larry. The Book of Daniel (The Smart Guide to the Bible Series). Thomas Nelson, 2007.
The featured image in this article, Daniel’s Answer to the King by B. Pratt after Briton Rivière (1840–1920), published by Thomas Agnew and Sons, 1892 (Daniel in the Lions Den), is a faithful photographic reproduction of a two-dimensional, public domain work of art. The work of art itself is in the public domain for the following reason: The author died in 1920, so this work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 95 years or fewer. This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1924.