*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***
It is the 19th of August 2022. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org; I’m Dan van Voorhis.
Today, the 19th of August, is the birthday of Cyrus Ingerson Scofield- better known as C.I. Scofield. We have mentioned him before on the show. Born in 1843, he was a veteran of the Civil War and would become a preacher and author based in both Texas and Massachusetts.
He has something of a curious story- he claimed to have fought alongside Robert E. Lee in the confederacy and then later deserted the Confederacy. He studied Law in Missouri, was elected to the Kansas House of Representatives, and then made the youngest District Attorney in America at the age of 29.
His first wife would due him for divorce on account of desertion. He converted to Christianity, assisted in the revivals of D.L. Moody, studied under James Brookes (a dispensationalist), and eventually became a pastor before taking up writing, speaking, and eventually founding the Philadelphia School of the Bible.
Of course, if you are familiar with the American evangelical world of the 20th century, the name Scofield means one thing: the Scofield Reference Bible. This annotated bible with maps, notes, and explanations did more than any single book or theologian in influencing the Premillennial Dispensational eschatology of the American church.
I used a bunch of big words there. Let me explain.
Eschatology is the study of the end times. Amongst many evangelicals, Baptists, and non-denominational Christians, the “eschatology” is decidedly Premillennial and dispensational.
The idea of a “millennium of peace” comes from a literal interpretation of Revelation chapter 20, verse 4- we read, “They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.”.
The 19th century saw a preponderance of “Post-Millennial’ Christians- that is, the church would usher in the 1,000-year period, and then Jesus would return “post” or “after” the millennium. So “Premillennial” means that Jesus would return “pre” or “before” the suggested Millennium.
The “dispensational” part means that God deals with his people differently in different “dispensations,” defined as: “a period of time during which man is tested in respect of obedience to some specific revelation of the will of God.”
So- the name of the game was to figure out 1. Which dispensation we are in, and 2. When Jesus will return such that the “millennium of peace” can begin.
This is a complex theology- and while people like John Nelson Darby and others would write on the topic, Scofield found that there was no better teacher of theology than in notes added directly to the text of the Bible itself.
You might remember that it was the Geneva Bible in the 16th century that first inserted commentary into the text itself- and it was a practice then discarded. Sure, Commentaries would become legion, especially amongst Protestants with varying interpretations of the Bible, but adding additional text to explain the Biblical text was seen as perhaps an affront to the doctrine of Perspicuity- the idea that the Scriptures are clear enough to be understood by all (an important Protestant doctrine).
And so, the Scofield Bible was not only revolutionary in its eschatology but also in its challenge to the practice of printing Protestant Bibles with as little extra text as possible (there has usually been room for clarifying notes and explanations pertaining to textual questions).
And the Scofield Bible would become an instant hit. As the World Wars dampened post-Millennial theology (it was hard to think that things were getting better), as the USSR seemed to Americans to be a rising beast in the East, and as Israel was given land, it seemed that the Premillennial scheme had predictive powers.
The Scofield Bible would be the dominant study Bible on the market until the NIV study Bible in the 1970s would supplant it with, perhaps, a more modest theological framework. Since then, the making of study Bibles- Reformed, Lutheran, Orthodox, For Guys, For Ladies, For Americans, for Millennials… well, we have Cyrus Ingersol Scofield to thank, in part for this. Today we remember Scofield on the anniversary of his birth on this day in 1843.
The Last Word for today comes from the lectionary for today from Acts 17:
When Paul and his companions had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. 2 As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,” he said. 4 Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 19th of August 2022 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by a man whose men’s study Bible smells of sawdust, leather, and cologne- he is Christopher Gillespie.
The show is written and read by a man whose Bibles all smell like… my Kindle? I’m Dan van Voorhis.
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.