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Cyrus Scofield

Cyrus Ingerson Scofield (August 19, 1843 - July 24, 1921) was an American theologian, minister and writer. During the early twentieth century, his best-selling annotated Bible popularized dispensationalism among fundamentalist Christians.


Cyrus Scofield was born in Lenawee County, Michigan, but during the American Civil War he served for a year as a private in the 7th Tennessee Infantry, C.S.A.. By 1866 he was in St. Louis, Missouri working in his brother-in-law's law office. Admitted to the Kansas bar in 1869, he was elected to the Kansas legislature as a Republican in 1871 and 1872 and was appointed U.S. attorney for the district of Kansas. He was forced to resign because of questionable financial transactions and shortly thereafter was jailed on forgery charges.[1]

Perhaps because of alcoholism, he also abandoned his wife and two daughters. Leotine Cerre Scofield divorced him in 1883, and the same year he married Hettie Hall von Wartz, with whom he had a son.[2]

After his conversion to evangelical Christianity in 1879, Scofield assisted in the St. Louis campaign conducted by Dwight L. Moody and served as the secretary of the St. Louis YMCA. Significantly, Scofield came under the mentorship of James H. Brookes, pastor of Walnut Street Presbyterian Church, St. Louis, a prominent dispensationalist premillennialist.

In 1883 Scofield was ordained as a Congregationalist minister, and he accepted the pastorate of small mission church founded by that denomination, which became the First Congregational Church in Dallas, Texas (now Scofield Memorial Church). The church grew from fourteen to over five hundred members before he resigned its pastorate in 1895.

In 1888 Scofield attended the Niagara Bible Conference where he met pioneer missionary to China, Hudson Taylor. The two became life-long friends, and Taylor's approach to Christian missions influenced Scofield to found the Central American Mission in 1890 (now CAM International).[3]

Scofield also served as secretary of the American Home Missionary Society of Texas and Louisiana; and in 1890, he helped found Lake Charles College (1890–1903) in Lake Charles, Louisiana. As the author of the pamphlet, "Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth" (1888), Scofield himself soon became a leader in dispensational premillennialism, a forerunner of twentieth-century Christian fundamentalism.

In 1895, Scofield was called as pastor of Moody's church, the Trinitarian Congregational Church of East Northfield, Massachusetts, and he also took charge of Moody’s Northfield Bible Training School. Although, in theory, Scofield returned to his Dallas pastorate in 1903, his projected reference Bible consumed much of his energy, and for much of the time before its publication, he was either sick or in Europe. When the Scofield Reference Bible was published in 1909, it quickly became the most influential statement of dispensational premillennialism, and Scofield's popularity as Bible conference speaker increased as his health continued to decline.

Scofield shortly left the liberalizing Congregational Church to become a Southern Presbyterian and moved to the New York City area where he supervised a correspondence and lay institute, the New York Night School of the Bible. In 1914 he founded the Philadelphia School of the Bible in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (now Philadelphia Biblical University).

Scofield's second wife proved a faithful companion and editing assistant, but his relationships with his children seem to have been distant at best. Scofield died at his home in Douglaston, Long Island, in 1921.

Religious Significance[]

Scofield's correspondence Bible study course was the basis for his Reference Bible, an annotated, and widely circulated, study Bible first published in 1909 by Oxford University Press.[4] Scofield's notes teach dispensationalism, a theology that was in part conceived in the early nineteenth century by the Anglo-Irish John Nelson Darby, who like Scofield had also been trained as a lawyer. Dispensationalism emphasizes the distinctions between the New Testament Church and ancient Israel of the Old Testament. Scofield believed that between creation and the final judgment there were seven distinct eras of God's dealing with man and that these eras were a framework around which the message of the Bible could be explained. It was largely through the influence of Scofield's notes that dispensationalism and premillennialism became influential among fundamentalist Christians in the United States.


  • Joseph M. Canfield, The Incredible Scofield and His Book, (Vallecito, California: Ross House Books, 1988); anti-Scofield bias.
  • John Gerstner, Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth, (Brentwood, Tennessee: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, 1991); anti-Scofield bias.
  • John D. Hannah, "Scofield, Cyrus Ingerson," American National Biography.
  • Ernest R. Sandeen, The Roots of Fundamentalism, British and American Millenarianism, 1800-1930 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970).
  • Charles G. Trumball, The Life Story of C. I. Scofield (New York: Oxford University Press, 1920); pro-Scofield bias.
  • Ruth Tucker, From Jerusalem to Irian Java: A Biographical History of Christian Missions (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983).


  1. History of the United States Attorney District of Kansas.
  2. It seems virtually certain that Scofield deliberately provided inaccurate information to Who's Who and to his biographer, Charles Trumball. As one biographer has written, "he was secretive about his past and not above distorting the facts of his shadowy years." John D. Hannah, "Scofield, Cyrus Ingerson" American National Biography Online February 2000.
  3. Tucker, 304-305.
  4. The title page listed seven "consulting editors": Henry G. Weston, James M. Gray, W.J. Erdman, A.T. Pierson, W. G. Moorehead, Elmore Harris, and A. C. Gaebelein. "Just what role these consulting editors played in the project has been the subject of some confusion. Apparently Scofield only meant to acknowledge their assistance, though some have speculated that he hoped to gain support for his publication form both sides of the millenarian movement with this device." Ernest Sandeen, The Roots of Fundamentalism: British and American Millenarianism, 1800-1930 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970), 224.

External links[]

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