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History of Dispensationalism Part 6: Cyrus I. Scofield

Barry is the founder and dean of Mindanao Grace Seminary, Philippines.

Cyrus Ingerson Scofield (August 19, 1843 – July 24, 1921)

history-of-dispensationalism-part-6-cyrus-i-scofield

After serving in the Confederate Army during the Civil War, C.I. Scofield worked as an attorney. He was raised in the Episcopal Church but never professed conversion. After sharing Scripture with him Scofield’s friend Tom S. M'Pheeters pressed him to “accept Christ.” He did. He immediately began serving in Christian ministry through para-church organizations. He later became a Congregational minister and grew close to D.L. Moody. We saw in the previous section that Scofield was a speaker in Moody’s Northfield Conferences.

Early Ministry

Reverend James Brookes befriended Cyrus and encouraged him in ministry. In 1880, Scofield became the director of the YMCA in St. Louis. That same year he joined Pilgrim Congregational Church. The pastor was Rev. D.C. Goodell who was a personal friend of Scofield. It was through Goodell and Brookes that Cyrus was first exposed to Dispensational thought. The church of Goodell licensed Scofield as a preacher. He soon after became the pastor of Hyde Park Congregational Church in St. Louis. The church grew quickly to over 250 people under the direction of Cyrus. He also helped organize evangelistic campaigns for D.L. Moody in St. Louis.

J.R. Graves

We need to detour for a moment and mention J.R. Graves. While I do not want to stray far from my task of presenting a history of the Dispensationalism, I do need to say something about Graves. He was a controversial figure in the Southern Baptist Denomination. He is considered to be one of the leaders of Landmark Movement.[1] What is relevant to us is that in 1883 Graves published the book The Work of Christ Consummated in Seven Dispensations. In the book he lays out a Dispensational scheme very similar to the one that Scofield will later use in his Reference Bible. No doubt both Graves and Scofield are drawing from Darby in their views of the “dispensations.” Just as in Fundamentalism we see the unification of the KJV Bible's superiority and Dispensationalism, we now see these also in Landmarkism.


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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth

In 1888, Cyrus published Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth to teach Dispensationalism to the students of his correspondence courses. In my opinion this book is instrumental in that it seems to be the basis for all subsequent works on the topic of Dispensationalism in the U.S. While the book is short (only 48 pages), Scofield sets the course for the next 100 years of Dispensational thought.

In the opening of his book, he lays out his proof text for dispensations. He quotes 2 Timothy 2:15.

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.[2]


Scofield says “The purpose of this Tract is to indicate the more important Divisions of the Word of Truth.[3]” This lays the frame work for the Dispensational hermeneutic as it is still with us today. He goes on to say on “…so any study of that Word which ignores those divisions must be in large measure profitless and confusing.[4]” Please note that Scofield sees 2 Timothy 2:15 as the key to unlock the Church's understanding of the Bible. To correctly interpret the Bible, it is must be “rightly divided.” He takes this phrase in a wooden, literalistic sense that we must identify the proper divisions of the Bible. Only after we have sectioned off the Scripture correctly can we understand God’s Word.

Major Themes and Highlights from “Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth”

1) Scofield sees three major and distinct groups of people: Jews, Gentiles and the Church [p.11]

2) Godly Jews will go to heaven when they die.

3) The promise to the nation of Israel is an earthly kingdom of splendor which has as of yet to be fulfilled.

4) The resurrection of the dead will occur in two stages (p. 42-43)

5) Just as there is a ditch that cannot be traversed between the Israel and the Church so also there is a great chasm between Law and Grace. They are always separate and can never be joined.

6) The believer has two natures. The “old man” and the new nature “which is Christ’s own.” (p.73)[5]

In addition to his books, Scofield spread his ideas on Dispensational thought through his Home Missionary Society, speaking in conferences, as well as the Bible Correspondence Course which he started in 1890. He was the director of these courses until they were taken over by the Moody Bible Institute in1914.

7 Dispensations

1. Man innocent (Pre-Fall)

2. Man under conscience (Post-Fall)

3. Man in authority over the earth (Starting with Noah)

4. Man under promise (Starting with Abraham)

5. Man under law (Starting with Moses at Mt. Sinai)

6. Man under grace (After the death of Jesus, later referred to as the “Church Age” or the “Time of the Gentiles”)

7. Man under the personal reign of Christ (After the “Tribulation” when Jesus reigns over ethic Israel and before the eternal state)

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After encouragement from his friends, Scofield resigned many of his positions to work on an annotated Bible. Around this time, he became sick and used this illness as an opportunity to begin the work. His wife cut pages from a King James Version of the Bible and pasted them onto notebook sheets so that Cyrus could write his comments beside each page. In 1906 with the permission of the church in Dallas, TX, he traveled to Oxford so he could study in the library there and add to his annotations. There is conflicting information as to how long he was there but it seems he stayed at Oxford for less than 2 years.

Scofield’s earlier work Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth was incorporated and expanded in his comments. What made the Bible unique was its use of footnotes and cross references. The reader found this much easier than a book on the topic. One author said that his “innovative use of footnotes rather than a separate commentary intimately linked the biblical text with its prophetic interpretation. For many readers of Scofield’s Bible, Darbyte interpretation became indistinguishable from the biblical text; it became a part of fundamentalists’ assertion of a ‘common sense’ understanding of biblical prophecy.[6]”

The first edition as well as subsequent editions were published by Oxford Press. It is no coincidence that Oxford Press also continues to be a major publisher of the KJV Bible. Scofield’s Bible was very popular. Sales exceeded two million copies by the end of World War II.[7] To date the Scofield Study Bible has been issued in 5 editions (1909, 1917, 1967, 1984 and 2005) and continues to sell well. Despite his own limited theological education, Cyrus used the proceeds from the sales of his work to establish the Philadelphia School of the Bible in 1914. After merging with another institution, the name of the school was changed to the Philadelphia Biblical University.

Scofield’s work continues to influence study Bibles to day. His ideas made their way in to the Ryrie Study Bible by Charles Ryrie (Moody Press, 1978) as well as influenced The MacArthur Study Bible by John MacArthur (Thomas Nelson, 1997).


Read more about Scofield HERE

Get your copy of the Scofield Study Bible HERE

Foot Notes

[1] Landmarkism was a reaction to the Campbelite Movement started by Alexander Campbell. Their official name was the "Disciples of Christ." Later this group split to become the "Church of Christ." They argued that because they used the name “Church of Christ” or "Disciples of Christ" they were the real New Testament church. They pointed out that there are no denominational names in the Bible only these descriptions. The Landmarkists countered by saying that they traced their lineage back to John the Baptist and therefore were the real Church.

[2] It is of interest to note that the NASB and other translations do not use the wording of the KJV. For example, the NASB reads “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”

[3] Scofield, Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth, Philadelphia School of the Bible,

Philadelphia, Pa., October, 1921, p. 8

[4] Ibid.

[5] The concept that Christians have "two natures" is relevant to us today. Later we see the rejection of “Lordship Salvation” and the introduction of the idea of the “Carnal Christian” coming from Dallas Theological Seminary.

[6] Amy Johnson Frykholm, Rapture Culture: Left Behind in Evangelical America, Oxford University Press; 1 edition, August 29, 2007, p. 17.

[7] Arno C. Gaebelein, The History of the Scofield Study Bible, New York, Our Hope Publications, 1943, p.52.


Comments

Barry G Carpenter (author) from Mindanao, Philippines on August 25, 2018:

Hi Charlie, thank you for reading and for your comment.

charlie from From Kingdom of God living on Planet earth in between the oceans on August 25, 2018:

unfortunately schoffield is one of the men responsible for the American church system being taken over by the false doctrines of man . He does not lead to Christ but to false leaders, men without the Spirit

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