Monday, September 14, 2009

Scofield Bible, First 100 Years

C. I. Schofield; c. AD 1920

When I was a teenager our church had a testimony meeting right after Christmas. I stood and gave thanks that I had received a brand new Scofield Bible for Christmas. Another stood and said the same. Then a third said they had received a Scofield Bible.

My dad used to say that Jesus would one day return to this earth riding a white horse with a sword in one hand, and a Scofield Bible in the other hand.

The Scofield Reference Bible or Study Bible is 100 years old. It’s been a remarkable century. The Scofield Bible was virtually as common as the King James Version itself in many churches. For anyone serious about Bible study, the first purchase was this standard Study Bible published by Oxford University Press. It has sold millions of copies. Arno C. Gaebelein even wrote a book on The History of the Scofield Reference Bible (1943, 1991).

Cyrus Ingerson Scofield (1843-1921), better known as C. I. Scofield was a Civil War veteran, lawyer, politician, and an alcoholic, who was gloriously saved by the grace of God. Led to the Lord through the witness of a YMCA worker. He became a Congregational, then a Presbyterian preacher. He was good friends with D. L. Moody, Hudson Taylor, James Brooks, J. M. Gray, Lewis Sperry Chafer. D. L. Moody asked Scofield to continue his ministry at Northfield. Dr. Chafer gave Scofield significant credit in the founding of Dallas Theological Seminary.

C. I. Scofield was a leader in the emerging Bible Conference movement and was a popular speaker. These Bible Conferences, as well as the Scofield Bible, were designed for the common man rather than an exclusive scholarly audience; one of the reasons for their wide success. Scofield also wrote extensively for the Sunday School Times.

A Study Bible contains not only the text of the Bible, but study notes, concordance, cross references, introduction to each book in the Bible, maps, explanations, and short articles on major subjects in the Bible. There are many other Bible study tools, but a Study Bible is a great place to begin.

Some object to a Study Bible saying there is a danger that the reader may assume the study notes are inspired Scripture. But I think most folks easily understand that it is only the Scripture itself that is divinely, unerringly inspired. So when you get a Scofield Bible, study it, but feel free to debate the notations. We’re all going to disagree with it at some points, but it is a great resource.

The original Scofield Bible (1909, 1917) was revised in 1967, and there is a centennial edition. Each edition is still available. The Scofield Bible is available in several translations, including my favorite, the New King James Version (NKJV).

There are several reasons for the wide influence of the Scofield Bible:

First, it was a pioneer in providing study notes with the text of the Bible and was virtually the only such Study Bible for years.

Second, it presented study notes in an easy to understand form. Preachers and laymen could use it whether or not they had a formal education.

Third, it was influential in its conservative theology. In a century in which historic Christianity was under assault by theological liberalism, the Scofield Bible stood as a lighthouse for the basic doctrines of our faith. Doctrines like the Divine Inspiration and Inerrancy of Scripture, the Virgin Birth of Jesus, Jesus’ Death for our sins and His literal bodily Resurrection , Jesus is God, the Return of Christ, Salvation by grace through faith, Resurrection and Judgment, Heaven and Hell.

Fourth, it was very influential in explaining the Premillennial Return of Christ. Premillennialism has been around for 2,000 years, but it rose to prominence in the 1900s due in part to the acceptance of the Scofield Bible.

With its conservative, Premillennial theology, some ministerial students enjoyed flaunting the Scofield Bible in front of their more liberal or Amillennial professors. Especially annoying to those professors was any student who dared use the Scofield Bible as a reference on a research paper. A favorite class comment, “But Dr. Cobb, that’s not what the Scofield Bible says.” And then there was that great old hymn, "My hope is built on nothing less, than Scofield's notes and Moody Press" :-).

So to the Scofield Bible I wish a Happy 100th Birthday! I still use it and pray it may have many more years of helping students better understand God’s infallible Word.


Contributors to the original Scofield Bible (1909, 1917): C. I. Scofield, Henry G. Weston, James M. Gray, William J. Eerdman, A. T. Pierson, W. G. Moorehead, Elmore Harris, Arno C. Gaebelein, William L. Pettingill.

Contributors to the New Scofield Study Bible (1967): E. Schuyler English, Frank E. Gaebelein, William Culbertson, Charles L. Feinberg, Allan A. MacRae, Clarence E. Mason, Jr., Alva J. McClain, Wilber M. Smith, John F. Walvoord.

-by David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, September 14, AD 2009.

See related articles under Gulf Coast Pastor Articles (Labels) in lower right hand margin (Bible Study and Study Bibles).
Purchase at the NKJV Scofield Study Bible III

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