Caveat Lector!
(let the reader beware!)

By Theologue

I am sometimes amazed at how errors in Biblical teachings occur and become widely distributed and accepted because they come from otherwise reliable sources. The question of the origin of the pretrib rapture theory is one that has produced many erroneous teachings.One example occurs in the Holman Bible Dictionary, which is overall very good but the article on "Dispensation" is way off the mark. The author of the article obviously used some erroroneous sources and confused a lot of the facts.

I sent an email to Broadman - Holman Publishing company about the article which follows:

Dear Sir:

I found what I think is a glaring mistake in the Holman Bible Dictionary....see quote below and my comment:

Article “Dispensation”

Modern Technical Usage: The word “dispensation” became prominent in biblical studies in a recent eschatological movement which dates back to 1830 in Scotland. This movement called “dispensationalism” can be traced back to the visions of Margaret McDonald, a member of the Plymouth Brethren Church. She believed that the return of Christ would be in two distinct stages. The believer would be caught up to the Lord in the air before the days of the antichrist. Then there would be a final revelation of Christ at the end of the age.

—Holman Bible Dictionary


1. The theory being discussed did not originate in Scotland but in England(1).

2. All scholars agree that the 'father of dispensationalism' is John Nelson Darby(2), not Margaret McDonald.

3. Margaret was not a Plymouth Brethren, she was a member of the Irvingites church.

4. Some writers have attributed the first mention of the pretribulational rapture theory (which is a main tenent of dispensationalism) to a Margaret McDonald but the evidence is rather thin. Scholars like F.F. Bruce say that Darby claimed to have 'discovered' the pretrib teaching while studying the Bible and there is no solid evidence of the Plymouth Brethren adapting the theory from the Irvingites or anyone else.

5. The author of the article confused details and obviously did not do his homework.

I hope this is corrected in future versions.

To my suprise I got a response within a few hours:

Dear (Theologue):

I apologize for the inaccuracies in the article "Dispensation" that first appeared in Holman Bible Dictionary and now appears in WordSearch.

Those inaccuracies were corrected in the revised edition of Holman Bible Dictionary that is titled Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. I have sent
a note to ask when Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary will replace Holman Bible Dictionary in WordSearch3.

Thank you for caring enough to take the time to let us know about this problem.

Holman Bible Publishers

To their credit Holman recognized the mistake and promptly admitted it, and they corrected it in subsequent editions of the dictionary.

I don't know how many people reproduced the errors from the original dictionary in their teachings and writings but it is certain that some were mislead. This type of uninformed error happens quite frequently on the internet! Caveat Lector! (let the reader beware!)


(1) In the early 1800's

(2) Darby systematized what today is called 'dispensational theology'. He drew a distintion between Israel and the Church and taught that God has 2 peoples and 2 plans for the future. This failure to recognize the unity of God's plan for all people is the basis of Darby's theology and lead to his conclusion that Christ was coming again twice!

(3) The following day I received an email from Wordsearch. They gave me the info on the updated Nelsons Illustrated Bible Dictionary which I eventually  purchased. The response from Holman Publishers and Wordsearch was timely and helpful and I recommend them both!