New Catholic Dictionary – Daniel

detail of an engraving of Daniel by Gustav Dore; click for main article on Daniel the ProphetDerivation

  • Hebrew: God is my Judge


The hero and traditional author of the book of the Old Testament which bears his name. At about 16 years of age he was taken captive by the army of Nabuchodonosor, and carried away into the Babylonian captivity. He was educated for the service of the court. His wonderful wisdom was made manifest to the king when he not only recalled a forgotten dream, but also ex. plained its mysterious meaning. Thus he rose to a position of honor and confidence. In this lofty station he remained under Nabuchodonosor’s successors. In the times of King Baltasar he deciphered the “hand-writing on the wall,” and was cast into the lion’s den for the first time. Under the ruler called Darius the Mede in our present text, he received the vision of “the seventy weeks,” announcing the death of the Messias. In the third year of Cyrus he foretold the course of earthly empires till the end of time. When the 70 years of captivity were over and many of the Jews returned to their fatherland, he remained in the land of exile. The book comprises 14 chapters, among which three languages are represented. A preliminary section (1 to 2, 4) in Hebrew, tells of Daniel’s capture and education. The first part of his prophecies (2, 5, to 7), written in Aramaic, presents those which regard the world power in relation to God’s people; particularly the dream of the great statue and the vision of the four beasts. In this part Daniel also offers the credentials for his ministry, which prove to his contemporaries that God was with him and that his prophecies about later periods were equally reliable. The second part of his prophecies (7 to 12), written in Hebrew, describes the various fortunes of God’s people in relation to the world power. Finally the book is concluded by the so-called deuterocanonical parts (12 to 14), which are wanting in the Hebrew Bible, but are endorsed by the tradition represented in the Septuagint Greek version. Here we find the narratives of the chaste Susanna, the omnivorous idol Bel, the dragon destroyed by Daniel, and a second peril in the lion’s den. Daniel is the man of desires and the prophet of hope. There is little direct exhortation to the people, but much that is descriptive of God’s rule over human empires. In depicting the future he stresses the spaces of time that lie between events. Here prophecy is so precise as to be taken for history. Its place among canonical books is guaranteed by Jewish tradition. Our Lord quotes from it the words: “When therefore you shall see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of by Daniel the prophet” (Matthew 24; Daniel 9). The Church has embodied the full 14 chapters in her list of inspired books. They are used in the Breviary during the whole week beginning with the third Sunday of November until the following Saturday inclusively; in the Missal on the Saturday of ember week in September, on the twentieth Sunday after Pentecost, and on the feasts of many saints.

MLA Citation

  • “Daniel”. New Catholic Dictionary. CatholicSaints.Info. 12 June 2010. Web. 29 November 2021. <>