The Scofield Reference Bible

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BIBLE DIFFICULTIES
C. I. Scofield, c. 1920

The Scofield Reference Bible is a widely circulated study Bible edited and annotated by the American Bible student Cyrus I. Scofield, which popularized dispensationalism at the beginning of the 20th century. Published by Oxford University Press and containing the entire text of the traditional, Protestant King James Version, it first appeared in 1909 and was revised by the author in 1917.[1]

Cyrus Ingerson Scofield was an American theologian, minister, and writer whose best-selling annotated Bible popularized futurism and dispensationalism among fundamentalist Christians.

Cover of a 1917 edition of the Scofield Bible presented as a gift in 1941.

Douglas and Comfort write, “Cyrus Ingerson Scofield (1843–1921), was a Lawyer and frontier politician; best known for his reference Bible. Born in Lenawee County, Michigan, Scofield grew up near Lebanon, Tennessee. He read assiduously, always making careful notes and tracing the identity of unknown terms or names … Scofield returned to Dallas in 1902, a year after he first proposed the idea of an annotated Bible. Financial backing was found, and the giant task was done in the course of his second Dallas pastorate and a Bible conference ministry in the United States and England. Publication of the Scofield Reference Bible in 1909 drew mixed reactions. He had projected into the text the seven–era dispensational scheme first proposed by John N. Darby in 1830. Critics suggested that his peculiar approach to Christ’s return (two returns, two resurrections, etc.) supplanted the Crucifixion as the central point of history. Despite the controversy, the Scofield Bible continued to be the best-selling study Bible for many years.”[2]

One of the leading publications of significance in classifying the fundamentals of the Christian faith was the publication of the Schofield Reference Bible. It really immerged as an outgrowth of the Sea Cliff Bible Conferences of 1901-1911. These summer conferences provided the setting for the writing of the Scofield Reference Bible. The prolific Fundamentalist writer Arnold C. Gaebelein was the leader of the conference in each year of its existence. Gaebelein himself had sensed a decline in the Methodist church and had separated from it in 1899. Thereafter, he went into full-time Bible teaching at various conferences. Those early conferences were recorded and published in Gaebelein’s magazine and entitled Our Hope. It was during the first conference that Scofield discussed with Gaebelein his plans to produce a reference Bible. What he had envisioned was a reference Bible with reference notes, and numerous footnotes and editorial information, to assist the Bible student, and to provide a stronger framework for biblical understanding.

APOSTOLIC FATHERS Lightfoot APOSTOLIC FATHERS

At the second Sea Cliff Conference, Scofield finalized his plans and received financial support from two of the conference members. Out of their support, the Scofield Reference Bible became the second publication of the 20th-century that really strengthened and equipped the immerging Fundamentalist movement. Some have argued that the publication of the Scofield Reference Bible was the most significant and influential publication in the history of Fundamentalism. While that may be somewhat of an overstatement, it certainly did have a major impact over the years.

Douglas and Comfort write, “[Scofield] enlisted in the Confederate army and won the Cross of Honor for valor at Antietam. Following the Civil War, he took work as a clerk in a land abstract office, became an expert in the field, and attached himself to a St. Louis, Missouri, law firm that specialized in land titles. He was admitted to the Kansas bar, elected to the state legislature, and in 1873 appointed United States Attorney for Kansas by President Ulysses S. Grant. In 1879, during a business trip in St. Louis, the young attorney was converted by a YMCA evangelist. His attention turned to theology, especially prophecy. Scofield’s enthusiasm for the system of doctrine and history known as dispensationalism began during his friendship with James H. Brookes, a Presbyterian clergyman. Scofield was ordained as a Congregational minister in 1882, accepted a pastorate at First Congregational Church in Dallas (now Scofield Memorial Church), and three years later issued his first dispensational book, Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (1907). During his Dallas pastorate, Scofield founded the Central American Mission (1890). From 1895 to 1902, at D. L. Moody’s request, he temporarily took over the East Northfield, Massachusetts, Congregational Church. During this same period, he was also president of the East Northfield and Mount Hermon schools.”[3]

Scofield Reference Bible, page 1115. This page includes Scofield’s note on John 1:17.

Features and Legacy

The Scofield Bible had several innovative features. Most important, it printed what amounted to a commentary on the biblical text alongside the Bible instead of in a separate volume, the first to do so since the Geneva Bible (1560).[4] It also contained a cross-referencing system that tied together related verses of Scripture and allowed a reader to follow biblical themes from one chapter and book to another (so called “chain references”). Finally, the 1917 edition also attempted to date events of the Bible. It was in the pages of the Scofield Reference Bible that many Christians first encountered Archbishop James Ussher’s calculation of the date of Creation as 4004 BC; and through discussion of Scofield’s notes, which advocated the “gap theory,” fundamentalists began a serious internal debate about the nature and chronology of creation.[5]

The first edition of the Scofield Bible (1909) was published only a few years before World War I, a war that destroyed a cultural optimism that had viewed the world as entering a new era of peace and prosperity; then the post-World War II era witnessed the creation in Palestine of a homeland for the Jews. Thus, Scofield’s premillennialism seemed prophetic. “At the popular level, especially, many people came to regard the dispensationalist scheme as completely vindicated.”[6] Sales of the Reference Bible exceeded two million copies by the end of World War II.[7]

Young Christians AN ENCOURAGING THOUGHT_01

The Scofield Reference Bible promoted dispensationalism, the belief that between creation and the final judgment there would be seven distinct eras of God’s dealing with man and that these eras are a framework for synthesizing the message of the Bible.[8] Largely through the influence of Scofield’s notes, many fundamentalist Christians in the United States adopted a dispensational theology. Scofield’s notes on the Book of Revelation are a major source for the various timetables, judgments, and plagues elaborated on by popular religious writers such as Hal Lindsey, Edgar C. Whisenant, and Tim LaHaye;[9] and in part because of the success of the Scofield Reference Bible, twentieth-century American fundamentalists placed greater stress on eschatological speculation. Opponents of biblical fundamentalism have criticized the Scofield Bible for its air of total authority in biblical interpretation, for what they consider its glossing over of biblical contradictions, and for its focus on eschatology.[10]

Mosaic Authorship HOW RELIABLE ARE THE GOSPELS

Impact of this Work

Scofield’s first book, entitled Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth enjoyed worldwide circulation, and was really an authoritative book on dispensationalism views. In 1902, he returned to Dallas, Texas, where his congregation agreed to allow him time to complete his reference Bible. He actually spent 1902 to 1909 preparing the work. Oxford University Press released the Schofield Reference Bible, January 12th, 1909. Within just two year two million copies had been sold. It was largely through the influence of Scofield’s notes that dispensational Premillenialism became influential among fundamentalist Christians in the United States. It is significant to mention the contributing editors to the Scofield Reference Bible:

  • Henry G. Weston, D.D., LL.D., President Crozer Theological Seminary.
  • W. G. Moorehead, D.D., President Xenia (U.I,) Theological Seminary.
  • James M. Gray, D.D., President Moody Bible Institute.
  • Elmore Harris, D.D., President Toronto Bible Institute.
  • William J. Erdman, D.D., Author “The Gospel of John,” etc.
  • Arthur T. Pierson, D.D., Author, Editor, Teacher, etc.
  • William L. Pettingill, D.D., Author, Editor, Teacher.
  • Arno C. Gaebelein, Author “Harmoney of Prophetic Word,” etc.

What particular role they played as contributing editors is uncertain. Scofield had held extensive conferences with these and other men. In the introduction to the Bible, Scofield denies originality and points out the contributing editors as really giving their time and the treasure of their scholarship to the undertaking. I think it is notable that Erdman and Moorehead were proponents of the post-tribulation rapture position. Thus, Scofield had worked to keep people from dividing on the issue. However, if you examine the notes in the reference Bible, the post-tribulation rapture view will not be found. Even still you get a sense of several denominations coming together to contribute to a work that would have a major impact on Fundamentalism.

THE CREATION DAYS OF GENESIS gift of prophecy

The Reference Bible and Notes

Following Scofield’s own pre-tribulation premillennial scheme, he divided history into seven dispensations and pointed out that there were eight covenants that conditioned man’s relationship with God. While the notes were non-sectarian in one sense and emphasized the universal church as the body of Christ, there were some certain strong points or viewpoints that were expressed and really reflected Scofield’s beliefs. It was generally Calvinistic, but in discussing the doctrine of election, the notes emphasized a divine election based on or condition by God‘s foreknowledge of man’s choices.

The Reading Culture of Early Christianity From Spoken Words to Sacred Texts 400,000 Textual Variants 02

Now, Scofield lacked and real formal theological training. However, his reference Bible received almost universal acclamation by the Evangelical world. One of the things that Scofield’s notes did was designate from the book of Revelation, the church at Laodicea, as being descriptive of and symbolic of the final state of apostasy at the end of the church age. Therefore, many Fundamentalists began to identify Laodicea with liberalism and thereby placing these pitted and embittered battles with liberalism into an almost apocalyptic context. Increasingly, I think many of the Fundamentalists viewed their struggle with liberalism as part of the final conflict between the forces of good and the forces of evil. Undoubtedly, many scholars and readers could find fault, or some error, particularly with their own beliefs or persuasions. Nonetheless, the Scofield Bible impressed Fundamentalists as a much-needed pioneer work, and that it was.

How to Interpret the Bible-1 INTERPRETING THE BIBLE how-to-study-your-bible1

A slightly revised edition appeared in 1917. And it, in fact, became the standard old Scofield Reference Bible. The New Scofield Reference Bible came out in 1967, with an admirable undertaking if revising the old notes. However, the newer edition never gained the acceptance that the old had attained. Manu Fundamentalist leaders preferred the old Scofield Reference Bible to the new, which was reflected in the low purchases by the churchgoers. The circulation of the Schofield Reference Bible was widespread and has to be undoubtedly considered in conjunction with the publication of the Fundamentals publication, bringing into sharp focus, the specific tenants and beliefs of Fundamentalism. Primary among those beliefs was the authority of Scripture. The four volumes of the Fundamentals and the Scofield Reference Bible served as a manual, or reference library from which leaders and believers could proclaim and defend their truth.

9781949586121 BIBLE DIFFICULTIES THE NEW TESTAMENT DOCUMENTS

Later Editions

The 1917 Scofield Reference Bible notes are now in the public domain, and the 1917 edition is “consistently the bestselling edition of the Scofield Bible” in the United Kingdom and Ireland.[11] In 1967, Oxford University Press published a revision of the Scofield Bible with a slightly modernized KJV text, and a muting of some of the tenets of Scofield’s theology.[12] Recent editions of the KJV Scofield Study Bible have moved the textual changes made in 1967 to the margin.[13] The Press continues to issue editions under the title Oxford Scofield Study Bible, and there are translations into French, German, Spanish, and Portuguese. For instance, the French edition published by the Geneva Bible Society is printed with a revised version of the Louis Segond translation that includes additional notes by a Francophone committee.[14]

In the 21st century, Oxford University Press published Scofield notes to accompany six additional English translations.[15]

By Edward D. Andrews and Wikipedia

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[1] The title page listed seven “consulting editors”: Henry G. Weston, James M. Gray, W.J. Erdman, A.T. Pierson, W. G. Moorehead, Elmore Harris, and A. C. Gaebelein. “Just what role these consulting editors played in the project has been the subject of some debate. Apparently Scofield only meant to acknowledge their assistance, though some have speculated that he hoped to gain support for his publication from both sides of the millenarian movement with this device.” Ernest Sandeen, The Roots of Fundamentalism: British and American Millenarianism, 1800-1930 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970), 224.

[2] M. Fackler, “Scofield, Cyrus Ingerson” In , in Who’s Who in Christian History, ed. J.D. Douglas and Philip W. Comfort (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1992), 616.

[3] M. Fackler, “Scofield, Cyrus Ingerson” In , in Who’s Who in Christian History, ed. J.D. Douglas and Philip W. Comfort (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1992), 616.

[4] Gordon Campbell, Bible: The Story of the King James Version, 1611-2011 (Oxford University Press, 2010), 26. The Scofield Bible was the predecessor of the “very successful marketing trend” of orienting Bible study tools to average laymen. Mangum & Sweetnam, 172.

[5] Ussher’s dates and the gap theory are “not completely congruous with one another,” Ussher’s dates implying a young earth, and the “gap” between the first two verses of Genesis—as well as Scofield’s allowance of the day-age theory—suggesting the possibility of an old earth. Mangum & Sweetnam, 97.

[6] Mangum & Sweetnam, 179.

[7] Gaebelein, 11.

[8] Magnum & Sweetnam, 188-195. “Historically speaking, The Scofield Reference Bible was to dispensationalism what Luther’s Ninety-five Theses was to Lutheranism, or what Calvin’s Institutes was to Calvinism.” (195).

[9] Mangum & Sweetnam, 218.

[10] Bruce Bawer, Stealing Jesus: How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1997).

[11]  Mangum & Sweetnam, 201. The text of King James Version remains under Crown Copyright.

[12] Mangum & Sweetnam, 201. “The continuing popularity of the 1917 notes may reflect the preference of the purchasers for the original and full-strength Scofield.” Mangum & Sweetnam suggest the popularity of the 1917 edition may also reflect a strong commitment to the KJV translation. Scofield was accused of promoting “two ways of salvation” with a dispensation of works before the death and resurrection of Christ and a dispensation of grace afterwards. In the revision of 1967, Scofield’s note on John 1:17 “was rewritten, and now seemed to say the opposite of Scofield’s original.” Gordon Campbell, Bible: The Story of the King James Version, 1611-2011 (Oxford University Press, 2010), 246-47.

[13] Editors (2003). The Scofield Study Bible III, KJV: How to use this study Bible. Oxford University Press.

[14] Mangum & Sweetnam, 202-03. Some of the notes have also appeared in Korean and Polynesian.

[15] Campbell, Bible, 248.

2 thoughts on “The Scofield Reference Bible

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  1. I love my Scofield. I have the KJV, NKJV,ESV, and NIV. The KJV is the personal size 1909/1917. This particular translation is very useful to me, as all of its pages (except the pages of Psalms), are page dated as to the activity that is on each pave.

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