By Glenn R. Goss, Th. D.
Professor of Bible Philadelphia College of Bible
The year 1909 (almost 110 years ago!) was quite a year. Louis Bleroit of France
piloted a small monoplane across the English Channel; homesteaders began to
arrive in Montana; the NAACP was founded; Al Capp, creator of Li'l Abner, was
born; Einstein became a leading scientific thinker in Europe; Grand Prairie,
Texas, was incorporated; the first Siberian huskies were introduced to Alaska;
George Sargent won the U. S. Open in Golf; Pittsburgh beat Detroit 4-3 to take
the World Series; and, of great importance but little noted, Oxford University
Press published The Scofield Reference Bible. It was released to the public in
January, 1909, and revised by Scofield and his team of consultants as the New
and Improved Edition in 1917. Now, almost 90 years later, the 1917 edition is
still being printed by Oxford University Press, and the 1967 edition, the
Scofield Study Bible (the title today) is offered in four versions: the King
James, the New International Version, the New American Standard Bible, and the
New King James Version. The first million copies were printed by 1930. Since
then the number published has escalated, and so has the diversity in versions
and languages. The Scofield is now printed in at least seven languages other
But who is C. I. Scofield? Many know there is a Scofield Memorial Church in
Dallas. What is the connection between the church and Scofield himself? How did
the Scofield Reference Bible come to be? And why is the Scofield Study Bible so
loved by some and so disliked by others?
Cyrus Ingerson Scofield was born in Michigan in 1843. When the Civil war began,
he was in Tennessee with his sisters. 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 joined a law firm, 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 affirmed, in the
oath of office, that he had never voluntarily born arms against the United
States . . . He evidently had no problem with that claim, even though he had fought
in the Confederate Army. He resigned December 20, 1873, amid charges and
counter-charges of political corruption. That ended Scofield's political
Scofield probably moved his family back to St. Louis, for his son Guy died in
December, 1874, and was buried in St. Louis. But by 1879 his life had
deteriorated to the extent that he drank heavily and was involved in several
questionable court cases. For most of this time, his wife and daughters were
back to Atchison, Kansas. 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. An unpublished Master Thesis, "A Biographical Sketch of C. I.
Scofield" was written by William A. BeVier at Southern Methodist
University in 1960. Both of these are complimentary of Scofield. Joseph M.
Canfield wrote and published, The Incredible Scofield in 1988. This book is
very critical of 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 and Canfield make much use of terms such as "it seems,"
"probably," and "evidently." Trumbull, on the other hand,
writes factually, since much of his 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. Though not much is
certain about this period, one thing is clear. A change was needed in
Scofield's life. Both Canfield and BeVier agree with Trumbull that a conversion
did take place. Canfield questions if it was real, at least at first, and he
does not agree on the time. But all recognized that Scofield needed a change in
his life. And, 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 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 there. After some time, he consented,
and arrived in Dallas Saturday, August 19. He preached the next day to eleven
people who came. 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 Smith, its first missionary, to India in 1885. The only child of
this union, 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
started 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. W. 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. He spent nearly a year in Switzerland in research, but
was back in Dallas in 1905. Scofield acted as an absent pastor, and continued
his research with another trip to Europe. 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
later was turned over to Moody Bible Institute in 1914. As of 1998, over
100,000 students have been enrolled in that program.
The Reference Bible 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 the work, and Scofield returned to his pastorate in
Dallas with the desire to begin the work. 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 theological
definitions. This would provide a wider acceptance and usage.
Scofield traced key subjects and teachings through the Bible with chain
references. Each Bible book was to have a simple, clear introduction. Paragraph
headings were introduced, at the suggestion of 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 in 1904 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.
Preliminary acceptance was soon granted, and the matter of a publisher was
settled before the Scofields arrived in Montreaux, Switzerland where they
planned to work. Large 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. This trip lasted about eleven months, and resulted in the preparation
of the introductions and the book analyses.
The Scofields went to Oxford, England, after a short visit to the church in
Dallas. The time was spent at Oxford University conferring with other scholars
and continuing the work on the notes and references. The Scofields came to
America again, and went to Michigan to continue the work. Another stay in
Montreaux, Switzerland in 1907 brought the work to completion. It was now ready
for final review and printing. During the summer of 1908 the Scofields were in
New York City, proofreading the printer's proofs. Publication followed in early
A copy of the 1909 edition is very difficult to find today. Some copies exist,
but Oxford no longer has records of how many were originally printed. In recent
years the Barbour Company reprinted the 1909 edition, though with some changes
and corrections in the notes. It is not, therefore, a true copy of the
original. Evangelical Word (Wheaton) also published in 1987 a translation of
the 1909 notes in a Russian Bible. Over 400,000 of these have been printed for
distribution in Russia.
The New and Improved Edition was published in 1917. This edition 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. 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. About
1990 the name was changed to The Scofield Study Bible, and it continues in
print today. In their latest Bible catalog, it is called The Old Scofield Study
Bible to distinguish it from The New Scofield Study Bible which was published
in 1967. The New Testament alone was printed and released in 1920. A number of
printings of this edition were released. The 1917 edition of the Scofield Bible
was published in Spanish in 1987, a Swahili edition was released in 1993 (NT)
and 1994 (whole Bible), and a bi-lingual edition with both the text and the
notes in Spanish and English in 1996.
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 (KJV) was used for the text, though it included such
word changes in the text as will 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 plan that these notes should not be commentary on the text, but helps
where readers had questions. The name has now been changed to The New Scofield
As contemporary versions of the English Bible gained popularity, the Scofield
material was adapted to these versions. First came The Oxford NIV Scofield
Study Bible (now called The New Scofield Study Bible NIV) in 1984. Three
faculty from Philadelphia College of Bible 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 next 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. The fourth adaptation was The New Scofield Study Bible
NKJV in 1989. Arthur L. Farstad , Executive Editor of the New King James
Version, was the consultant. 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 (over 65,000
printed), a new French edition has been released, an Italian edition is in
preparation, and a new Spanish edition is in preparation also. Spanish
Publications Inc. has prepared a number of these editions. Mrs. Erma Walker
(President of Spanish Publications, Inc) and her late husband, William,
missionaries with CAM International, began by translating the Scofield
materials for the Spanish Bible. They directed the work on the publications in
Spanish, Portuguese, French, Russian, and Swahili, and the organization now has
requests for the Scofield Bible in over a dozen more languages. One of the requests
is for the Scofield in Arabic.
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.
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
In 1967, E. Schulyer English wrote that the sales of the Scofield Bible had
topped three million copies. Now, the number hovers near the five million mark
with all language editions. That testimony itself demonstrates the appeal,
approval, and usefulness of the Scofield Bible. Though Study Bibles are being
published now 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 Scofields, 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, communist,
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 the hope is in the coming of Christ for
His own, rather than in a victorious church. Some look at Scofield as a
drunkard, liar, adulterer, and perjurer, and note that such a one can produce
only that which is evil and heretical. Are these criticisms 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," or
against the moral law of God, is in error. In response to the same 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). 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, heard, 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,
A Note from the editor: I am one of those who have had four Scofield Bibles.
Forty five years ago, I had heard of the Bible but could not find one. Then I
saw one advertised in a Montgomery Ward catalog for $3.18 (a small hard-back).
When I went to Bible college my home Bible class bought me the second one. When
I was teaching at Dallas Bible College and pastoring a church part-time, I
bought my third one. After many years, I had it rebound. Finally, in 1992 I
bought my fourth one (it is a NKJV) and use it today. I will always appreciate
what they have meant to my life and ministry.-- Dr. Ray E. Baughman