Biography - Dr. C. I. Scofield
by Daniel Stanfield
Dr Cyrus Ingerson Scofield (1843-1921) is undoubtedly best known today for the Scofield Reference Bible, but was instrumental in the promotion of premillennial dispensational doctrine across denominational lines. His explanations of Scripture in his study Bible are clear and systematic, effectively presenting his views.
Scofield was the seventh son of a farmer and raised by his stepmother. As a teen, he fought in the Civil War. He became a lawyer and was politically active in the state of Kansas, but resigned under allegations of corruption. Later, he became separated from his wife and his children, no longer practiced law, and has been described as a thief and a drunkard. It was then, in 1879, when Scofield accepted Christ as his Savior, and immediately became active in the ministry, an activity which was to dominate his life from then on.
Scofield was originally a member of the Pilgrim Congregational Church in St Louis and worked with D.L. Moody. He was soon licensed to preach and began the Hyde Park Congregational Church there. In 1882, Scofield took a mission church in Dallas which he took from an attendance of 14 to over 400. It was here that Scofield was ordained, saw the finality of his divorce from his first wife, and also where he later married Hettie Van Wark. He hosted Moody’s 1886 Crusade, took office in the American Mission Society of Texas and Louisiana, and began to appear regularly as a speaker at Bible conferences. In 1888, Scofield published his landmark, “Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth”, which explains pretribulation, premillennialism, and dispensationalism, which was very well circulated.
It was here that Scofield became increasingly involved with Bible institutes, as well as vigorous missions activity. He directed the Southwestern School of the Bible in Dallas and presided over the trustees at Lake Charles College. In 1890, Scofield founded the Central American Mission and began the Scofield Bible Correspondence Course. This study course formed the core which would go into the Scofield Reference Bible.
In 1895, Scofield left Dallas to join Moody in Massachusetts, where he presided over the Northfield Bible Training School, which Moody had founded. It was here that Scofield determined to create the Scofield Reference Bible. Scofield returned to Dallas, but he spent much time away as he worked on the Bible. The first edition was published in 1909, with a revision following in 1917. Some of Scofield’s latest works include the establishment of the New York School of the Bible, the Philadelphia School of the Bible, and the Douglaston Community Church.
While it is evident from the described activity above that Scofield was extremely active and successful in the ministry, what remains to be presented is the scope of his lasting impact on Christianity, especially in the areas of premillennial doctrine. The text outlines five specific areas in which Scofield made formative contributions.
Firstly, Scofield had enormous impact in the development of the Bible Conference movement. Scofield was a regular speaker at many conferences, including the Niagara conferences of the 1880’s and 1890’s, the Northfield conferences, beginning in 1887, and in the Sea Cliff conferences. Through these conferences Scofield had lasting effects on those who followed after. Secondly, Scofield was deeply invested in the creation and oversight of Bible Schools and Mission agencies throughout his life. Thirdly, Scofield was a prolific writer, and was a skilled teacher, making Bible study and doctrine clear to those who were willing to study with his lessons and notes. His most significant achievements here being his correspondence course, his pamphlet, “Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth”, and his study Bible. The impact of these works, especially considering the extent of publication of the Scofield Reference Bible, cannot be overstated. A fourth area of lasting contribution must be included, that is, a lifetime of relentless evangelical efforts under a clear, conservative, theology. While Scofield often emphasized premillennial and dispensational issues when teaching, he considered these doctrines to be strongly subservient to the doctrines of sin and redemption through Christ. One can hardly discount his investment in souls through his college and missionary activity, not to mention Scofield’s pastoral activity and his daily life. A final area of lasting contribution, noted by the text for Dr. Scofield, is that of his ability to encourage subsequent generations to continue in the works and traditions of the Bible conferences. A noted follower of Scofield was Lewis Sperry Chafer who was close to Scofield for twenty years. Chafer went on to found the Dallas Theological Seminary, and to write his masterpiece work, “Systematic Theology”.