Understanding The Bible
Cyrus Ingersoll Scofield and
The Scofield Reference Bible

Glenn R. Goss, Th. D.
Professor of Bible, Philadelphia Biblical University (retired)

Cyrus Ingersoll Scofield and The Scofield Reference Bible

"Reference Bibles," now generally called "Study Bibles" were rare in 1910. There are four published by that date that are still in print: The Newberry Reference Bible (1893), The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible (1908), The Scofield Reference Bible (1909), and The Companion Bible (1910). Both the Scofield and the Companion were published by Oxford University Press. Oxford University Press released The Scofield Reference Bible in January, 1909, it was revised by Scofield and his team of consultants as the New and Improved Edition in 1917, and again in 1967 by a team appointed by Oxford University Press.

Now, over 90 years later, the 1909 edition has been published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. as The King James Study Bible, Reference Edition, and also by World Publishers as The First Scofield Study Bible. The 1917 edition is still being printed by Oxford University Press, titled The Old Scofield Study Bible, and also by the Christian Heritage Publishing Company, titled as The Holy Bible, 1917 Scofield Reference Edition. Now, the 1967 edition, published by Oxford, are titled The New Scofield Study Bible Authorized King James Version (KJV), The New Scofield Study Bible, New International Version (1984), and New King James Version, The Scofield Study Bible (2002). The first million copies were printed by 1930, and the second million by the early 1940's. A recent article on the Scofield Bible noted that Oxford University Press has published tens of millions of copies of the Scofield.

The Scofield is now printed in at least seven languages other than English. These languages (Spanish, Russian, Swahili, Portuguese, French, German, and Hungarian, with Italian expected in 2002) in addition to English are the official languages of 50% of the population of the world, now about 6,065,000,000. However, the Scofield is now printed in the mother tongues of only about 17% of the world's population. Translation is needed for Chinese, Hindi-Urdu, Arabic, Bengali, and Japanese. Those languages, mostly in the "10-40 Window" would bring the Scofield's reach close to the 50% mark.

Cyrus Ingerson Scofield was born in Michigan in 1843. When the Civil war began, he was in Tennessee with his sister. While there, he enlisted in the Confederate army. Military records show he fought in the Confederate Army for over a year in 1861-1862, then was discharged by reason of not being a citizen of the Confederate States, but an alien friend. Scofield told his biographer Charles Trumbull that he served through the war, and that he was awarded the Confederate Cross of Honor. After the war, Scofield located in St. Louis, married, and had a family of two daughters and a son. His wife was from a French Catholic family, and she and her daughters remained in that church till their deaths. His son died as a young boy. He worked in the law firm of his brother-in-law, read and studied to be admitted to the bar. In 1869 he and his family moved to Kansas, where he was admitted to the bar to practice law. He was elected twice to the Kansas legislature, in 1871 and in 1872. President Grant appointed him as the United States District Attorney of Kansas June 9, 1873. He resigned December 20, 1873, amid charges of political corruption. That ended Scofield's political career. He probably moved his family back to St. Louis, for his son Guy died in December, 1874, and was buried in St. Louis. Also, an obituary of Mrs. Leontine Cere Scofield (copy from a newspaper but without name of paper or date) notes, "Returning to St. Louis, Mrs. Scofield came again to Atchison in 1879 and spent the remainder of her 88 years here." But by 1879 Scofield's life had deteriorated to the extent that he drank heavily and was involved in several questionable court cases. Mrs. Scofield filed for divorce in 1881, but that case was dismissed. A second filing of the case resulted in a divorce decree in 1883. These and other legal actions involving Scofield, and several notations in city directories, provide some of the only evidence about him during the time from 1873 to 1879.

A published account of Scofield's life in can be found in The Life Story of C. I. Scofield by Charles Gallaudet Trumbull, published by Oxford University Press in 1920 (a reprint of this very complimentary biography is now published by the Christian Book Gallery, St. John, IN.). An unpublished Master Thesis, "A Biographical Sketch of C. I. Scofield" was written by William A. BeVier at Southern Methodist University in 1960. This work includes more research, but is not complete, though it is positive concerning Scofield's work and ministry. Joseph M. Canfield wrote The Incredible Scofield and His Book, published by Ross House in 1988. This book is very critical of both Scofield's theology and personal life. Due to the lack of existing records, and the lack of information in records that do exist, both BeVier's and Canfield's works must make many assumptions as they write. Most of Trumbull's information came directly from Scofield himself. But even Trumbull passes over the period of 1873 to 1879 with nothing more than a reference to Scofield's habit of drinking. The best short article on Scofield, and the most accurate, is "Scofield, Cyrus Ingerson" by Dr. John Hannah in American National Biography, New York: Oxford University Press, 1999, Vol. 19, pp. 480-481. Though the life of Scofield is peppered with times when little or no information is available, one thing is clear. A change was needed in Scofield's life. All agree that Scofield experienced a "conversion." Canfield questions if it was real, but Scofield needed a change in his life. God had prepared a man to meet that need.

Enter Thomas McPheeters, a Christian businessman who knew and served the Lord. He bluntly asked Scofield one day in September, 1879, why he was not a Christian. The following discussion brought conviction, repentance, and a change of heart. Scofield was born again! He began to learn about, live for, and serve his new-found Lord. He lost his desire for alcohol completely. Also, he spent much time with Dr. James H. Brooks, a prominent pastor and Bible teacher in St. Louis. He served the YMCA, joined the Pilgrim Congregational Church, and was licensed to preach by the Congregational churches of St. Louis.

In 1882 Scofield was asked to move to Dallas, Texas, and take charge of a struggling Congregational mission church that had twelve members. After some time, he consented, and arrived in Dallas Saturday, August 19. He preached morning and evening the next day. That evening two of them accepted Scofield's invitation to believe in Christ as Savior. He began cottage prayer meetings, led the church to adopt a constitution and bylaws, and was called as the full time pastor and ordained in 1883. He married Miss Hettie Hall Wartz in 1884, and the church sent Miss Eva Swift, its first missionary, to India in 1885. The Scofields' only child, Noel Paul, was born December 22, 1888. In 1889 a new building was begun at Bryan and Harwood, to seat 600. A mission church later called Grand Avenue Congregational Church, was begun in South Dallas in 1890. Scofield led a group to start the Central American Mission (now CAM International) that same year. Church membership was noted as 355 in 1892, 550 in 1894, and 812 in 1896.

In 1896 Scofield accepted a call to pastor the Trinitarian Congregational Church in Northfield, Massachusetts, D. L. Moody's home church. He remained there until 1903 when he returned to Dallas hoping for more free time to work on the Reference Bible. In 1908, the church withdrew from the Lone Star Congregational Association, and in 1909, following his resignation as pastor, Scofield was appointed Pastor Emeritus. The church name was changed in 1923, two years after Scofield's death, when the congregation approved a change of name to Scofield Memorial Church.

The Reference Bible was not his first work. Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth was published in 1888. In 1890 came the Scofield Correspondence Course, which in 1914 was turned over to Moody Bible Institute. (As of 1998, over 100,000 students have been enrolled in that program.) Scofield had been thinking about a project like the Reference Bible, and the plans came to light in 1901 at a summer Bible conference in which Scofield and A. C. Gaebelein were ministering. Scofield told Gaebelein his plans, but noted that financial backing was the main drawback. The next year at the conference Gaebelein sought and gained sufficient support for Scofield to move ahead with his plan, and Scofield returned to his pastorate in Dallas with the desire to begin. The Reference Bible could not be too bulky, but it had to include the tools to Bible study along with a clear summary of the Bible so that it would meet the need of someone who was just beginning to read the Bible. He determined to find and state exactly what the Bible itself had to say and not to add philosophical or denominational distinctions. This would provide a wider acceptance and usage.

Scofield planned to trace key subjects and teachings through the Bible with chain references. Each Bible book was to have a simple, clear introduction. Adding paragraph headings was suggested by Dr. R. A. Torrey. From his experience in teaching the Bible in both oral and written form, he desired to include helps where readers might have questions, though constantly refusing to allow the notes to become commentary on the text.

Scofield and his wife went abroad several times to work on the notes for the Bible. In England he visited his friend Mr. Robert Scott of Morgan and Scott, publishers of religious books. When Scott learned of Scofield's project, he introduced Scofield to Henry Frowde, the head of Oxford University Press. Trumbull notes that Frowde was very interested and positive about publishing the Reference Bible. While in Europe, wide-margin notebooks were prepared, each large page having a page from the Bible pasted in the center. On these pages the Reference Bible took shape.

The Scofields' study trips took them to Oxford, England, where time was spent at Oxford University conferring with other scholars and continuing the work on the notes and references. They also spent time in Montreux, Switzerland, and in Michigan and New Hampshire continuing the work. By 1908 the Scofields were in New York City, proofreading the printer's proofs. Publication followed in early 1909. An original 1909 copy is very difficult to find today. However, there are at least three different printings of the 1909 that can be identified. In 1986 the Barbour Company reprinted the 1909 edition. As far as can be determined, it is a copy of the first printing. The two later printings of the 1909 contain corrections and other changes. Evangelical Word (Wheaton) also published in 1987 a translation of the 1909 notes in a Russian Bible. As of 1993, nearly half a million of these had been printed for distribution in Russia. The Spanish Scofield released by Spanish Publications used the 1909 edition also, and a bi-lingual edition with both the text and the notes in Spanish and English was published in 1996.

The "New and Improved Edition" was published in 1917. This edition, completely reset with a more readable type face included dates at the top of the center column, and comments in the book introductions as to the time of events, according to Ussher. A number of corrections and additions were made to the notes and references, and Arabic numbers were used in place of Roman numerals in the cross references. A New Testament with Psalms was released in 1920. This edition, and the Bibles published after 1920 carry the name of William A. Pettingill as the eighth consulting editor. Sale of the Scofield Reference Bible grew, and by 1930 it became the first book published by Oxford University Press to attain the one million mark in sales. Oxford renewed the copyright in 1937 and 1945, and then dropped the description, "New and Improved Edition," though it was brought back in later and current copies printed. About 1990 the name was changed to The Scofield Study Bible, and later in the 1990's to The Old Scofield Study Bible to distinguish it from The New Scofield Study Bible which was published in 1967. The 1917 edition of the Scofield Bible was published in Swahili and released in 1993 (NT) and 1994 (whole Bible). In 1994 Christian Heritage Publishing Co., Inc. reprinted the English 1917 edition for distribution.

Several editions of the1909 and the 1917 include other helps besides the Scofield annotations. Dr. Torrey's "How to Study the Bible" was printed is some Scofield Reference Bibles. Also, a cyclopedic concordance of 300 pages was included in some Scofield Reference Bibles. A loose leaf edition was released, as was a centenary edition in 1937 on the anniversary of the birth of D. L. Moody. Wide margin Bibles and volumes of different size and binding were released as well.

After nearly forty years, the "New and Improved Edition" was ready for revision. In 1954 Oxford University Press chose E. Schuyler English, who had already edited The Pilgrim Bible, a student Bible based on The Scofield Reference Bible, to serve as chair of a revision committee. The committee included William Culbertson, Charles Feinberg, Frank E. Gaebelein, Allan MacRae, Clarence E. Mason, Jr., Alva J. McClain, Wilbur M. Smith, and John F. Walvoord. The revision, called The New Scofield Reference Bible, was published in 1967. The King James Version (Authorized Text) was used for the text, though word changes were included in the text that would help the reader. Archaic words, words whose meaning had changed, and some pronouns were replaced. Introductions to the books were brought up to date, and over 700 new footnotes and over 15,000 more cross references were added. The new and the revised footnotes held to Scofield's original system of doctrine and the plan was continued that these notes should not be commentary on the text, but helps where readers had questions. About 1990 the name was changed to The New Scofield Study Bible.

The most recent edition (1998) of The New Scofield Study Bible (KJV) has deleted the word changes found in The New Scofield Reference Bible of 1967. Instead, the original ("Genuine") King James words are inserted in the text, with the 1967 changes placed in the margin. The spine of the hardback edition notes clearly, "Genuine KJV." Also, cross references in the Old Testament have been greatly increased. In-text maps, new format of the text, a new set of full-color maps, an index of proper names, and easier reading type face have also been added. Copies with these features are called "Readers Edition." The 1998 NIV edition also enjoys the new format and the other added features.

As contemporary versions of the English Bible gained popularity, the Scofield material was adapted to three of these versions. First came The Oxford NIV Scofield Study Bible (later called The New Scofield Study Bible NIV, now The NIV Scofield Study Bible) in 1984. Three faculty from Philadelphia Biblical University (a school founded by W.W. Rugh and C. I. Scofield) were consultants in the process of adaptation: Clarence E. Mason, Jr. (a member of the Editorial Revision Committee for the 1967 edition), W. Sherrill Babb, President, and Paul S. Karleen, Chair of the Division of General Education.

The second adaptation was The New Scofield Study Bible NAS in 1988. Paul S. Karleen and Glenn R. Goss, Professor of Bible at Philadelphia College of Bible, served as consultants. This adaption was published by Word Publishers. The third adaptation was The New Scofield Study Bible NKJV, published by Nelson in 1989, with 125,000 copies. Arthur L. Farstad, Executive Editor of the New King James Version, was the consultant. These two editions are now out of print. Oxford Press released the New King James Version Scofield Study Bible in a new format in 2002. The NASB edition is out of print.

The New Scofield Study Bible has been published in several languages. A French edition was released in 1975 (40,000 were printed), the Portuguese edition in 1986, and an edition of the annotations only in Hungarian in 1993. Two German editions have been published. The first was with the Martin Luther text, and the second with the Elberfelder text (over 65,000 were printed). A new French edition and Spanish edition have been released, and an Italian edition and a new Portuguese edition are in preparation. Spanish Publications Inc. has prepared a number of these editions. The late Mrs. Erma Walker (President of Spanish Publications, Inc) and her late husband, William, missionaries with CAM International, began a number of years ago by translating the Scofield materials for the Spanish Bible. The organization now has requests for the Scofield Bible in over a dozen more languages.

After The New Scofield Reference Bible was published in 1967, Oxford released A Companion to The New Scofield Reference Bible by E. Schuyler English in 1972. Later, Paul S. Karleen authored The Handbook to Bible Study with a Guide to the Scofield Study System, published by Oxford in 1987. This latter volume is a complete and very helpful guide to the Scofield Bible, and assists the reader to understand the approach of the Scofield system and the doctrine of the Scofield Bible.

In 1967, E. Schulyer English wrote that the sales of the Scofield Bible had topped three million copies. Now, a recent article on the Scofield Bible puts the number in the tens of millions with all language editions. That testimony itself demonstrates the appeal, approval, and usefulness of the Scofield Bible. Though Study Bibles have been published at an astounding rate (between five and fifteen new titles a year in the last decade), the new and the old Scofield Bibles show a consistency in demand. And many have not just one, but several Scofield Bibles, for as one wears out, another is purchased to take its place. And why is the Scofield loved? Because no other Bible provides the clarity and consistency of comments that help the reader to understand God's revelation to humans in the broadest sense, and how that revelation relates to every day Christian life.

But not all love Scofield. Some call his teaching heresy, socialist, Zionist, or that which has been the leading cause for the fall of American civilization because it presents, from their point of view, an antinomian view that rejects the moral law of God (as given in the Old Testament) as the standard for living today. Also, some claim that it believes the church is weak, ineffective, and failing because its hope and energy is in waiting for the coming of Christ for His own, rather than in an active, victorious church.

Some look at Scofield's early life, and note that such a person can produce only that which is evil and heretical. But is such a view valid? No, for Scofield was born again after Thomas McPheeters confronted him with the claims of Christ, and he began to grow in Christ. All branches of Christianity can identify persons who, having been regenerated, turned and followed Christ into significant service for the Lord. Also, the ministry of dispensationalists shows a great concern for the world's peoples and a growing ministry to them. Scofield's own CAM International has built, strengthened, and provided leaders for the church in Latin America. This is one example among many of certainly believing in, supporting, and building the church in this age (see Mt. 16:18). Further, the charge that dispensationalists are "antinomian" (that is, against the moral law of God), is in error. In response to this charge by Dr. John H. Gerstner in his book, Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth, John Witmer in his review responds: "Concerning this charge Gerstner concedes, 'We notice, with relief, that many dispensationalists are better Christians than their theology allows' (p. 250). This concession helps explain how a theology supposedly so heretical could produce such exemplary Christians as Brookes, Scofield, Gaebelein, Chafer, Pettingill, Trumbull, Ironside, DeHaan, and a host of others including many dispensational leaders living today. In fact the daily Christian living of most dispensationalists is indistinguishable from that of most followers of covenant theology. This clearly raises the question as to whether dispensational theology is as antinomian as Gerstner claims, since he would certainly agree with Jesus' observation that 'the tree is known by its fruit' (Matt 12:33; cf. 7:15, 20)" (John A Witmer, "A Review of Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth," Bibliotheca Sacra, 149:594 p. 140, April, 1992).

Is there praise for the Scofield Reference Bible from those who oppose its theology? Yes! "The strength of the fundamentalist movement has always been its remarkable ability to popularize. The Scofield Reference Bible, whatever one may think of its theology, was a masterpiece of theological merchandising. People with high school education or even less were able, after, say, six months of careful study, to discuss fairly difficult theological topics. There are dangers, of course, in creating instant theologians: dangers of pride, of overstating one's own knowledge, of underestimating the complications of the issues. But the Scofield editors got many of us started on the business of serious Bible study. In that respect I admire and envy the fundamentalist tradition; I devoutly wish there were a Reformed Reference Bible" (John M. Frame, "Review of Handmaid to Theology", Westminster Theological journal, 45:2, p. 443, Fall, 1983).

Scofield's writing did not end with the Reference Bible. At least 14 books, and a number of pamphlets and articles came from his pen. Oxford University Press tapped him to serve as editor-in-chief of its tercentenary edition of the King James Bible, published in 1911, three hundred years after the original King James Bible was presented to the public.

In addition to his writing ministry, his speaking ministry grew with invitations from many parts of the country. His administrative work increased also. He served as acting superintendent of the American Home Mission Society for Texas and Louisiana, and later assumed responsibility for Colorado and surrounding areas. He also served as president of the board of Trustees of Lake Charles College in Louisiana and head of the Southwestern School of the Bible in Dallas.

Outreach ministries were always close to Scofield's heart. His outreach through cottage prayer meetings began shortly after he arrived in Dallas. When he left Dallas in 1896 for the pastorate in Northfield, he reviewed the outreach ministries begun since he arrived in 1882. Mission and branch works started were the Grand Avenue Mission (later Grand Avenue Congregational Church), Cotton Hill Mission (later, Pilgrim Chapel), Bethel Mission (later Union Deposit Mission), and the "North Dallas Work." He also noted that it was his desire that a Bible School be started in Dallas. CAM International also sprang out of the heart of Scofield during that time.

Indeed, many have been saved through reading the Bible and the Scofield notes. And many have been called to serve Him through reading that Bible. The Scofield Bible stands as a source of help and blessing to untold millions who have read and profited from it. And that was the goal of Scofield himself, "The completed work is now dedicated to the service amongst men of that Loving and Holy God, whose marvelous grace in Christ it seeks to exalt," (Introduction, 1909 edition).

Glenn R. Goss, Th. D.
Professor of Bible, Philadelphia Biblical University

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