C.I. Scofield


Cyrus I(ngerson) Scofield, (1843-1921), dispensationalist theologian, was born near Clinton, Michigan into a family of mixed and changing Protestant loyalties. He moved to Lebanon, Tennessee shortly before the outbreak of the Civil War and eventually enlisted and served in the Confederate army. After the war Scofield went to St. Louis where he clerked and read law in a local law firm and married. In 1869 Scofield moved to Kansas where he was admitted to the bar and subsequently served in the state legislature from 1871 to 1874 and then served time as a U.S. states attorney. Fond of alcohol, Scofield abandoned his wife and two children in 1879 and returned to St. Louis. Details of Scofield’s life are sketchy in the next two years but apparently at some point he underwent a conversion experience, worked in a D.L. Moody revival and joined a local Congregational church.

In 1882 he moved to Dallas, Texas and assumed the pulpit of a tiny Congregational mission church–shortly before officially divorcing his ex-wife in 1883. Over the next several years Scofield was absorbed in his church (the former would grow to over 500 members) and denominational duties (he served as Congregational overseer of home missions in the South and Southwest) and even founded the Central American Mission (CAM) in 1890. During this period he also came under the influence of a Dallas Presbyterian minister who had imbibed the dispensationalist teachings of John Nelson Darby and the Plymouth Brethren. In 1888 Scofield wrote his own book about dispensationalism, Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth, which catapulted him into the ranks of the doctrine’s foremost apologists.

At the invitation of D.L. Moody himself, Scofield resigned his Dallas pastorate in 1895 and moved to Northfield, Massachusetts to become pastor of a Congregational Church there and assist in managing the annual Northfield Bible Conference, and eventually became the president of the Northfield Bible Training School. Feeling called to produce a reference Bible that would embody all of the dispensationalist and Higher Life emphases of the Bible conference movement, Scofield resigned from his other duties in 1903 and turned his attention full-time to his project. The Scofield Reference Bible was published in 1909 by Oxford University Press and it and various revised versions became a fixture within conservative Protestant circles, eventually selling more than two million copies–it was often joked that its readers had a difficult time separating the biblical text from the volume’s copious notes. Scofield continued on as a popular speaker and in 1914, with his protégé Lewis Sperry Chafer, founded the Philadelphia School of the Bible.

For further reading see George M. Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture (Oxford, 1980). 

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