Scofield Reference Bible
|Light iron-age reading|
|Gabbin' with God|
This edition of the Bible first appeared in 1909, and was revised in 1917. The first editions of this Bible were published by the Oxford University Press. The original version of the Bible contained the traditional King James Version text of the Bible itself.
This Bible was widely popular, as a result of several innovative features. It introduced a chain cross-referencing system that tied together related verses of Scripture and allowed the reader to follow Biblical themes from one book and chapter to the next. It featured an attempt to date the events of the Bible chronologically, and the text contains a running commentary that sets a year or approximate year for each page of the Bible text. It was in the pages of the Scofield Reference Bible that many Christian fundamentalists encountered Archbishop James Ussher's calculation fixing the date of Creation at 4004 BCE, and it was largely on the authority of Scofield's Bible that creationism became the subject of major controversy among Christian fundamentalists.
Scofield's theology begins with the proposition that the Bible is a closed system: "[T]he Bible story and message is like a picture wrought out in mosaics: each book, chapter, verse, and even word forms a necessary part, and has its own appointed place." The task of the interpreter is to puzzle out the meaning of Biblical texts from within the Bible alone, based on the assumption that it is a single book whose every word is true.
The Scofield Reference Bible taught the interpretative school of dispensationalism, and it was the chief vehicle by which this school of Bible interpretation became highly influential in the United States. Scofield's annotations to the Book of Ezekiel, ch. 38, prophesied that Russia would play a part in the Battle of Armageddon. This passage of Scofield's notes is illustrative of his interpretations and method:
“”That the primary reference is to the northern (European) powers, headed up by Russia, all agree. The whole passage should be read in connection with Zechariah 12:1-4; Zechariah 14:1-9; Matthew 24:14-30; Revelation 14:14-20; Revelation 19:17-21, "gog" is the prince, "Magog," his land. The reference to Meshech and Tubal (Moscow and Tobolsk) is a clear mark of identification. Russia and the northern powers have been the latest persecutors of dispersed Israel, and it is congruous both with divine justice and with the covenants (e.g. "Genesis 15:18" See "Deuteronomy 30:3" that destruction should fall at the climax of the last mad attempt to exterminate the remnant of Israel in Jerusalem. The whole prophecy belongs to the yet future "day of Jehovah" ; Isaiah 2:10-22; Revelation 19:11-21 and to the battle of Armageddon Revelation 16:14 See "Revelation 19:19" but includes also the final revolt of the nations at the close of the kingdom-age. Revelation 20:7-9.
Ezekiel spoke words of doom against Gog, in all likelihood King Gyges of Lydia in Anatolia. Gog/Gyges was not around to suffer his doom any more. This didn't mean that the prophecy was fulfilled, had served its purpose as a warning, or was no longer relevant. Instead, someone must be cast in the role of Gog, so that someone can be destroyed as Gog and the inerrancy of the prophecy might be fulfilled. Scofield's method tried to preserve inerrancy at the expense of literalism; the prophecy against Gog must come true, but "Gog" would no longer be the name of the actual victim. Similar considerations led Scofield to prophesy the revival of the Roman Empire, which figured in all the New Testament writers' visions of the future; and the reconstruction of a Temple at Jerusalem so that the Antichrist can desecrate it.
Similarly fanciful interpretations are found throughout Scofield's text. He refers the most straightforward text in the Book of Revelation, the epistles to seven churches of Asia Minor, to periods of church history without any warrant from the text.
Scofield's theology flowed from the contemporary idea of Biblical inerrancy. According to Scofield, prophecy in the Bible was not a call to repentance but a set of infallible dooms that must come to pass. Scofield called his approach to Bible interpretation 'rightly dividing the word of truth'. In practice, this meant identifying prophecies as already fulfilled, and therefore inerrant but belonging to the past. Those whose fulfillment could not be identified in the past must therefore refer to the future. The result was to treat Bible texts as absolutely inerrant by introducing the assumption that they had been edited by incompetents, who mixed fulfilled and future prophecies haphazardly in the same chapters.
These and similar passages were a major source of Hal Lindsey's earlier prophecies. Scofield's extensive notes to the Book of Revelation are a major source of the various timetables, judgments, and plagues predicted by Lindsey and other fundamentalists' computations of the End Times. It was mainly a result of the success of the Scofield Reference Bible that dispensationalism has largely displaced the Calvinist understanding of the Book of Revelation and Bible prophecy; it is a result of the success of dispensationalism that conservative Protestantism in the U.S.A. lays such a great emphasis on end-times speculation.
The original and 1917 text of the Scofield Reference Bible has fallen into the public domain in the United States. Oxford University Press continues to publish revised editions of this Bible under the title Oxford Scofield Study Bible, which it offers with a variety of translations in addition to the original King James Version. The revisions have muted somewhat the more extravagant claims of Scofield's theology.