THE WORK BEGUN IN 1902, PUBLISHED IN 1909
AS WE have briefly shown, the real beginning of the
Reference Bible dates from the second Sea Cliff Bible Conference in 1902.
The two prominent sponsors were Alwyn Ball, Jr., of New York, and John T. Pine, of Chicago and New York. The writer does not know how much all this, and the fact that he could now start in the production of the Reference Bible, influenced Dr. Scofield in resigning from his East Northfield pastorate and his work in the East Northfield schools. In 1903 we find him back in Dallas, the scene of his first pastorate. Of course he received a hearty welcome, and when it became known that he would begin work at once on the Bible, the official board of the First Congregational Church (now known as the Scofield Memorial Church) encouraged him by releasing him from the minor duties of a pastor, so that he might devote the greater part of his time to the Reference Bible.
It was during the next year, after his return to Dallas, that he said the following in a letter to the writer: "I am so encouraged in the Lord that Messrs. Pine and Ball are willing to make it possible for me to prepare The Bible Study Bible. I have the full plan, after years of prayer and thought. I believe it will be vastly the greatest of my poor services to Him." The plan was some time later given in a printed sheet to the seven consulting editors, and also sent to all who showed an interest in the work. We are not aware of having seen this outline in print anywhere. We quote therefore a condensed portion of it:
Speaking generally, it may seem that the thought is to prepare an edition of Gods Holy Word so clearly and simply divided and arranged that any believer of ordinary intelligence may real the Bible understandingly. People are not interested in the Bible because they do not understand it when they read it. But along with this ministry to the whole flock, it is intended so to indicate the "deep things of God" and the larger aspects of divine revelation, that ministers, evangelists, and advanced students may be led into a deeper knowledge of the Book.
I. As to the text. The text will be the King James Version. Passages which, by common consent of spiritual and scholarly men, miss the meaning, will be amended.
II. Size. The new edition will not exceed in bulk the ordinary Bible with helps. It will not be a commentary.
III. Plan. The conviction underlying the work is that the Bible is a self-interpreting book. The plan, therefore, contemplates giving the student instant access to those passages and to all of them which interpret each other. The plan is worked out in the fellowing manner:
1. By a wholly new system of references.
2 Definitions. Bengel said "Whoever understands twenty great words of the Bible, understands the Bible. In the proposed edition all the great pivotal words of Scripture, such us atonement, justification, sanctification, world, glory, kingdom, church, sin, sacrifice, predestination, worship, etc., some sixty in all, will be briefly defined in footnotes. These definitions will be submitted to the consulting editors.
3. Divisions. The structural divisions of each book of the Bible will be indicated in the text itself. The dispensational divisions will also be indicated.
4. Fulfilled prophecies will be carefully distinguished from those which are in course of fulfilment, or unfulfilled.
5. The types will be conservatively treated upon the principle of affirming nothing to be a type which is not elsewhere affirmed to be such.
6. The more important themes of Scripture will be grouped in footnotes under orderly heads.
7. The right pronunciation of different words will be so indicated as to class the new edition among the "self- pronouncing Bibles."
Every user of the Reference Bible knows how faithfully this plan has been followed and what help it has brought to all students of the Word of God.
Dr. Scofield was especially concerned about the sane and scriptural interpretation of prophecy. The writer gave a series of addresses during the second Sea Cliff Conference on "The Harmony of the Prophetic Word." After listening to these lectures, Dr. Scofield said they expressed the method he intended to follow in the Reference Bible, and he urged the writer to prepare the material, with additional lectures, for publication in a volume. He declared such a volume would be most helpful to him in his Bible work. We were enabled to submit the advance proof sheets to him before he left East Northfield. In November, 1902, we received a very interesting and, more than that, an illuminating and helpful foreword, written by him. Now inasmuch as the postmillennial school has raised objections against the Reference Bible on account of its strong premillennial teachings and its logical dispensational arguments, we quote this enlightening foreword, for it reveals, in Dr. Scofields clear-cut style, the gist of the prophetic teachings contained in the annotations of his own work:
"Having had the privilege of reading advance sheets of the present book, it is both a pleasure and a privilege to commend it to all who are interested in the study of "the prophetic word made surer" (2 Pet. 1: 19). -All students of prophecy are sure to be interested in a presentation of the chief contents of the prophetic Scriptures which is so original in scope and method. But I would more especially bespeak for this book the attention of those who are not students of prophecy. Unfortunately this class includes the enormous majority of present-day believers. No fact is at once more patent or more lamentable than that the writings of the prophets are little read and less comprehended.
Doubtless there are many reasons for this condition. The characteristic of the present age is a reckless and unreasonable optimism. On every hand we are assured that the Church is "marching grandly on to the conquest of the world," and that despite the fact that, after one hundred years of missions, there are 200,000,000 more heathen to convert than at the beginning of the century. But prophecy, grandly optimistic in its ultimate view, presents anything but a flattering picture of the end of this age. Apostasy, heading up in the man of sin, and the utter destruction of the present imposing worldsystem by a crushing blow, is the testimony of the prophets. This is an unwelcome message, and therefore is not heeded. It is pleasanter to listen to the self-sent prophets who prophesy "smooth things."
Another reason for the neglect of prophecy is found in the undeniable difficulties which encounter the beginner in that study. A bewildering number of new phrases and formulae are encountered, and it is not all at once, nor indeed without long application, that this seeming confusion falls into its truly majestic order.
It is precisely at this point that The Harmony of the Prophetic Word seems to me supremely helpful. What the beginner could not do at all, nor even the most persevering student for many months, is here done for him by an expert student of the prophetic writings. The method, as will be seen by an examination of the book, is to take up the great prophetic epochs and events, and bring together from the whole body of prophecy the testimony concerning them. This, indeed, thoroughly as the author has done his work, will not be found available as a substitute for personal study of these great subjects nor was such substitution any part of the thought of the authorbut what the present book does is to present the great subjects concerning which God has revealed the future, and to assemble and analyze that revelation so that any reader of the book will find himself fully introduced to these great and important themes.
The final effect of such a synthesis is to leave the mind overwhelmingly impressed with the divine origin and authorship of these ancient oracles. Writing in widely separated ages, under wholly different circumstances, of necessity often ignorant of each others writings, the production of one continous, harmoniously developed testimony is proof unanswerable that, although He employed many penmen, God alone is the Author of the prophetic testimony.
Some time later, Dr. Scofield requested the analysis of a number of the prophetic books and the interpretation of difficult and disputed prophecies from the writer, and after our consent to do so we received his reply:
My beloved Brother:
By all means follow your own views of prophetic analysis. I sit at your feet when it comes to prophecy, and congratulate in advance the future readers of the Reference Bible on having in their hands a safe, a clear, sane guide throngh what to most is a labyrinth. Yours lovingly in Christ,
C. I. S.
After his return to Dallas, our friend continued for a time at least to accept speaking engagements here and there. They became less when he discovered that the Bible work demanded more and more of his time. Finally he decided, after consulting different brethren, that it would hasten the early completion of the work if he went abroad to visit England, to consult with a number of biblical scholars and to visit libraries. He spent two seasons in Switzerland (Montreux) to be in retirement, devoting his whole time to the completion of the work. But during his first visit to Montreux (1906), he was taken seriously ill, which made it impossible for him to do much work. His return took place toward the end of May, 1906. We find in our files the following letter:
Ashuelot, N. H.,
May 27, 1906.
My beloved Brother:
We reached New York Friday after a slow but pleasant voyage, and came right here. Was sorry to pass through New York without seeing you, but could ill bear the expense of a delay with my family. . . . Thanks for Stebbins letter. I am in splendid health, rested and refreshed by the voyage of thirteen days. I must soon go to New York. Will let you know when the date is fixed. Found here a pressing invitation to occupy my old pulpit at East Northfield next Lords Day and I have accepted. Love to all.
As ever yours,
C. I. S.
A few weeks later we met in New York. Dr. Scofield seemed to be quite satisfied with the steady progress on the Reference Bible in spite of the delay on account of his illness abroad.
The writer does not know how much correspondence Dr. Scofield carried on with the other consulting editors. More than once did he express his indebtedness to them, especially in the following words:
The editor disclaims originality. Other men have laboured; he has but entered into their labours. The results of the study of Gods Word by learned and spiritual men, in every division of the Church and in every land, during the last fifty years, under the advantage of a perfected text, already form a vast literature inaccesible to most Christian workers. The editor has proposed himself the modest, if laborious, task of summarizing, arranging, and condensing this mass of material.
That he has been able to accomplish this task at all is due in a very large measure to the valuable suggestions and co-operation of the consulting editors, who have given freely of their time and the treasures of their scholarship to this work. It is due them to say that the editor alone is responsible for the final form of notes and definitions.
As we write this brief history we have before us numerous letters received from him dated from 1903 to 1909, and others up to the time of his home call.
While the Reference Bible was in the making, we received from him inquiries as to the dates of the so-called minor prophets; questions as to the Book of Daniel and its prophetic interpretation; for help on certain portions of the Book of Revelation; on some of the parables; as to II Thessalonians 2, etc.
The parable of the ten virgins was especially taken up in correspondence. Someone had invented a new interpretation, differing from the almost universal exegesis as taught by the leading expositors of different Protestant bodies. Someone had charged Dr. Scofield with teaching one of these new theories. We quote the following from a letter dated Ashuelot, N. H., July 8, 1906:
I teach the following:
(1) That the prophecy of the wise and foolish virgins gives the testings of the Christian profession by the coming of the Bridegroom; in other words, by the rapture of the Church. Two classes only are before us in that prophecypossessors and professors, to quote your own classification. The door which is shut is the door to the bridechamber.
(2) The foolish virgins are unsaved professors, and I hold that their doom is sealed, etc.
We do not give the rest of his words of explanation, for what we have quoted is sufficient to show that he adhered to the traditional interpretation of this important prophetic parable. Most of his communications were written in long hand, only a few were typed. If he carried on a similar correspondence with the other six consulting editors, as he probably did, he certainly must have been kept very busy. He told us, for instance, that he exchanged many letters with Dr. W. J. Erdman about the term "kingdom" and its use in the New Testament. Nor was there always a full agreement in these consultations. We cannot follow in this sketch other interesting details of these consultations. What we have written are but illustrations of the thoroughness with which the work was done.
But there is one thing which impressed the writer in all this voluminous correspondence. Dr. Scofield was greatly burdened about the condition of the professing Church, and he yearned, to quote his own words, "for a larger, a world-wide ministry, through a wholehearted return to apostolic doctrine, mission, and ministry." In one of his letters he referred to the disbanded Niagara Bible Conference, and called attention to the fact that it was swept away because there were nothing but addresses and studies and no practical action. In a letter dated Ashuelot, N. H., June 9, 1906, written in anticipation of the next Sea Cliff Conference, we read the following-:
"God help us to meet the seriousness of the days in which we live, with an apostate Church, an unnourished Body, a lost world, and an impending advent as our environment."
What would our brother say if he were here today! What would he say about the condition of Christendom, the terrible chaos of the whole world, the devastating world war which threatens to plunge all humanity into an abyss of unspeakable misery and wipe out our civilization! The fact is and remains that all these sad conditions of our times, indicating the fast approaching end of the times of the Gentiles, the great tribulation, the return of our Lord and His enthronement as the Prince of peace, King of kings, and Lord of lords, is all revealed in the Bible, Gods holy and infallible Word. Human traditions, human inventions, human learning, totally void of the Spirits guidance, and much else, have obscured, if not completely obliterated, these startling truths of Gods omniscience, which knows the end from the beginning. The Scofield Referenee Bible, from beginning to end, calls attention to these startling things to come, and has become indeed like a lamp which shineth in a dark place'. World conditions today are the most powerful evidences of the supernaturalness of the Bible and the prophecy it unfolds.
It is the writers deep and firm conviction that the Reference Bible, with its faithful testimony to the fundamental truths of our faith and its prophetic interpretations, is now in these solemn days much more needed than on the day of its publication, some thirty-three years ago. We are deeply conscious that God will use it as never before, use it in leading souls to Christ, use it in the edification of true believers, use it in warning the world of judgment to come!
PUBLICATION of the Reference Bible was still a problem after Dr. Scofield had been at work on it for several years. The brethren who were interested in the Sea Cliff Bible Conference were also interested in a new publication venture. It was called the Gospel Publishing House, located in New York, under the management of Mr. D. Bass. One of the first books published was one by Dr. Arthur T. Pierson, The Bible and Spiritual Life. Some of the brethren thought the Reference Bible should become one of its publications. Others, including Dr. Scofield, Mr. Fitch, and the writer, felt that such a small concern, totally unknown, with no capital at all, would spell failure for the Bible. To some it seemed strange that such an important work should be undertaken without a definite assurance as to its publication. Dr. Scofield was very calm about it. The Lord who had made the work possible in such a providential way would surely, in due time, make its publication possible.
One of the visitors to the East Northfield Conferences, when Dr. Scofield was pastor of the Congregational church there, was Mr. Scott, of the London publishing house of Morgan and Scott, publishers of The Christian as well as many excellent books of biblical expositions. Our friend became acquainted with Mr. Scott, and when Dr. and Mrs. Scofield arrived in England, he entertained them. One day Dr. Scofield told Mr. Scott about the work he had undertaken and Mr. Scott at once raised the question, "Who will act as your publisher?" He was rather astonished when he heard that none had been selected. He impressed upon Dr. Scofield that the right publisher was of the utmost importance. Furthermore, Mr. Scott said that his own firm would gladly undertake the publication, but he feared Morgan and Scott could not give to the Reference Bible the world-wide introduction it must have. He added, "There is only one publishing house which can handle your Reference Bible and that is the Oxford University Press."
A few days later, Mr. Scott took Dr. Scofield to the office of Mr. Henry Frowde, the chief of the great Oxford University Press, which is so widely and favourably known throughout the English-speaking world. He became at once interested. But the head and manager of the American branch of the Oxford University Press had to be consulted. Mr. Armstrong enthusiastically endorsed the plan and urged the early publication of the Bible. Contracts were later drawn up and signed by both parties. But before this was done, Dr. Scotield consulted some of his friends about this move and asked for their counsel. Here is part of a letter addressed to us,
Orion, Mich., June 25, 1907:
"After much delay, for which, though unwittingly, I was alone responsible, I followed dear Brother Balls counsel and closed an arrangement with the Oxford University Press direct, for the publication of our new Bible. They put their own capital into it, and their organization back of it. Both Mr. Frowde in England and Mr. Armstrong in New York are very enthusiastic about it. I feel sure everything their capital, wide experience, and the best trade facilities can do to insure its wide circulation will be done. The proofs are to be sent here. I am turning down all invitations and shall devote the summer to this work alone."
A few months preceding the publication of the Bible, now nearing its completion, Dr. Scofield lived at 21 Fort Washington Avenue, New York. In a letter dated October 23, 1908, he gave full information as to the date of publication:
"My dear Brother:
"Yours to hand. As to the date of publication - the typesetters are in John, but are going very rapidly now, and I expect to get through here in about three weeks. The book will not, however, be issued till January 15. The publisher fixes that date. He is importing the paper for both editions, the ordinary Bible paper and the India. It certainly is going to be beautiful from a typographical point of view.
I shall go home for a few weeks after I finish here, but expect to be in the East and Middle West after January till March, then the Pacific coast. Many invitations are coming in. Will send you schedule in December. We ought to get together in some, or most, of these meetings.
"With every best wish,
"Yours as ever,"
When we received our copy in January, 1909, we found that it was indeed a beautiful specimen of Bible printing. Its value was soon discovered by the household of faith. In a short time the sales increased far more than Dr. Scofield and the publishers had anticipated.
Dr. Scofield and I met frequently after that in Bible conferences in various cities and also in a private way. Again and again he referred to the great need of a practical testimony. He made, for instance, the suggestion of starting in New York an undenominational assembly under the leadership of himself and the writer, with a number of Bible teachers and evangelists as associates, for a nationwide testimony. Nothing came of it, for his age began to tell on him; the spirit was willing but the flesh and its weakness asserted itself.
In 1914, that momentous year when the first World War started, Dr. Scofield attended the Chicago Prophetic Conference and gave several helpful addresses, as he also did in a similar conference in 1916 in Philadelphia. On the suggestion of the writer, in 1918 the New York Prophetic Conference was held in Carnegie Hall. In the opinion of many, including the late Dr. J. Wilbur Chapman, who participated, it was one of the most remarkable religious events in our great city. We had invited Dr. Scofield to deliver just one address, but he had to decline on account of his health. However, he came to one of the sessions. Although he had to be helped to the platform, he arose to say a few words. His feebleness was apparent to all. As he turned around to greet the writer, tears filled his eyes, and, stretching out his hand toward the immense audience, he said, "Brother Gaebelein, just look - look!" He was filled with joy and gratitude over the success of the last prophetic conference he could attend.
Two years later we received an urgent request from him, in view of a new edition of the Reference Bible, to make suggestions and certain additions, etc. We responded at once. Here is one of the last letters we received from our friend.
"Crescent City, Fla.,
March 22, 1920.
"My dear Gaebelein:
"Thanks for telegram and letter from Galveston. I am greatly encouraged. Here are my thoughts concerning the work which you have so kindly consented to take upon your already over-burdened shoulders: To (1) call my attention to any passage (a) needing a better rendering (in margin), (b) peculiarly difficult passage which I have passed over, or, (2) any editorial matter in which I seem to you to have erred.
"The copy which you will thus help to make more useful will be reset, but the Oxford people desire to preserve the present facsimile idea as carried out in the octavo and duo editions now out. A broad margin edition will be issued. Again thanking you,
"Yours as ever,
"C. I. SCOFIELD."
Three months later he received and acknowledged the desired suggestions and emendations. But strange to say, we never heard anything more of the manuscript, a labour of love, like all of our labours on the Reference Bible.
On July 24, 1921, Dr. Scofield was called home by the Lord whom he had served so well. As the writer was away from home it was impossible for him to attend the funeral service. What a greeting he must have had as he met the thousands of saints in glory! What a day it will be when we all shall be in Gods presence, when we shall no longer look into a glass darkly, when we shall know as we are known!
It seems that after his home-call the critics of the splendid service he had rendered to the Church increased as never before. Why did they keep so silent during his lifetime? Why did they wait till an answer from his side was no longer possible? We, too, pass them all by, except one. We have before us a small pamphlet containing a lecture on A Candid Examination of the Scofield Bible. The lecture was delivered in 1938 at a college in Michigan. It is published by a small, so-called Bible Truth Depot in the state of Pennsylvania. In the beginning of this lecture we find an astonishing eulogy of the Bible. We quote:
"On the great fundamental issues of the Christian religion, such as the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, the deity of Christ, the atonement, justification by faith, regeneration and sanefification by the Holy Spirit, the resurrection of Christ and the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting, it rings true as a bell."
Then the lecturer praises most highly other features of the Reference Bible. But as we come to the close of his lecture we find an equally astonishing condemnation of the Reference Bible. We quote again:
"Let me close with the exhortation with which I began, that every minister get a Scofield Bible and study it for himself; for, good as the intentions of the author were, and good as the faith and zeal of his followers are, this book must be pronounced from the standpoint of the Reformed theology, and with a view of the peace and prosperity of our churches, one of the most dangerous books on the market. Its circulation is no aid to sound Bible study and true scriptural knowledge, but rather the contrary. Its use should be quietly and tactfully, but persistently and vigilantly, opposed; and our congregations should be diligently instructed in a better interpretation of the Word of God." (Italics ours.)
To use a popular phrase, the above warning shows "where the shoe pinches." The Scofield Reference Bible is stepping on some denominational toes in Christendom, because it ignores the different creedal confessions. The lecture complains about the detrimental influence of the Reference Bible. We quote once more:
"Through its influence there have arisen here and there, tabernacles and undenominational churches, composed of people no longer at home in the established orthodox denominations, because they do not get there the sort of teaching they find in the Scofield Bible."
No! True believers leave dead churches, not so much on account of the Scofield Reference Bible, but on account of the prevailing apostasy which is scattering its leaven through all of professed Christendom.
The professor also takes serious objections to the use of typical applications in the Reference Bible. We quote his own words:
"Constantly he is dogmatically asserting this or that to be a type for which the New Testament offers no sort of explicit authority. Let me give you a few examples. He has hardly begun the story of creation in Genesis 1, before he tells us that the sun is a type of Christ, the moon of the Church, and the stars of the individual believers. A little further on, we are told that Eve is a type of the Church as the bride of Christ; then that Enoch typifies the believers of the last day, alive at the coming of Christ, etc."
This will be sufficient for our purpose. The professor calls all this "artificial and extravagant typology." Let us begin with Christ, our Lord, a type of the sun. Why not? The sun in the physical heavens is the source of light and life. Without the sun all would be night and death. Is not the Son of God all this in the spiritual realm? Is He anything less than the life and light of men (John 1: 4)? Did He not say Himself, "I am the light of the world," and "I am the life"? Is He not called in Scripture "the Sun of righteousness"? On the Mount of Transfiguration did not His face shine like the sun? In Revelation 10: 1 we read that He also appears in a glory like the sun. Please tell us, Mr. Professor, why you call this "artificial and extravagant"? It is the opposite. It is sane, scriptural, and spiritual.
We may not be able to put our finger upon a statement in the New Testament in which the Church is compared to the moon. But the typology is apparent, and has been acknowledged by far greater biblical scholars than our critic. The moon is the lesser light which shines during the night; the moon is a witness for the absent sun. The Church, in her true condition, Spirit- filled, with Christ indwelling His mystical body, is the glory of Christ, witnessing to Christ during the night of the present age, till some blessed day the sunrise comes and Christ appears in His power and glory. Believers are the heavenly seed, compared in Scripture to the stars of heaven. They are seen in the high-water mark of Gods revelation in the New Testament, in the Epistle to the Ephesians, in the heavenlies. Is all this artificial and extravagant?
What about Eve, taken out of Adams side, when God had put him to sleep? There was no helpmeet for Adam to rule and reign with him. So out of the pierced side of Adam the woman was formed, taken out of Adams body, called to be his bride, flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone. The death of Christ and the Church formed from His pierced side are seen here prophetically. Mr. Professor, have you ever read Ephesians 5:21-33? How can you say that all this is artificial and extravagant? It is the sanest and most spiritual interpretation followed by Gods choicest saints in all ages, though it may clash somewhat with accepted theology. And here is Enoch, the seventh after Adam. What has the New Testament to say about him? "By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him; for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God" (Heb. 11:5; see also Jude 14, 15). Does the New Testament say anything about a repetition of the supernatural end of Enoch? Is there a promise given that ultimately not another person, but a great company of people, who also walk with God as Enoch did, will have the same experience? Listen to Gods Word! "Behold, I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed" (1 Cor. 15: 51, 52; read also 1 Thess. 4:16-18). Is all this artificial and extravagant typology?
Such criticism proves what man-made creeds, systems of theology, different kinds of orthodox standards are. They are dead forms, a lifeless orthodoxy which lacks in the deeper spiritual meaning of Gods Word. Out of these traditional creeds and misinterpretations of the Word of God the Reference Bible has, under God, led a multitude of Christians. No wonder that thousands say, as we have heard it from many lips, that the study of the Bible has become for them the most fascinating occupation in their lives.
Of course, the main objection of this lecturer is the way the Reference Bible interprets the prophecies of the Bible. There has been, since the days of the Reformation, a gradual recovery through the Holy Spirit of lost and forgotten truths. Nowhere is this recovery so marked as in the realm of prophecy. To reject the light which the Holy Spirit has shed upon the hundreds of unfulfilled prophecies is, especially in these days so pregnant with meaning, a serious matter. If the household of faith needs anything today, it surely is to take heed unto the light that shineth in a dark place, the lamp of prophecy, until the day dawn; to walk and serve in the light, till the blessed goal is reachedface to face with Christ our Saviour.
Yes, read the Reference Bible and then test it not by creeds, but by comparing scripture with scripture, and you will soon discover what the Bible teaches.
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