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The Scofield Reference Bible

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Question #1:   Hello Bob, A 1917 Scofield Reference Bible has recently come into my possession. I am wondering what insight you may have on Rev. C. I. Scofield and this Authorized Version of the Bible. There seem to be differing opinions as to his personal life and scholarly reliability in printing this type of Concordance/Bible. The main problems seem to be the Genesis Gap, Dispensationalism, and the Premillenial 'rapture' of the church. Personally, so far, I haven't seen a problem with the above 3 topics. We have studied the Genesis Gap here with you, I see no discrepancy with the Scriptures with the 7 dispensations he talks about (he, himself states one does not replace the other (the perfect example being the Innocence Dispensation era of Adam and Eve which did include the law and grace dispensations in it as well), and, from what I read in his footnotes in Rev. Chapter 19, he seems to follow the Word in that Christ brings the 'saints' with him when he returns during the Great Tribulation at his Second Advent, and gathers those believers who are still alive up with him then, right before the battle of Armageddon. I would appreciate any input you may have on Rev. Scofield and the still popular Scofield Study Bible (KJV).  Thanks

Response #1:  I have the utmost respect for Dr. Scofield and his work. His reference Bible (albeit the more recent edition) was the first reference work I got my hands on many long years ago when I decided I wanted to grow closer to God through His Word. Whatever edition one is using, the notes are very valuable and useful. Scofield belonged to a generation and a mind-set which truly believed in collective advancement toward understanding the Bible. There is nothing in His work, to my view, which indicates exclusivity. What I mean is, he did the best he could with the information available to push forward our understanding of systematic theology from a practical point of view, and he didn't say or imply that "this is it, and that is that" as so many of our day do (inevitably persons who cannot hold a candle to Scofield's understanding of scripture). When he wrote during the early days of the last century, Protestants of many denominations were coming to grips with many important areas of biblical teaching which had been more or less neglected since the early days of the Church (at least as far as having a well-reasoned and correct understanding is concerned). This was especially true of eschatology (an area almost entirely overlooked by the reformers - they had a lot on their plates, after all). Scofield was instrumental in helping to analyze these things and present them in a systematic and workable way. His theory of dispensationalism represents a great advance beyond any previous theory of the way God has constructed history.

As you know, my take on dispensationalism is a bit different from what one finds in his book, Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (see the link: Dispensations), but that doesn't mean that I think reading the book is "useless" or even "wrong", any more that I believe contemporary physicists should despise the great Sir Isaac Newton. Newton may not have understood everything known today, but his description of basic physics is still essentially correct, brilliant, and indispensable - our understanding of these matters nowadays is, it is true, more complete, but still not fully complete (i.e., no one really understands what makes gravity "work", we just have more precise ways of defining and describing it). In a similar way, we are all (one hopes) dedicated to marching toward the truth, and we are digging into the Word of God with diligence, hard work, and the Spirit of God, trying to make what we say closer and closer to the full, complete, and absolute truth day by day.

Scofield represents for me a milestone in this process, and the fact that I would say that there have been advances since his day does not diminish the importance or the worth of his work (or the value of still using it). What I do object to is what has happened since that generation of biblical exploration, namely, the foolish and arrogant tendency to codify particular points of view on difficult and complicated points of biblical teaching and to say "no more - all who move beyond this point are heretics". This is how we got from the "premillennial rapture" as a theory to explain certain information in the eschatological puzzle (and an incorrect theory at that), to making it in some circles a tenet of the faith as important as the deity of Christ. All truth in scripture is important (my life and ministry are founded on that principle), but some truths are basic and clear (the deity of Christ), and others, while just as true, require more effort of interpretation to understand and establish. And it is true that whatever principle of doctrine one looks into, one finds within the same traditions different ways of expressing and understanding even some of the most basic things. This amounts to "differences" if one chooses to be polemical instead collegial.

Ideally, we work together as the Body of Christ towards the common goal of seeing Jesus ever more clearly through the truth of His Word. That requires an ever more precise understanding of His Word (as well as accepting it in faith and applying it to one's life). Ideally, we cooperate in this task, and if I see something more clearly, I share it with you, and if you see an error in my interpretation, you share that with me, and in our dialogue, it is always the Word of God that reigns supreme. We keep fellowship with those whom we discern are truly soldiering on in the truth in this way, even when we fail to convince each other of particular points. And in all this, God ever provides enough water of truth to those who thirst to seek Him.

To my mind, codifying and dogmatizing things that are not yet completely and correctly understood is antithetical to what the Church should be doing. If we all actually are reading our Bibles and doing Bible study and seeking out Bible teaching with depth, then it will readily become clear what is substantial and what is insubstantial, what is ultimately helpful and what is mostly hot air. Would that we would all help each other in this process. My problem with most of those who embrace premillennialism and discard the Genesis gap is the vehemence and doctrinaire fashion in which they often do so, especially as in my view without the latter it is impossible to fully understand so many other things (not least of which is the unseen conflict which rages around us), while with the former it is very easy to ignore the importance of preparation for the coming Tribulation (since "we won't be here").

I very much appreciate your openness and your wisdom, openness to what may be valuable but without forfeiting the wisdom to test and verify the truth of what you are studying. All aggressive Christian spiritual advance must, as it say in Ecclesiastes, "take hold of the one without letting go of the other" (Eccl.7:18). To get anywhere spiritually, we have to believe what we are taught, but if we do not exercise judgment in the process and verify through study and prayer, we run the risk of being led down a false trail. Of one thing I am sure, however, that God never lets the thirst for Him and for His truth go unquenched. Following the logic of that, those who are not being led into an ever deeper understanding of the Word of God must only have themselves to blame. They have stopped and they have settled, and that is a shame.

I am grateful for your dedication to the truth of the Word of God.

You might also want to take a look at the following links:

Bible Versions

Who Wrote the King James Version?

King James "Onlyists"

The New International Version

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations I

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations II

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations III

Only-Begotten, Mother-of-God, On-this-Rock: Why English-only Approaches to Bible Interpretation are Dangerous.

The Book of Job and Biblical Interpretation.

Hermeneutics (in CT 1)

How can we know whose interpretation of the Bible is correct (part 1)?

How can we know whose interpretation of the Bible is correct (part 2)?

Bible Interpretation: Interlinears, Academics, Versions et al.

In Him who is the truth, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #2:  

Thanks for your speedy answer to my question! I agree with what you said about Scofield not having the advantage of having some of the advances we now have come to locate, find, and understand about some things in Scripture. He regards the church age of Sardis as the Protestant Reformation while now we see it as that of Philadelphia, and he refers to the church age of Laodicea as the final state of apostasy rather than including the age we (as well as folks in his time) are in. Of course, how could he forsee 90 years hence and project how materialistic, selfish, mean, and lukewarm we have become and how much of a spiritual decline the professing church is in?

You are so right about the foolish and arrogant tendency of so much of today's religious body codifying their particular point of view on difficult and complicated points of biblical teaching. Many who know nothing of the ancient languages at all and who start and pastor a church on a "mail order" theology degree or less, are the first and strongest voices who 'claim' to 'know' everything Scripture is telling us. Meanwhile, so many in the church value the words of these religious leaders as well as the vast amount of material found in books from religious bookstores whose many authors and their opinions have no real credibility. Many of these books, in fact, state they are fiction, but people want to hold on to their content as if it is more valuable and reliable than the Holy Bible!

I hope that this Holy week and Easter season will be a very meaningful one for you. Maybe some time you might consider some sort of weekly gathering together online of the folks who read and study on this website. As for me, an idea has sprung (I know it is God) that I must put together a short, simple Easter morning gathering for some family and friends. It is these kinds of people who are, for the most part, alone and forgotten by the 'church' (and many other people as well).

Peace be with you!

Response #2: 

Thank you for your good words and for your encouragement. On the internet suggestion, I have to admit that I have considered what you propose. My approach to this ministry has been very deliberate and - I hope time will show - sure-footed. As I proceed one step at a time, it may be a while before such things are possible. We shall have to wait upon events and trust that the Lord will work things out for good in every way (as indeed we know by faith He shall). In the meantime, I have my hands pretty full. I would like to complete the Basics series and the Coming Tribulation series in a timely fashion (at least as timely as possible). After that, there may well be time and possibly opportunity for your good suggestion.

I also wanted to say how proud of you I am that you are aggressively pursuing ministry in your own way. This is exactly what Christ has called us to do, and, along with diligent study of the Word, nothing pleases me more than to hear about my brothers and sisters in Jesus putting their talents to work for Him in inventive, positive, and legitimate ways like you are doing. It is easier to join some group - but in my view it is incomparably more rewarding and effective to do something yourself in the power of the Spirit to the glory of our Lord.

I will be sure to pray for your success.

In Him who gave up everything for us, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

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