The father of dispensationalism,
Darby, as well as his teachings,
probably would be unheard of today were it not for his devoted
follower, Scofield. The writer became increasingly aware of this fact
as he did research for this book. Darby's books are gathering dust on
the shelves of the comparatively few libraries stocking them.
Information concerning him is scarce indeed.
Darby was a prolific writer, and also spent much time lecturing
in different countries. Scofield came to know him and became enamored
by his teachings. These two men had at least two things in common-both
had practiced law, and both had untiring energy in advancing their
beliefs. Scofield wrote many books, founded what is now called the
Philadelphia College of the Bible, and, in 1909, published his Scofield
Reference Bible. All these efforts inculcated the Plymouth Brethren
teachings learned from Darby.
Cyrus Ingerson Scofield lived from August 19, 1843, until July
24, 1921. He was born in Michigan, but his family soon moved to
Tennessee. While serving as a private in the Confederate Army, during
the Civil War, he was decorated. Upon being discharged from the Army he
took up law. He also entered politics and was appointed U. S. Attorney
to Kansas by President Grant. During this period of his life he became
a heavy drinker.
Scofield was converted in 1879, and three years later was
ordained a Congregational minister. With no formal theological training
he wrote his reference Bible(2). Except for this work, it is
whether this man's name would be remembered any more than would
Darby's. Taking the King James Bible and adding his own Notes to it, he
assured himself a place in the memory of all who read that version of
the Bible. This was in violation of the policy of all well-known Bible
societies, whose rules have been: "Without Note or Comment." Certainly
Scofield was ignoring John the Revelator's warning about adding or
taking from his prophecy (Rev. 22:19), for he did not hesitate to pry
apart John's verses and intersperse his own ideas between the sentences
of John. This he did throughout the Bible, and, in the minds of many
unwary people, Scofield's ideas are equated with the Word of God itself.
Had Scofield put his Notes in separate books rather than
inserting them inside the Bible itself, there seems to be little doubt
that his books would have joined those of Darby's in gathering dust and
not being reprinted. The best evidence of this fact lies in the great
dearth of information about the man himself in our libraries today,
while his reference Bible is a household word. Only his being
associated with Paul and Peter, through his audacity in placing his
personal ideas on the same sacred pages as theirs, has kept his name
alive. And in the minds of some of Scofield's devoted followers, to
differ from him is tantamount to differing from Paul or Peter! The
following quotation bears mute testimony:
One young minister I know, pastor of a large church, has been
driven almost frantic by constant persecution day in and day out. He is
an able, orthodox preacher with a distinctly prophetic note in his
teaching. Because he does not preach dispensationalism, his
congregation will acknowledge no good in him. He has repeatedly been
driven to the point of resigning and taking another church, but feels
it his duty to save this church for the Christian faith (W. D.
Chamberlain, The Church Faces the Isms, pp. 106, 107).
The Scofield Bible has done good at points where it has dealt
with the cardinal doctrines of historic Christianity. Scofield was a
conservative Bible believer, and brought his Notes into existence at a
time when the Bible was being attacked on many sides by the so-called
higher critics and other liberal theologians. Scofield's defense of the
major doctrines of the Bible called forth a renewed interest in Bible
study at a time when such a challenge was sorely needed. Followers of
Scofield also manifest a respect for the authority of Scripture that is
sorely lacking in many Christian circles today.
It must be stated, however, that the Scofield Bible contains many
teachings which are at variance with historic teachings of the
Christian church. Many have questioned whether the good done by this
man is not overshadowed by these new and dangerous theories.
An advanced Bible student might read the Scofield.Reference Bible
critically and get some good points from it, and at the same time avoid
its erroneous doctrines. However, in the hands of a novice or young
convert, this can be a dangerous book. Not least among these dangers is
the superior attitude it implants in the minds of its readers. No
doctrine of the Bible presents the least problem to these Bible
"experts." Nor do they need any further study-all they need is
contained in the footnotes of the Scofield Reference Bible.
... These good people do not lack faith and zeal, but they sadly
lack knowledge; and the tragedy of the situation lies just here, that
this is the very thing they think they have obtained from the Scofield
Bible! They are apt to say in their hearts, and not infrequently with
their lips: "I have more understanding than all my teachers-because I
have a Scofield Bible" (Albertus Pieters, A Candid Examination of the
Scofield Bible, p. 5).
From a position of entire ignorance of the Scriptures to a
position of oracular religious certainty-especially respecting
eschatological matters-for some people requires from three to six
months with a Scofield Bible (T. T. Shields, The Gospel Witness for
April 7, 1932).
I readily recognize that the Scofield Bible is very popular with
novices, that is, those newly come to the faith, and also with many of
longer Christian experience who are but superficial students of
Scripture. Ready-made clothes are everywhere popular with people of
average size ... On the same principle, ready-made religious ideas will
always be popular, especially with those indisposed to the exertion of
fitting their religious conceptions to an ever-increasing scriptural
knowledge. That common human disposition very largely explains the
popularity of the Scofield Bible (ibid.).
In the field of Systematic Theology he is good, for there he
utilizes the fruits of the standard Protestant and Calvinistic
thinking; but in general Bible knowledge he makes many mistakes, and in
his eschatology he goes far astray from anything the church has ever
believed. Undoubtedly this oracular and authoritative manner has been
effective, but it is not to be excused for that reason. It seems like a
harsh judgment, but in the interest of truth it must be uttered: Dr.
Scofield in this was acting the part of an intellectual charlatan, a
fraud who pretends to knowledge which he does not possess; like a quack
doctor, who is ready with a confident diagnosis in many cases where a
competent physician is unable to decide (Pieters, op. cit.).
Scofield's worst critics are men who have come out of his camp,
and who remain true to the Bible as the infallible Word of God. A list
of these men would include such outstanding men as (Philip) Mauro,
(A.J.) Gordon, G.
Campbell Morgan, and Harry Rimmer. Paul B. Fischer, himself a graduate
of Wheaton, wrote a pamphlet entitled Ultra Dispensationalism is
Modernism. Fischer attacks dispensationalism as being a twin to
liberalism on two points: (1) the deity of Christ, and (2) the disunity
of the Bible.
In 1954 a committee of nine men headed by E. Schuyler English was
formed to revise the Scofield Bible. They hope to finish their work by
A great need exists for the followers of C. I. Scofield to
consider objectively the fact that so many earnest, conservative
students of the Bible have left his school of theological thought.
These sincere Christians need to become concerned over the divisions
caused among conservative men of God by the footnotes and other
personal insertions Dr. Scofield added to the King James Version of the
Holy Bible. It would be well for these folk to realize that any sincere
man, including Scofield, can be sincerely wrong.
It is well to keep in mind, too, that we conservatives are not
divided over the Bible; we are divided, rather, over the personal
explanations which a man took the liberty of inserting alongside the
inspired writings of the Bible. The gist of the entire controversy at
this point, it seems to me, lies in the fact that many of Scofield's
most devoted disciples equate his Notes with the inspired words of the
writers of the New Testament. The difficulty arises when they attempt
to force this equation upon the minds and hearts of others.
We will continue to have tensions until this man is recognized as
an extracanonical writer and his ideas are brought into the theological
arena, where his good points may be accepted gratefully while his
mistaken ideas may be discarded without fear of reprisal.
Having once been a devoted disciple of Scofield, this writer
knows the difficulty of becoming objective after years of being
subjective to, and captivated by, his great legal mind.
Scofield was, no doubt, an outstanding man. He was, however, only
a man; and neither he nor his footnotes were infallible.
(1) Cox, William E., An
Examination of Dispensationalism (booklet published Phillipsburg,
and Reformed Publishing Company, 1963). [Source:
Grace Online Library]
(2) William E. Cox wrote this concerning
Dispensationalism before the revision of the Scofield Reference Bible
was made. Many changes and corrections were made in the New Scofield
Reference Bible, but the core dispensational and pretribulational
teachings are still there.
* For more about the Scofield Bible see
Scofield Bible And Dispensationalism. Also see my article Study Bibles--Not