I. In the Fathers. The name Daniel, which means God is judge or God judges, was very common in the Middle East in the centuries before Christ. The OT prophetic book of Daniel contains many stories, the most important of which are the prayer of Azariah, the song of the three young men 3,24-90, the story of Susanna 13,1-64, the dragon 13,6414,42; the last three are preserved only in the Septuagint and other versions. This apocalyptic book has various characteristics: history is divided into several very distinct periods; the author believes in the resurrection of the body, awaits the coming of the future world, provides a detailed doctrine of angels, and attaches great importance to the revelation of mysteries: Daniel, the book’s central figure, prepares by fasting to learn the revelation.
The historicity of the man Daniel is problematic: the OT books make no mention of a prophet living in exile; only the book of Ezekiel 14:4, 20 and 28:3 speaks of a wise man, a Daniel it compares with Noah and Job, but who was not of Jewish origin. The figure of Daniel also significantly resembles that of Joseph, in the two parallel episodes in which the prophet interprets the dream of Nebuchadnezzar Dan 2:1-49 and the patriarch that of Pharaoh Gen 41:1-42. The book had a great influence on Jewish and rabbinic apocalyptic literature: in the latter, Daniel became the type of the just one tested and saved by God. The church fathers used Theodotion’s translation.
The NT authors focused esp. on ch. 7. The figure of Daniel was of notable importance in early Christian writings, esp. for the episodes of Daniel in the lions’ den, the three young men in the furnace and the story of Susanna. For Origen, Daniel in the lions’ den prefigured Christ’s triumph C. Cels. 7,57. Hippolytus saw a rich baptismal symbolism, esp. in the story of Susanna: Susanna represents the church; her husband, Joachim, Christ; the gardens, the community of saints; Babylon, this world; the lying old men, those who persecute Christians; the bath, baptism; the oil, the postbaptismal myron Comm. in Dan. 1, 15-16; 3,31. The Apos. Con. V, 7, 12 follow this interpretation.
In patristic works, Daniel in the lions’ den represents the just one, persecuted and then saved by God 1 Ep. Clem. 45,6-8; he attained great importance at the time of the persecutions Cypr., Ep. 57,8, since he was considered a prototype of the martyr. The Fathers included Daniel among the OT saints Greg. Naz., Or. 48,74; Cypr., De laps. 19; his fidelity to the covenant was interpreted as an example of Christian faith Cyr. of Jer., Cat. 5,4; the image of Daniel was frequently used to represent virtue and the power of prayer Cypr., De or. dom. 21; Orig., De or. 13,3; Hipp., Comm. in Dan. 2,29 and 38; Greg. Elv., Tract. 18. Daniel the sage, full of wisdom and prudence, became the archetype of the Christian Just., Dial. 87,4; Cypr., Ad Fort. 11; Aster., Hom.
VI in Dan. et Susannam: PG 50, 241; Greg. Nyss.: PG 45, 1017D; 46, 857C; Did.: PG 39, 1397C; Theodoret: PG 81, 1268A, whose actions fasting and abstinence very clearly reveal the weakness of the human mind before divine revelation Cyr. of Jer., Cat. 9,1; 12-14; John Chrys., De incompr. Dei nat. 3,4. We have only two Eastern commentaries on Daniel from the patristic era, both Syrian: one is attributed to Ephrem, but is certainly later, and the other to Isho’dad. Both commentators focus on Daniel’s visions, which they interpret in both a messianic sense esp. Dan 2:34-35 and a purely historical sense, explaining in detail how the prophet conceals the future events of the succession of the empires of the Babylonians, Medes and Persians, until the battles of the Diadochi and the Maccabean revolts. The figure of Daniel thus becomes, in Syrian circles, that of the prophethistorian, who precisely anticipates the events that prepare the coming of Christ.