The Origins of the Scofield Reference Bible
by David Dunlap
The Scofield Reference Bible has proven to be
an immeasurable aid in guiding generations of serious Christians into a greater
understanding of God's word. Within 30 years of its issurance Oxford University
Press reported that 1,925,000 copies had been published; and in our own day,
the Scofield Bible remains one of the most popular reference study bibles
available. Who was C. I. Scofield? How did this Reference Bible originate?
Cyrus Ingerson Scofield was born August 19, 1843. During the Civil War he
served with distinction as a Confederate soldier, earning the Confederate Cross
of Honor. After the war he studied law in St. Louis, Missouri, and was later
admitted to the Kansas bar. In 1873 he was appointed to the United States
Attorney for Kansas by President Grant. He was converted in 1879 through the
efforts of a Y.M.C.A. worker named Thomas McPheeters. Not long after his
conversion, he made the aquaintance of James H. Brooks. Brookes helped him in
his study of the Bible and introduced him to dispensational teaching.
Early Ministry in Dallas, Texas
While serving at the First Congregational
Church (Independant) in Dallas, Texas, Scofield deepened his understanding of
the Scriptures. This congregation numbered only 14 members when he came to
teach the Word of God in 1882. When he left, after 13 years of faithful
ministry, this church numbered 814 members. On the last Sunday of ministry at
this church the members presented him with a letter of commendation which
reflected the depth of his Christian character. This letter contained the
following, "We commend him to you as one who delights to hide behind the
uplifted cross of Jesus; one who will preach a full and free salvation through
the shed blood of God's Lamb; one who will lead you into the deep things of the
Word of God, and one who preaches the whole truth of God." During this time C.
I. Scofield became a popular speaker and in demand at Bible conferences
throughout the country. In 1903 he began to work on the Reference Bible. The
idea of a reference Bible had been growing in his mind for some time; he was
already busy writing a Bible study course. In 1902, he had receieved
encouragement in this work from Arno C. Gaebelein, and later from three men who
organised the Sea Cliff Bible Conference in Sea Cliff, NY - Alwyn Ball, Jr.,
John Pirie and Francis Fitch. All three of these men fellowshipped at so-called
"Brethren assemblies" in the New York City area. Francis Fitch had a printing
establishment that printed the New York Stock Exchange lists, and he acted as
publisher of the Scofield Bible Course in its first years. John Pirie was a
partner in Chicago's large department store, "Carson, Pirie and Scott". Alwyn
Ball, Jr., a successful real estate broker, was a partner in the New York firm
"Southhack and Ball".
The Beginning of the Reference Bible
From 1901 to 1906, Bible Conferences were
held on Pirie Green, also called "Reservoir Park" because the water tower was
located there. John Pirie, who owned the water company, erected a tent for the
conferences, which seated 600 people. Later the conference grew to attract
5,000. Some early speakers were Richard Hill, John Hill, Arno Gaebelein, C. I.
Scofield and William Issac, in whose home the Sea Cliff assembly began. At one
of these conferences, C. I. Scofield, while walking along the Sea Clif
shoreline with Arno Gaebelein, discussed this desire to produce a reference
Bible that would help readers understand the Bible more clearly. To give him
time and the facilities for this work, John Pirie and Alwyn Ball financially
supported him. Much of the study and final drafts were completed in the home of
John Pirie, "Greyshingles", in Long Island, NY. This Bible edition, named the
Scofield Reference Bible, was published by the Oxford University Press in 1909,
followed by revised editions in 1917 and 1967. This monumental work received
The Scofield Reference Bible reflected the
dispensational distinctives, prophetic highlights, and New Testament church
truth of those known as "Plymouth Brethren". In the first edition in a note
explaining the nature of the local church, we read, "A local church is an
assembly of professed believers on the Lord Jesus Christ, living for the most
part in one locality, who assemble themselves together in His name for the
breaking of bread, worship, prayer, testimony, the ministry of the word,
discipline, and the furtherance of the gospel. Such a church exists where two
or three are thus gathered. Every such local church has Christ in the midst, is
a temple of God, and is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. When perfected in
organisation a local church consists of saints, with elders and deacons."
(annotation for Philippians 1:1) This appreciation for the "Brethren" was the
result of an intimate acquantance with their writings and an abiding friendship
with many of their leading Bible teachers. Mr Scofield greatly valued the
writings of the early Brethren, and often shared the conference platform with
Assembly Bible teachers such as Walter Scott, F. C. Jennings, and W. W.
Fereday. He fellowshipped between the years 1902-1909 in an assembly in Oxford,
England while researching material for the reference Bible.
One of Scofield's most valued editors, Arno
C. Gaebelein, once wrote concerning his appreciation of "Brethren" writers, "I
found in Darby's writings, in the works of William Kelly, C. H. Mackintosh, F.
W. Grant, Bellet and others, soul food I needed. I esteem these men next to the
apostles in their sound and spiritual teaching." Mr Scofield appreciated the
editorial help he receieved from those in assembly fellowship in the United
States and Great Britian.
The Formation of the Reference Bible
The trusted Bible teacher and author, Mr.
Walter Scott, reviewed many of the notes in the first edition. In the preface
of that edition Scofield writes, "The Editor's acknowledgements are also due to
a very wide circle of leaned and spiritual brethren in Europe and America to
whose labours he is indebted for suggestions of inestimable value. ...Mr.
Walter Scott, the eminent Bible teacher..." After the issuing of the first
edition, Mr. William Isaac, aleading elder and outstanding Bible teacher in the
Sea Cliff assembly , expressed concern as to the accuracy of seventeen of Mr.
Scofield's annotations. He graciously submitted them to Mr. Scofield in
writing. The second edition of 1917 included the accepted corrections of Mr.
When seeking help in the proofreading work of
the Reference Bible, Mr Scofield enlisted the services of one of the best, Miss
Emily Farmer. In 1907 Miss Farmer moved from Colchester, England to the United
States and soon distinguished herself as an accurate and able proofreader with
the Loizeaux Brothers Publishers in New York, where she remained until 1947. In
1908 she took a short leave from their employ to dedicate time to the Reference
Bible. Miss Farmer was used to give editorial assistance in preparing the notes
in their final form. Miss Farmer was also greatly used in editing the
commentaries of Mr. H. A. Ironside and in the foreword of Mr. H. A. Ironside's
commentary on Isaiah we read these words of praise, "...the excellence of the
Scofield Bible today is attributable in no small measure to Miss Farmer's keen
disernment of sound doctrine."
The Oxford University Press and the Reference Bible
Mr. Scofield visited England twice and spent
two years in Switzerland while researching material and seeking technical
advice concerning the publication of the study Bible. One man who would prove
to be invaluable in the latter regard was Mr. Henry Frowde of London. Mr.
Frowde fellowshiped all his adult life with those known as the "brethren" and
had distinguished himself as an authority in he printing and binding of Bibles.
In 1880 he was appointed Publisher to the Oxford University Press and the
Clarendon Press. He achieved at the Oxford University Press what was once
considered impossible - the distribution of 1,000,000 New Testaments in one
12-hour period. While in England, with the encouragement of Alwyn Ball of NY,
Mr. Scofield was introduced to Mr. Frowde. After meeting with Mr. Frowde,
Scofield was advised, "there is only one publishing house which can handle your
Refernce Bible, and that is the Oxford University Press, and in January of 1909
the first Reference Bible rolled off the presses.
Since that time, the Scofield Reference Bible
has been published in French, Spanish, Swahili and in ninety other languages.
This study help has ably equipped thousands of Christian workers, evangelists,
and Sunday School teachers to better understand the word of God and, thereby,
serve the Lord more effectively. In his commentary on the Sermon on the Mount,
the Reformed preacher and author Montgomery Boice writes, "I am delighted to
say that the Scofield Bible was a great influence upon my own studies of the
Scriptures. Moreover, I have the deepest respect for these Bible teachers. They
were steeped in the Bible - far more than most Bible teachers today." Only
eternity will tell the vast usefullness of this study tool, which has
introduced countless numbers into a knowledge of dispensational truth, the
prophetic word, and New Testament assembly distinctives.
Arno C. Gaeblein,
The History of the Scofield Reference Bible,
Living Words Foundation, WA, 1991
Sea Cliff Gospel Chapel
1889-1989, A Century of Proclaiming God's Word,
Sea Cliff, NY, 1989
Charles Gallaudet Trumbell,
The Life of C. I. Scofield,
Oxford University Press: London, 1920
Larry V. Crutchfield,
The Origins of Dispensationalism,
Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1992
"I am delighted to say that the Scofield Bible was a great influence upon my
own studies of the Scriptures.
Moreover, I have the deepest respect for these Bible teachers. They were
steeped in the Bible - far more than most Bible teachers today."
Dr. James M. Boice
"The Scofield Reference Bible is perhaps the most influential single
publication in millenarian and fundamentalist history of writing. The Scofield
Reference Bible combined an attractive format of typography, paragraphing,
notes, and cross references with the dispensational theology of J. N. Darby.
This Bible has thus been subtly but powerfully influential in spreading
dispensational theology among hundreds of thousands who read the bible
Ernest R. Sandeen
"Roots of Fundamentalism", Baker 1978
"Upon being asked if the
Scofield Reference Bible
needed commercial advertising
Scofield Refrence Bible
requires no more advertising than the juicy
grass requires to draw hungry sheep'."
Dr. J. Gray
Former President of Moody Bible Institute
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