Chapter 5: Cyrus Ingerson Scofield (1843-1921) The Author of the Scofield Reference Bible
1. Scofield: The Christian Leader with Feet of Clay
2. The Link between Darby and Scofield in the Rise of Dispensationalism
3. Scofield's Dispensational Hermeneutic: 'Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth'.
4. Scofield, the Brethren and the Bible Prophecy Conference Movement
5. The Significance of the Scofield Reference Bible
6. Scofield's Seven Dispensations
7. The Denigration of the Church within the Purposes of God
8. The Elevation of National Israel to a Superior Role over the Church
9. Prophetic Promises of a New Covenant with a Restored National Israel
10. Speculations on Armageddon and the Day of the Lord
11. Conclusions: The Legacy of Scofieldism on Christian Zionism
1. Scofield: The Christian Leader with Feet of Clay
While Cyrus Ingerson Scofield may justifiably be regarded as the father of American dispensationalism and its most popular exponent through the various editions and variants of the Scofield Reference Bible1, his personal life is shrouded in mystery, one of American Fundamentalism's best kept and perhaps most embarrassing secrets.
Ernest Sandeen insists, "...in the calendar of Fundamentalist saints no name is better known or more revered."2 Yet while writings abound on the early Brethren such as J. N. Darby and other contemporary American dispensationalists such as D. L. Moody, C. I. Scofield remains an illusive and enigmatic figure. Only two biographies have been published, one by a fellow dispensationalist, eulogises Scofield3, the other, from a Reformed perspective, exposes him as morally unfit for Christian ministry.4 Reconciliation of these two perspectives is difficult if not impossible. George Trumbull, Scofield's biographer, writing in 1920, claims,
Dr. Scofield loves all nature-not only men and women and children, but the whole created world, still so beautiful in spite of what Satan and sinners have done to mar God's work.5
Similarly, George W. Truett, speaking at a memorial service for Scofield, held in Dallas, Texas on 27 November 1921, included this tribute,
Every one felt that he was a prince of true men. And what a friend he was. A man who would have friends must show himself friendly. Along with these qualities he was kindly, full of good will and cheer which radiated from him as the light from the sun. When with him you knew you were in the presence of one who knew what he believed. Christ was real to him... a wonderful preacher and a world preacher. He would have been at ease in any congregation where he could have preached. There was about him a positiveness, a definitiveness, a certainty...6
Canfield's detailed investigation of Scofield's past portrays a very different person. Discrepancies exist between Scofield's own reminiscences, Trumbull's biography, family correspondence and actual public records regarding many aspects of Scofield's life and ministry both before and after his alleged conversion, ordination and association with D. L. Moody. These range from the trivial to the reprehensible.
1. His claim to have fought with General Lee is disputed as is his alleged decoration for service in the Confederate army in 1861.7
2. His 'rank perjury' in swearing the oath of office to become District Attorney for Kansas in June 1873, denying he had served in the Confederate Army8, a post he then had to resign just six months later following well publicised charges of extortion and blackmail.9
3. The desertion of his first wife Leontine, and daughters Abigail and Marie-Helene from 1877 and failure to provide for them.10
4. The unsubstantiated claim that he was admitted to the Bar of St. Louis and practised law.11
5. The discrepancies surrounding his alleged conversion in 1879 in jail and also while practising law.12
6. The criminal charges of fraud and embezzlement brought against him between 1877-1879, some following his alleged conversion13 resulting in at least one jail sentence.14
7. His persistent refusal, even as a Christian minister, to make restitution to those he had defrauded.15
8. The embarrassment of having divorce proceedings initiated against him by his wife Leontine in 1881 while he was pastor of Hyde Park Congregational Church, St. Louis . Her divorce papers charged Scofield with, '...gross neglect of duty...' having, 'failed to support this plaintiff or her said children, or to contribute thereto, and has made no provision for them for food, clothing or a home...' 16 The court decided in favour of Leontine after some delay in 1883 and issued a decree of divorce in December of that year, describing Scofield as, '...not a fit person to have custody of the children.'17
9. His nomination as pastor to the First Congregational Church of Dallas in 1882, by James H. Brookes was apparently without reference to or acknowledgement of any Christian obligation to provide for his family.18
10. Discrepancies exist in the accounts of his alleged theological training prior to ordination.19
11. Discrepancies exist in the conflicting length of his courtship and the date of his second marriage to Hettie Van Wark in March 1884, only three months after her arrival in Dallas and his divorce becoming final.20
12. Doubts have been raised as to claims made that Scofield made several visits to London prior to 1903,21and claims that he studied and lectured in Rome, Paris, Geneva and Berlin between 1906-1907.22
13. Scofield apparently conferred a doctorate on himself in 1892.23 The 1897 Northfield Bible Conference, for example, lists Scofield's name with a D.D. yet there is no evidence of this award being conferred by a university or college. 'We are not aware of any degree-awarding institution which in the 1890's would recognize dispensational accomplishments.'24
14. In 1904, addressing a gathering of Confederate veterans in Dallas, Scofield made pejorative and racist remarks concerning blacks and whites.25
15. Major discrepancies exist in his Who's Who in America 1912 entry both in terms of misstatements, factual inaccuracies and omissions, including the dates of his marriages, the names of his three children, and subsequent divorce.26
16. In 1909 and 1921, despite significant royalties from the Scofield Reference Bible, he wrote to his daughters Helene and Abbie, explaining his inability to help them financially as he was suffering from chronic 'Scofielditis', his euphemism for 'a purse which has grown dismally empty.'27
Given Scofield's notoriety in Kansas, following his well publicised conversion and association with D.L. Moody, several newspaper articles attempted to piece together something of his already then chequered career. An article originally in the Atchison Patriot was picked up by the Topeka paper, The Daily Capital on 27 August 1881. It included the following,
Cyrus I. Scofield, formerly of Kansas, late lawyer, politician and shyster generally, has come to the surface again, and promises once more to gather around himself that halo of notoriety that has made him so prominent in the past... Within the past year... Cyrus committed a series of St. Louis forgeries that could not be settled so easily, and the erratic young gentleman was compelled to linger in the St. Louis jail for a period of six months.
Among the many malicious acts that characterized his career, was one peculiarly atrocious, that has come under our personal notice. Shortly after he left Kansas, leaving his wife and two children dependent upon the bounty of his wife's mother, he wrote his wife that he could invest some $1,300 of her mother's money, all she had, in a manner that would return big interest. After some correspondence he forwarded them a mortgage, signed and executed by one Chas. Best, purporting to convey valuable property in St. Louis. Upon this the money was sent to him. Afterwards the mortgages were found to be base forgeries, no such person as Charles Best being in existence, and the property conveyed in the mortgage fictitious... A representative of the Patriot met Mrs Schofield (sic) today... As to supporting herself and the children, he has done nothing, said the little woman... I will gladly give him the matrimonial liberty he desires. I care not who he marries, or when, but I do want him to aid me in giving our little daughters the support and education they should have.28
Following the death of D. L. Moody in 1899, when it became known that Scofield had officiated at the funeral, the interest of the secular press was once again aroused and more stories about Scofield were brought to the surface. The following is taken from the Kansas City Journal of 28 December 1899.
The pastor who delivered the sermon and presided at the funeral of Dwight L. Moody, the famous evangelist, was rev. C. I. Scofield... Scofield landed in Nemaha County in 1872, just in time to be nominated on the Republican ticket for member of the legislature. He was elected, and, though ostensibly a supporter of Senator Pomeroy, he became largely instrumental in causing the election of Ingalls... in reward for his services he was made United States district attorney for the state. But he did not hold this office long. He was ousted in disgrace on account of some shady financial transactions which left him indebted in a number of thousands to a score of prominent Republicans... then followed an explosion which compelled Scofield to resign his federal office and leave the state... While in jail he had been visited by a band of Christian women who prayed with him and worked his conversion, and upon his release he entered the Congregational ministry. His first pastorate was at Dallas, Tex., where he built up one of the wealthiest and most aristocratic church organisations in the state... When approached by his Kansas creditors Parson Scofield declares that he is poor and unable to pay, but has never failed to do the right and easy thing by renewing his notes. So far as those who know him best are able to judge, his conversion is of an enduring nature, and, as once remarked by his old friend and supporter, the sarcastic Mr. Ingalls, 'No man can doubt the efficacy of the scheme of Christian salvation with the record of Scofield in view'.29
Cranfield makes this assessment of these still uncontested contemporary secular reports,
If Scofield had defrauded the leading Republican politicians of Kansas, obviously 'he had to go.' But these same Republican leaders could not afford to have it known publicly that they had been involved. This being so, the only course was to have Scofield 'disappear,' allowing the scandal to blow over... The story of Scofield's rather casual extension of notes, which had ostensibly been made to repay funds embezzled, does not surprise. It is entirely congruent with the antinomian nature of Dispensationalism which Scofield inherited from J. N. Darby. Instead of allowing the legal obligation to expire with the statute of limitations, Scofield tolled the statute with the notes even though he could not have any intention of repayment.30
These unsavoury facts regarding Scofield's life and character have never been adequately answered or explained by his followers. The reason for his sudden acceptance and subsequent integration within a group of wealthy and influential Christian fundamentalists seems inexplicable given their supposed rigid adherence to biblical standards of morality and exacting criteria for Christian leadership. As Canfield rightly insists,
...genuineness in conversion and the accompanying change of heart include restitution. Such was an absolute condition in the Old Dispensation.31
Scofield's behaviour both before and after his alleged conversion are nevertheless consistent with, and illustrative of, the antinomianism inherent in Darby's rigid dispensationalism which Scofield popularised.32 In a message published in 1893 entitled, "The Purpose of God in This Age", Scofield seems to come close to describing his own pessimistic, predetermined experience as much as that of dispensationalism generally. Speaking of his seven dispensations, Scofield concludes of each,
As you are aware, they are marked, as to their beginning, by some new probation for man, as to their ending by some act of judgment-for man always fails at last.33
2. The Link between Darby and Scofield in the Rise of Dispensationalism
As a young and largely 'illiterate' Christian, Scofield was profoundly influenced and indeed schooled by the Rev. James H. Brookes, the minister of Walnut Street Presbyterian Church, St. Louis, and known as 'The Father of American Dispensationalism'34. Brookes introduced Scofield, and probably also Darby to D. L. Moody. Brookes sympathised with J. N. Darby's dispensational views of a failing Church, corrupt and beyond hope, but it is known they met during five visits Darby made to St Louis between 1864-186535 and again between 1872-1877.36 Canfield observes,
When convert Scofield in 1879 moved from forgery to Christian work, he found a niche in Christendom off the mainstream of recognized denominations... in the one city in North America which had been singled out by John Nelson Darby for concentrated 'planting' of Darby's special brand of Bible teaching.37
Scofield, serving as Brookes' disciple, probably did more than anyone else to popularise Darby's distinctive theological perspective, basing his reference notes on Darby's own idiosyncratic translation of the Bible. Clarence Bass notes,
The parallel between Scofield's notes and Darby's works only too clearly reveals that Scofield was not only a student of Darby's works, but that he copiously borrowed ideas, words and phrases.38
According to even one of Darby's own biographers, 'His perceptions of Scriptural truths are the source from which Scofield Reference Bibles get their characteristic notes.'39 Gerstner says the resemblance between Scofield and Darby 'is deep and systematic.'40 It is significant, however, that neither in the Introduction to his Reference Bible, nor in the accompanying notes does Scofield acknowledge his indebtedness to Darby. In this regard Scofield was merely following the example of his mentor, Brookes. Scofield claimed his ideas to be the fruit of fifty years of Bible study, something which, even by 1917, the date of the second edition of the Scofield Reference Bible published, is hard to explain if he was only converted in 1879 as alleged. One must assume Scofield meant other people's study.41
Privately at least, Scofield did acknowledge the influence of Arno C. Gaebelein who is probably responsible for the prophetic writings contained in the Scofield Reference Bible. Like Scofield, Gaebelein was discipled by James Brookes who, he admitted, 'took me literally under his wings.'42 Scofield wrote the foreword to Gaebelein's, 'The Harmony of the Prophetic Word' which he devoured. In a letter to Gaebelein, written on the 2nd September 1905, Scofield acknowledged,
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 my Bible on having in their hands a safe, clear, sane guide through what to most is a labyrinth. Yours lovingly in Christ, Scofield43
There is also the likely possibility that another unattributed writer influenced Scofield, one much nearer to home, although somewhat more controversial. J. R. Graves, a Southern Baptist minister from Arcadia near Memphis published a work entitled, 'The Work of Christ Consummated in Seven Dispensations' in 1883.44
It features a dispensational scheme quite similar to one which was later used in the Scofield Reference Bible. For some strange reason, Graves is almost never mentioned by Dispensational writers who are not committed Baptists... Since Graves' work had its primary circulation in the area Scofield was using as a base, the possibility of an unacknowledged debt to Graves must be considered. With Scofield's lack of formal training and a need to learn fast, no reasonable source of help would have been overlooked.45
It is probable that Graves was not acceptable to dispensationalists since he emphasised the importance of the visible church in the purposes of God, something strongly denied by Brethren with their 'failing church' doctrine.
3. Scofield's Dispensational Hermeneutic: 'Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth'.
In 1888 Scofield published his first work called Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth. In it Scofield presented the hermeneutic principles of dispensationalism he had allegedly been teaching his Bible classes and which would become the theological presuppositions behind which the notes of his Scofield Reference Bible. Not surprisingly, it was the Plymouth Brethren 'house' publishers, Loizeaux Brothers of New York, who printed the first edition,46 and continue to do so, a century later.47
Scofield began his work quoting from Paul's second letter to Timothy, part of which was used as the book's title,
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)48
The Word of Truth, then, has right divisions, and it must be evident that, as one cannot be 'a workman that needeth not to be ashamed' without observing them, so any study of that Word which ignores these divisions must be in large measure profitless and confusing. The purpose of this pamphlet is to indicate the more important divisions of the Word of Truth...49
The Table of Contents lists the lessons as:
The Jew, the Gentile, and the Church of God
The Seven Dispensations
The Two Advents
The Two Resurrections
The Five Judgments
Law and Grace
The Believer's Two Natures
The Believer's Standing and State
Salvation and Rewards50
The first lesson sets the tone for all future Dispensational teaching offering a novel interpretation of the verse 'Give no offence, neither to the Jews, nor the Gentiles, nor to the church of God.' (1 Corinthians 10:32).
Scofield attempts to justify the division of the world into three classes of people, Jews, Gentiles and the church, an idea that is the 'warp and woof of Dispensational teaching,'51 yet one that lacks any biblical basis. There are only two classes of people consistently mentioned in the New Testament, those who believe in Jesus Christ and those who do not, irrespective of whether they be Jews or Gentiles.52 Paul is simply urging the Corinthians to respect the differing traditions of Jews and Gentiles in their witness for Christ. There is no basis in the New Testament for the idea that the Jews remain special to God outside, or apart from, their membership of the Body of Christ.53
In the second lesson Scofield unfolds the emerging dispensational belief that biblical history should be divided into seven 'dispensations.'
These periods are marked off in Scripture by some change in God's method of dealing with mankind, in respect of two questions, of sin, and of man's responsibility. Each of the dispensations may be regarded as a new test of the natural man, and each ends in judgment - marking his utter failure in every dispensation.54
His third lesson, another typical Brethren and Dispensational touchstone, makes a person's view of the return of Christ and the 'secret rapture', the test of orthodoxy. No alternative eschatological schemes are acknowledged. The implication is clear. If a person does not accept a dispensational eschatology they do not believe in the Lord's return and are not submitting to the authority of scripture.55
By the 'authority of scripture' Scofield meant his own rigid literalist hermeneutical approach to scripture. So, for example, he insists that,
Not one instance exists of a 'spiritual' or figurative fulfilment of prophecy... Jerusalem is always Jerusalem, Israel is always Israel, Zion is always Zion... Prophecies may never be spiritualised, but are always literal.56
Scofield's 'literalism' extended even to exact verbal phraseology. This led him to claim there to be seven dispensations, eight covenants, and eleven great mysteries.57 James Barr, in his critique of fundamentalism, reserves some of his strongest language for Scofield's literalist hermeneutic which he describes rather sarcastically as, 'Mythopoeic fantasy' comparable with the 'apocalyptic poems of Blake'.58
With the favour and respectability bestowed by the Moody Bible Institute and Dallas Theological Seminary, Scofield's little book has subsequently gone through numerous editions and been reprinted by several publishers. The Bible Publishers of Dallas, for instance, printed 35,000 copies during the nine year period 1945-1954.59
4. Scofield, the Brethren and the Bible Prophecy Conference Movement
In many ways Scofield was merely representative of, but at the same time became a focus for, a growing prophetic and millennial movement in North America influenced by the Plymouth Brethren. The views later popularised by Scofield, were 'hammered into presentable form '60 by a series of Bible and Prophetic Conferences held across North America beginning in 1868 which followed the pattern established by Darby and Irving at Albury and Powerscourt from the 1830's.
Both the method of 'Bible readings' and the topics of the conferences strongly suggest that the gatherings were a result of J. N. Darby's travels in the United States and the influence of the Plymouth Brethren.61
For example, one of the resolutions adopted by the 1878 Niagara Conference gives clear evidence of the Darbyite dispensationalism, and Christian Zionism into which Scofield was becoming an eager proselyte.
We believe that the world will not be converted during the present dispensation, but is fast ripening for judgment, while there will be fearful apostasy in the professing Christian body; and hence that the Lord Jesus will come in person to introduce the millennial age, when Israel shall be restored to their own land, and the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord; and that this personal and premillennial advent is the blessed hope set before us in the Gospel for which we should be constantly looking: Luke 12:35-40; 17:26-30; 18:8; Acts 15:14-17; 2 Thess. 2:3-8; 2 Tim. 3:1-5; Tit. 2:11-15.62
Scofield first attended the Niagara Conference in 1887, completing his book Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth, during the 1888 conference. Apparently, the manuscript was delivered direct to the Plymouth Brethren 'house' publishers, Loizeaux Brothers in New York from the conference. Trumbull, referring to the book commented,
The work of making the little book was a time-consuming and laborious task for him then and "spoiled" his vacation entirely one summer at Niagara. But what a blessing it has been to multitudes of others.63
5. The Significance of the Scofield Reference Bible
According to Oswald Allis, by 1945 more than 2 million copies of the Scofield Reference Bible had been published in the United States alone.64 Between 1967 and 1979 a further 1 million copies of the New Scofield Reference Bible had been published.65 In a move to make Scofield's work more accessible, in 1984 a new edition based on the New International Version was published.66
Arno C. Gaebelein tells the story of how the Scofield Reference Bible came about from a discussion held with Scofield in 1901.
One night, about the middle of that week, Dr. Scofield suggested, after the evening service, that we take a stroll along the shore. It was a beautiful night. Our walk along the shore of the sound lasted until midnight. For the first time he mentioned the plan of producing a reference Bible, and outlined the method he had in mind. He said he had thought of it for many years and had spoken to others about it, but had not received much encouragement. The scheme came to him in the early days of his ministry in Dallas, and later, during the balmy days of the Niagara Conferences he had submitted his desire to a number of brethren, who all approved of it, but nothing came of it. He expressed the hope that the new beginning and this new testimony in Sea Cliff might open the way to bring about the publication of such a Bible with references and copious footnotes.67
Those discussions led eventually to the publication of the Scofield Reference Bible in 1909. The combination of an attractive format, illustrative notes, and cross references has led both critics and advocates to acknowledge the Scofield's Reference Bible to have been the most influential book among evangelicals during the first half of the twentieth century.
The various millennial currents were most effectively solidified in The Scofield Reference Bible. The significance of the Scofield Reference Bible cannot be overestimated.68
James Barr claims that in the 1950's half of all conservative evangelical student groups were using the Scofield Reference Bible, and that it was,
The most important single document of all fundamentalism... which has been the normal religious diet of many millions of readers. Its name itself makes clear what it is, A private interpretation... Both serious biblical scholarship and the established traditions of the major churches were alike ignored.69
Craig Blaising, professor of Systematic Theology at Dallas Theological Seminary, and a dispensationalist, similarly acknowledges,
The Scofield Reference Bible became the Bible of fundamentalism, and the theology of the notes approached confessional status in many Bible schools, institutes and seminaries established in the early decades of this century.70
Ernest Sandeen explains some of the reasons for its popularity,
The Scofield Reference Bible combined an attractive format of typography, paraphrasing, notes, and cross references with the theology of Darbyite dispensationalism. The book has thus been subtly but powerfully influential in spreading those views among hundreds of thousands who have regularly read that Bible and who often have been unaware of the distinction between the ancient text and the Scofield interpretation.71
In his Introduction, Scofield claimed that, over the previous fifty years there had been an 'unprecedented' degree of interest in Bible study, '...free from merely controversial motive' and that from this '...new and vast exegetical and expository...' body of literature which was '...inaccessible for bulk, cost, and time to the average reader', Scofield had taken, the '...winnowed and attested results...' of this fifty years of study and that they were now '...embodied in the notes, summaries, and definitions of this edition.' He insisted that 'Expository novelties, and merely personal views and interpretations, have been rejected.'72 In distinguishing his own from previous bible reference systems, which he regarded as '...unscientific and often misleading...' Scofield insisted that in his new system,
...all the greater truths of the divine revelation are so traced through the entire Bible, from the place of first mention to the last, that the reader may himself follow the gradual unfolding of these, by many inspired writers through many ages, to their culmination in Jesus Christ and the New Testament Scriptures. This method imparts to Bible study and interest and vital reality which are wholly lacking in fragmented and disconnected study.73
The footnotes which appear in the Scofield Reference Bible are actually very selective, appearing on less than half of the pages of Scripture. 781 pages lack any comment out of a total of 1,353 so it hardly rates as a comprehensive commentary such as provided by Albert Barnes or Matthew Henry.74 Trumball observes that Scofield was convinced people wanted to study the Bible but didn't know how and,
...saw that if his Bible studies were to be of the widest usefulness they would need to be attached to the Word itself-and in a form not too bulky.75
Scofield goes much further than either Barnes or Henry in providing comprehensive headings embedded in the Scriptural text. These not only include chapter and paragraph titles but in many cases, verse by verse headings in chapters deemed significant to dispensationalists that would otherwise prove obscure were it not for such 'helps'. For example, in Isaiah 11, entitled 'The Davidic kingdom set up' additional headings guide readers carefully through the chapter ensuring a dispensational gloss,
(1) The King's ancestry (11,1); (2) The source of the King's power, the sevenfold Spirit (11,2); (3) The character of his reign (11,3-5); (4) The quality of the kingdom (11,6-8); (5) The extent of the Kingdom (11,9); (6) How the kingdom will be set up (11,10-16) 76
Had Scofield's notes been published as a commentary separately they would have, in time, probably been forgotten or superceded. The difference is, 'neither Henry not Barnes had the temerity, guile or gall to get their notes accepted as Scripture itself.'77
Scofield's Reference Bible has undergone significant revision since it was first published in 1909. Scofield completed the first revision in 1917, apparently with the help of seven consulting editors - Henry G. Weston (President, Crozier Theological Seminary); James M. Gray (Dean, Moody Bible Institute); W. G. Moorehead (Professor, Xenia Theological Seminary); Elmore Harris (President, Toronto Bible Institute) William J. Erdman; Arno C. Gaebelein & Arthur T. Pierson, several of whom were D.L. Moody's colleagues.78 Canfield argues that the addition of these names together with their academic qualifications was merely cosmetic, to give an air of respectability79 Sandeen goes further arguing,
Just what role these consulting editors played in the project has been the subject of some confusion. Apparently Scofield only meant to gain support for his publication from both sides of the millenarian movement with this device.80
In 1945 when a minor revision was published, an eighth consulting editor, William L. Pettingill, was added. However, so wedded to the 1917 edition were some ultra-dispensationalists that strong representations were made to the revision committee to 'hold the line.' Cornelius Stam asked,
Would revision neutralize the dispensational distinctions which Dr. Scofield had brought to light? Would it represent a retreat rather than an advance for dispensational truth? Would it impair the Reference Bible which had brougyht so much blessing to so many thousands of people?81
Despite such reservations, revisions continued to adapt, modify and elaborate Scofield's dispensational package. The New Scofield Reference Bible was published in 1967 edited by Dr E. Schuyler English. In 1984 a further revision based on the New International Version of the Bible was undertaken by three of the faculty from Philadelphia College of Bible, Clarence Mason, Sherrill Babb and Paul Karleen, and published by the Oxford University Press as The New Scofield Study Bible.82 Charles Ryrie, perhaps seeking to emulate Scofield's success, also published in his own name a more refined dispensational guide, the Ryrie Study Bible.83
6. Scofield's Seven Dispensations
Scofield defines his dispensations as periods of time, '...during which man is tested in respect of obedience to some specific revelation of the will of God...'84 In the Introduction to the Scofield Reference Bible, he explains, following mention of the 'remarkable results of the modern study of the Prophets, in recovering to the church... a clear and coherent harmony of the predictive portions...' how,
The Dispensations are distinguished, exhibiting the majestic, progressive order of the divine dealings of God with humanity, the 'increasing purpose' which runs through and links together the ages, from the beginning of the life of man to the end in eternity. Augustine said: 'Distinguish the ages, and the Scriptures harmonize.'85
Whether Augustine understood 'ages' in terms of Scofield's dispensations is extremely unlikely. Nevertheless, Scofield claimes that seven such dispensations were 'distinguished' in Scripture. He believed that his scheme was natural and self evident in Scripture,
there is a beautiful system in this gradualness of unfolding. The past is seen to fall into periods, marked off by distinct limits, and distinguishable period from period by something peculiar to each. Thus it comes to be understood that there is a doctrine of Ages or Dispensations in the Bible.86
It is interesting to compare how these 'distinct limits' were moved as well as renamed in subsequent editions of the Scofield Reference Bible, as others, especially Schuyler English, sought to refine his scheme.
Scofield Reference Bible (1917)87
The New Scofield Study Bible (1984)88
1. Innocency (Gen. 1:28)
1. Innocence (Gen. 1.28)
2. Conscience (Gen. 3.23)
2. Conscience or Moral Responsibility (Gen. 3.7)
3. Human Government (Gen. 8.20)
3. Human Government (Gen.8.15)
4. Promise (Gen. 12.1)
4. Promise (Gen. 12.1)
5. Law (Ex. 19.
5. Law (Ex. 19.1)
6. Grace (John 1.17)
6. Church (Acts 2.1)
7. Kingdom or Fulness of Times (Eph. 1.10)89
7. Kingdom (Rev. 20.4)
Scofield's rigid adherence to these dispensations required him to make some novel assertions to ensure consistency. So for example, in describing the transition between his fourth dispensation of promise to his fifth dispensation of law, Scofield argues,
The descendants of Abraham had but to abide in their own land to inherit every blessing... The Dispensation of Promise ended when Israel rashly accepted the law (Ex. 19.
. Grace had prepared a deliverer (Moses), provided a sacrifice for the guilty, and by divine power brought them out of bondage (Ex. 19. 4); but at Sinai they exchanged grace for law.90
Similarly, in his introduction to the Gospels, Scofield artificially imposes stark divisions before and after Calvary which lead him to the amazing assertions that,
The mission of Jesus was, primarily, to the Jews... The Sermon on the Mount is law, not grace... the doctrines of Grace are to be sought in the Epistles not in the Gospels.91
Strangely, Scofield ignores the one division that is self evident between the Old and New Covenants. Mark 1:1 categorically states, 'The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ', And Matthew 11:13 further informs us, 'For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. Yet Scofield places the life and ministry of Jesus within the dispensation of Law along with John the Baptist and the Old Testament Prophets, arguing that the sixth dispensation of grace only 'begins with the death and resurrection of Christ'.92 So, for example, the Lord's Prayer, and in particular the petition, 'Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.' (Matthew 6:12) is not applicable to the church, since it is 'legal ground'.93 He even suggests the possibility of salvation by works,
As a dispensation, grace begins with the death and resurrection of Christ (Rom. 3. 24-26; 4. 24, 25). The point of testing is no longer legal obedience as the condition of salvation, but acceptance or rejection of Christ... The predicted end of the testing of man under grace is the apostasy of the professing church...94
Scofield believed the Gospels were essentially for the Jews and therefore not relevant for the Church. In the note attached to Ephesians 3, he boldly states, 'In his (Paul's) writings alone we find the doctrine, position, walk, and destiny of the Church.'95 Unfortunately, Scofield seems to impose divisions that do not exist in Scripture and ignores those that do.
This research, however, is not primarily concerned with an evaluation of Scofield's theological framework, nor even with how he has influenced the rise of dispensationalism. Others have already done sp as on the relationship between law and grace.96 It is with Scofield's more specific prophetic speculations concerning the relationship between Israel and the Church which this research will concentrate on since they have had such a profound effect on much contemporary Christian Zionism.
As has been noted, in 'Rightly Dividing the Word of God', Scofield laid out the dispensational presuppositions which determined his theological framework,
These periods are marked off in Scripture by some change in God's method of dealing with mankind, in respect of two questions, of sin, and of man's responsibility. Each of the dispensations may be regarded as a new test of the natural man, and each ends in judgment - marking his utter failure in every dispensation.97
Such a pessimistic view of human history is no where more evident than in what Scofield teaches about his sixth dispensation, the church-age.
7. The Denigration of the Church within the Purposes of God
Historic Christianity has traditionally seen some form of continuity between the Old and New Covenants, and in the relationship between Israel and the Church, national Israel being in an anti-type and precursor for the Church. Scofield concedes as much, although through his notes, he systematically attempts to prove such a view erroneous in favour of a 'failing' church syndrome. Indeed he insists that the Church has not replaced or succeeded Israel as the people of God. In his introduction to the Four Gospels, he argues,
...in approaching the study of the Gospels, the mind should be freed, so far as possible, from mere theological concepts and presuppositions. Especially is it necessary to exclude the notion-a legacy in Protestant thought from post-apostolic and Roman Catholic theology-that the Church is the true Israel, and that the Old Testament foreview of the kingdom is fulfilled in the Church.98
Apparently blind to the 'theological concepts and presuppositions' of his own dispensational framework, for all his claims to 'literalism', Scofield applied an obscure, arbitrary and indeed excessive form of typology to reinforce the belief, no doubt influenced by Darby, that the Church age will ultimately end in failure and apostasy to be replaced by a revived national Israel who will enjoy the blessings of the final kingdom dispensation.99
Given that four of his seven dispensations are based around events recorded in the first twelve chapters of Genesis, (and a fifth in Exodus), it is perhaps not surprising that Scofield finds in these texts the basis for his entire scheme. So for example, in a footnote to Genesis 2:23, Scofield asserts that Eve is a 'type of the Church as bride of Christ.'100 As with some of his other 'types' this one appears arbitrary and speculative. Scofield offers a list of New Testament cross references, presumably in the belief that they validate his teaching. These are John 3:28-29; 2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:25-32 and Rev. 19:7-8. In none of these, however, is there any justification for such an assertion. Eve is not even mentioned. There are only two references to Eve in the New Testament, and only once by way of comparison. In 2 Cor. 11:3 Paul warns the Corinthians that they are in danger of being deceived like Eve. Even this verse therefore does not teach that they, the Corinthians were deceived, still less that Eve could or should be regarded as a type for the universal Church. From Genesis 3:14, Scofield further claims that the,
'Adamic Covenant conditions the life of fallen man-conditions which must remain till, in the kingdom age, 'the creation also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the sons of God' (Rom. 8.21).101
The verse quoted actually refers to creation not people. By such typology, in which Eve and the so-called Adamic Covenant represent the state of the Church, Scofield prepares the ground for his teaching that the dispensation of the Church is destined to end in apostasy and failure. Then from Genesis 11:1, Scofield sees the Tower of Babel as yet another striking type for the professing Church.
The history of Babel (confusion) strikingly parallels that of the professing Church... ending in a man-made unity-the papacy... [and] ...the confusion of tongues-Protestantism with its innumerable sects. 102
Linking Isaiah 13 with Revelation 17, Scofield insists the latter reference predicts the destruction of 'apostate Christianity', which he also described as 'ecclesio-Babylon'103 In a speculative but rather confusing footnote to Revelation 17 and the identity of Babylon, Scofield insists that there are actually 'two' Babylons.
Two 'Babylons' are to be distinguished in the Revelation, ecclesiastical Babylon, which is apostate Christendom, headed up under the Papacy; and political Babylon, which is the Beast's confederated empire, the last form of Gentile world-dominion. Ecclesiastical Babylon is 'the great whore' (Rev. 17. 1), and is destroyed by political Babylon (Rev. 17. 15-18)...104
But the language of Rev. 18. (e.g. vs. 10, 16, 18) seem beyond question to identify 'Babylon,' the 'city' of luxury and traffic, with 'Babylon' the ecclesiastical centre, viz. Rome.105
By such typology, Scofield intends his readers to concur that even the dispensation of the Church will end in 'judgment-marking... utter failure'106 This is at variance with New Testament teaching which assures of the permanence and ultimate victory of the Church over evil.107
And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. (Matthew 16:18)
In other places Scofield's scheme flatly contradicts the New Testament. So in Matthew 13, for example, in the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, the Lord explains that the wicked will be removed first. Scofield however, insists the believers will be taken out first at the rapture.108 Likewise his footnote to Acts 1:11 ignores the fact that the Angel promises that all will see Jesus when He returns and not the few in some 'secret rapture.'
Clearly therefore, those who have subsequently accepted Scofield's scheme, especially since 1948, such as Hal Lindsey, have been preconditioned to expect the return of Jews to Palestine. They are also generally pessimistic about the role of the Church, and see in the founding of the State of Israel, evidence not only of the fulfilment of Biblical prophecy, but of an impending Jewish revival and the imminent return of Christ.
8. The Elevation of National Israel to a Superior Role over the Church
This process begins for Scofield with his footnote to Genesis 12:1 and the supposed Fourth Dispensation of Promise.
For Abraham and his descendants it is evident that the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 15.18, note) made a great change. They became distinctively the heirs of promise. That covenant is wholly gracious and unconditional. The descendants of Abraham had but to abide in their own land to inherit every blessing.109
Schuyler English, anxious to expurgate Scofield's unorthodox views that, 'The Dispensation of Promise ended when Israel rashly accepted the law (Ex. 19.
' 110, makes considerable changes to this footnote and goes much further in the dispensational claims made for Israel.
God's promises to Abram and his seed certainly did not terminate at Sinai with the giving of the law (Gal 3:17). Both O.T. and N.T. are full of post-Sinaitic promises concerning Israel and the land which is to be Israel's everlasting possession (e.g. Exo 32:13; 33:1 - 3; Lev 23:10; 25:2; 26:6; Deu 6:1 - 23; 8:1 - 18; Josh 1:2,11; 24:13; Acts 7:17; Rom 9:4). But as a specific test of Israel's stewardship of divine truth, the dispensation of Promise was superseded, though not annulled, by the law that was given at Sinai (Exo 19:3ff.).111
Scofield also applied his distinctive typology to the relationship between Israel and the Church. Starting with a cross-reference from Genesis 11:1 and the story of Babel, he guides his readers to Isaiah 13:1 and the 'burden of Babylon' where Scofield claims,
Isa. 3.14 gives the divine view of the welter of warring Gentile powers. The divine order is given in Isa. 11. Israel in her own land, the centre of divine government of the world and channel of divine blessing; and the Gentiles blessed in association with Israel. Anything else is, politically, mere 'Babel'112
This notion that Gentiles are 'blessed in association with Israel', is the principle motivation for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) who believe Christians are called to 'comfort Zion' rather than bear witness to Jesus as Messiah.113 Scofield provided Christian Zionists such as the ICEJ with justification when he took the promise made to Abraham in Genesis 12:3 and applied it to Abraham's descendants,
(5) 'I will bless them that bless thee.' In fulfilment closely related to the next clause. (6) 'And curse him that curseth thee.' Wonderfully fulfilled in the history of the dispersion. It has invariably fared ill with the people who have persecuted the Jew-well with those who have protected him. The future will still more remarkably prove this principle. (Deut. 30. 7; Isa. 14. 1, 2; Joel 3. 1-8; Mic. 5. 7-9; Hag. 2. 22; Zech. 14. 1-3; Mt. 25. 40, 45).114
To Scofield's notes on Genesis 12:1 & 3 Schuyler English adds,
There was a promise of blessing upon those individuals and nations who bless Abram's descendants, and a curse laid upon those who persecute the Jews (Gen 12:3; Mat 25:31 - 46)... For a nation to commit the sin of anti-Semitism brings inevitable judgment. The future will still more remarkably prove this principle.115
The promise given to Abraham actually states,
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. (Genesis 12:3)
There is no indication in the text that this warning of cursing was ever intended to extend beyond Abraham. The promise, when referring to Abraham's descendants speaks of God's blessing them, not other nations blessing the Jews. Ironically, Scofield makes no comment on the passage in Galatians 3:16 and 3:28-29, where the Apostle Paul understands Christ to be the "seed" of Abraham, and that the promise of blessing to the Gentiles comes through faith in Jesus Christ and not on the basis of how well they treat the Jews.
He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. Brothers, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case.
The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say "and to seeds," meaning many people, but "and to your seed," meaning one person, who is Christ. (Galatians 3:14-16)
There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:28-29)
Nevertheless Schuyler English boldly insists,
Both O.T. and N.T. are full of post-Sinaitic promises concerning Israel and the land which is to be Israel's everlasting possession (e.g. Exo 32:13; 33:1 - 3; Lev 23:10; 25:2; 26:6; Deu 6:1 - 23; 8:1 - 18; Josh 1:2,11; 24:13; Acts 7:17; Rom 9:4)
Just two New Testament cross references are offered. Neither corroborates what he claims.
As the time drew near for God to fulfill his promise to Abraham, the number of our people in Egypt greatly increased. (Acts 7:17)
For Luke, the "fulfilment" of the promise made to Abraham was seen to have already been fulfilled through Moses, "as the time drew near..."
Over against Scofield's distinction between Israel and the Church, the New Testament consistently speaks of there being one true vine or one olive tree, symbols portraying the unity within the one elect people of God made up of both Jews and Gentiles, who by faith are thereby all declared to be children of Abraham. However, in his introduction to the Gospels, Scofield insists,
Do not, therefore, assume interpretations to be true because familiar. Do not assume that 'the throne of David' (Lk. 1.32) is synonymous with 'My Father's throne' (Rev. 3. 21), or that 'the house of Jacob' (Lk. 1.33) is the Church composed both of Jew and Gentile. 116
Following Darby, Scofield taught that God has two separate plans, one for Israel, another for the Church, each having a separate identity and eternal destiny, Israel's on earth while the Church's in heaven. So in commenting on Matthew 16,18, and Jesus' promise to 'build my church,' Scofield claims,
Israel was the true 'church' but not in any sense the N.T. church-the only point of similarity being that both were 'called out' and by the same God. All else is contrast.117
In a footnote to Acts 7:38, Scofield explains away the term used by Stephen of Israel as 'the church in the wilderness'.
Israel in the land is never called a church. In the wilderness Israel was a true church (Gr. ecclesia = called-out assembly), but in striking contrast with the N. T. ecclesia (Mt. 16. 18, note).118
In commenting on Romans 11:1, Scofield insists on maintaining this distinction between the Church and Israel. To do so however, he has to distinguish between the 'earthly' and 'heavenly' fulfilment of Biblical prophecy,
That the Christian now inherits the distinctive Jewish promises is not taught in Scripture. The Christian is of the heavenly seed of Abraham (Gen. 15. 5, 6; Gal. 3. 29), and partakes of the spiritual blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 15. 8, note); but Israel as a nation always has its own place, and is yet to have its greatest exaltation as the earthly people of God.119
So, with reference to Romans 11:5, in which Paul insists a remnant of believing Jews existed in his day, Scofield extrapolates that,
During the church-age the remnant is composed of believing Jews... During the great tribulation a remnant out of all Israel will turn to Jesus as Messiah and will become His witnesses after the removal of the church (Rev. 7.3-8).
The purpose of God during this so called, 'church age' then is,
not the conversion of the world, but to, 'gather out of the Gentiles a people for his name' After this he 'will return' and then, and not before, will the world be converted.120
What should the attitude of the Church be to Israel? Scofield uses the description of the final judgement in Matthew 25:31-46 to teach implicitly that Gentiles should bless Israel. Schuyler English in his revision makes this point much more explicitly.
All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. (Matthew 25:32)
In their footnotes to this verse in the 1917 and 1984 editions, it is significant to observe how more overtly Dispensational the latter has become.
Scofield Reference Bible (1917)
The New Scofield Study Bible (1984)
This judgment is to be distinguished from the judgment of the great white throne. Here there is no resurrection; the persons judged are living nations; no books are opened;
three classes are present, sheep, goats, brethren; the time is at the return of Christ (v. 31); and the scene is on earth. All these particulars are in contrast with rev. 20. 11-15.
The test in this judgment is the treatment accorded by the nations to those whom Christ here calls "my brethren." These "brethren" are the Jewish Remnant who will have preached the Gospel of the kingdom to all nations during the tribulation.121
This judgment of individual Gentiles is to be distinguished from other judgments in Scripture, such as the judgment of the Church (2 Cor 5:10 - 11), the judgment of Israel (Ezek 20:33 - 38), and the judgment of the wicked after the millennium (Rev 20:11 - 15). The time of this judgment is "when the Son of man comes in his glory," i.e. at the second coming of Christ after the tribulation. The subjects of this judgment are "all nations," i.e. all Gentiles... then living on earth. Three classes of individuals are mentioned: (1) sheep, saved Gentiles; (2) goats, unsaved Gentiles; and (3) brothers, the people of Israel. The scene is on earth; no books are opened; it deals with the living rather than with those translated or raised from the dead. The test of this judgment is the treatment by individual Gentiles of those whom Christ calls "brothers of mine" living in the preceding tribulation period when Israel is fearfully persecuted (cp. Gen. 12:3). The sheep are Gentiles saved on earth during the period between the rapture and Christ's second coming to the earth.122
To justify this perpetual distinction between Israel and the Church, even under the New Covenant, Scofield insists that Israel is the earthly wife of God and the Church is actually the heavenly bride of Christ. Commenting on Hosea 2:2, Scofield writes,
That Israel is the wife of Jehovah (see vs. 16-23), now disowned but yet to be restored, is the clear teaching of the passages. This relationship is not to be confounded with that of the Church to Christ (John 3.29, refs.). In the mystery of the Divine tri-unity both are true. The N.T. speaks of the Church as a virgin espoused to one husband (2 Cor. 11.1,2); which could never be said of an adulterous wife, restored in grace. Israel is, then, to be the restored and forgiven wife of Jehovah, the Church the virgin wife of the Lamb (John 3.29; Rev. 19. 6-8); Israel Jehovah's earthly wife (Hos. 2, 23); the Church the Lamb's heavenly bride (Rev. 19.7)123
In a footnote to the last reference, Revelation 19:7, Scofield insists,
The 'Lamb's wife' here is the 'bride' (Rev. 21. 9), the Church, identified with the 'heavenly Jerusalem' (Heb. 12. 22, 23), and to be distinguished from Israel, the adulterous and repudiated 'wife' of Jehovah, yet to be restored (Isa. 54. 1-10; Hos. 2. 1-17), who is identified with the earth (Hos. 2. 23). 124
Scofield reaches this conclusion guided by his literalistic hermeneutic and presupposition that Israel and the Church are separate bodies, therefore, 'A forgiven and restored wife could not be called either a virgin (2 Cor. 11: 2,3), or a bride.'125 Such novel teaching of an 'earthly wife' and 'heavenly bride' is in plain contradiction to passages such as John 10:16 and Romans 11:24, neither of which, interestingly, warrant any comment by Scofield.
I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. (John 10,16)
After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to
nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree! (Romans 11,24)
Paul is here emphasising how Gentiles share the same privileges as the faithful remnant of Jewish believers. This is neither equated with national Israel, nor with a separate olive tree. At some future time Paul predicts believing Jews will also be grafted in once again. Paul is therefore teaching quite explicitly that there is one olive tree into which both Jews and Gentiles have and will be grafted on the same basis - belief in Jesus Christ. In reply to those who, in Paul's own day, regarded Gentile believers as inferior and who wished to keep Jewish and Gentile believers separate, he insisted,
There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one
in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3,28-29)
Paul uses similar analogies of 'one new man' (Ephesians 2:13-16), and, 'fellow heirs, and of the same body' (Ephesians 3:4-6), to emphasise that God has taken two peoples and made them one in Christ. By insisting, however, on arbitrary divisions in biblical history marked off, '...by some change in God's method of dealing with mankind...' each ending '...in judgment' and '...utter failure in every dispensation,'126 Scofield sets in tension Old Testament Scripture with New Testament Scripture, divorces Israel from the Church, and thereby confuses the future with the past. This is made more apparent still by the way in which Scofield insists that unfulfilled prophecies concerning national Israel will be fulfilled in the future.
9. Prophetic Promises of a New Covenant with a Restored National Israel
Like Darby, Scofield taught that it was God's intention to restore the nation of Israel to Palestine, rebuild the Temple, and re-institute the priesthood and sacrificial system. 'According to the prophets, Israel, regathered from all nations, restored to her own land, and converted, is yet to have her greatest earthly exaltation and glory.'127 In a note attached to Hebrews 7:22, Scofield insists the New Covenant contains separate promises for both Israel and the church,
The New Covenant secures the personal revelation of the Lord to every believer (v.11)... And secures the perpetuity, future conversion, and blessing of Israel (Jer. 31.31-40).128
Similarly, in the context of the return of Christ, Scofield asserts,
To Israel, the return of the Lord is predicted to accomplish the yet unfulfilled prophecies of her national regathering, conversion and establishment in peace and power under the Davidic Covenant (Acts 15. 14-17 with Zech. 14. 1-9)129
So, in his note on Haggai 2:9, Scofield claims, therefore, that there will actually be a fourth and fifth temple built in Jerusalem.
In a sense all the temples (i.e. Solomon's; Ezra's; Herod's; that which will be used by the unbelieving Jews under the covenant with the Beast [Dan. 9.27; Mt. 24. 15; 2 Thes. 2. 3,4]; and Ezekiel's future kingdom temple [Ezk. 40-47.]), are treated as one 'house'-the 'house of the Lord,' 130
Scofield finds evidence for this view in Leviticus 23:23-25 and an unusual typology related to the feast of Tabernacles.
This feast is a prophetical type and refers to the future re-gathering of long-dispersed Israel. A long interval elapses between Pentecost and Trumpets, answering the long period occupied in the Pentecostal work of the Holy Spirit in the present dispensation. Study carefully Isa. 18. 3; 27. 13 (with contexts); 58. (entire chapter), and Joel 2. 1 to 3. 21 in connection with the 'trumpets,' and it will be seen that these trumpets, always symbols of testimony, are connected with the re-gathering and repentance of Israel after the church, or Pentecostal, period is ended. 131
This highly speculative scheme is simply imposed on a series of texts that teach nothing of the sort. For example, Leviticus 23:23-25 reads,
The LORD said to Moses, 'Say to the Israelites, 'On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts. Do no regular work, but present an offering made to the LORD by fire.'
It is surprising that Scofield should begin to base his belief in the return of the Jews to Palestine and the rebuilding of the Temple on the basis of passages such as this. In one of the cross references given, Joel 2, Scofield is forced to reinterpret later verses to avoid reversing the chronological order of the chapter. The earlier portion of the chapter, he claims, refers to the future restoration of Israel. However Peter, on the great Day of Pentecost, quotes from the latter part, Joel 2:28-32 to explain how the events predicted were occurring that day. To get round this, Scofield insists,
Acts 2.17, which gives a specific interpretation of 'afterward' (Heb. acherith = 'latter,' 'last'). 'Afterward' in Joel 2. 28 means 'in the last days' (Gr. eschatos), and has a partial and continuous fulfilment during the 'last days' which began with the first advent of Christ (Heb. 1. 2); but the greater fulfilment awaits the 'last days' as applied to Israel.132
So Scofield teaches that a 'greater fulfilment' of this passage refers to a future blessing awaiting Israel rather than that which occurred on the Day of Pentecost at the bestowal of the Holy Spirit on the Church. Once again national Israel is placed in a superior position to that of the Body of Christ, the Church. To perpetuate this artificial division, in the cross-reference to Acts 2:17, Scofield has to distinguish between the 'last days' of the Church and the 'last days' of Israel.
A distinction must be observed between 'the last days' when the prediction relates to Israel , and the 'last days' when the prediction relates to the church (1 Tim. 4. 1-3; 2 Tim. 3. 1-8; Heb. 1.1,2; 1 Pet. 1. 4,5; 2 Pet. 3. 1-9; 1 John 2. 18, 19; Jude 17-19). Also distinguish the expression the 'last days' (plural) from the 'last day' (singular); the latter expression referring to the resurrections and the judgment (John 6. 39, 40, 44, 54; 11. 24; 12. 48). The 'last days' as related to the church began with the advent of Christ (Heb. 1. 2), but have especial reference to the time of declension and apostasy at the end of this age (2 Tim. 3. 1; 4. 4). The 'last days' as related to Israel are the days of Israel's exaltation and blessing, and are synonymous with the kingdom-age (Isa. 2. 2-4; Mic. 4. 1-7). They are 'last' not with reference to this dispensation, but with reference to the whole of Israel's history.133
To justify his dispensational scheme and a glorious future for Israel in the Kingdom age, Scofield concedes that the Scriptures speak of two occasions when national Israel returned to Palestine, but insists a third return is also predicted.
The gift of the land is modified by prophecies of three dispossessions and restorations (Gen. 15. 13, 14, 16; Jer. 25. 11, 12; Deut. 28. 62-65; 30. 1-3). Two dispossessions and restorations have been accomplished. Israel is now in the third dispersion, from which she will be restored at the return of the Lord as King under the Davidic Covenant (Deut. 30. 3; Jer. 23. 5-8; Ezk. 37. 21-25; Lk. 1. 30-33; Acts 15. 14-17).134
Scofield's argument for a third return is based on two important deductions that follows from his literalist hermeneutic. First, that Israel had never taken all the land promised to Abraham, and second, that Messianic promises had not been fulfilled during the first advent. In linking these two together, Scofield speculated that the return to the land would follow the return of the Lord,135 a chronology that is contradicted in the conflicting notes on Deuteronomy 30:3-5, written with hindsight in the New Scofield Reference Bible published in 1967,136 yet reiterated again, without comment in the New Scofield Study Bible of 1984.137 In a note on Deuteronomy 30:3, Scofield argues,
The Palestinian Covenant gives the conditions under which Israel entered the land of promise. It is important to see that the nation has never as yet taken the land under the unconditional Abrahamic Covenant, nor has it ever possessed the whole land (cf. Gen. 15. 18 with Num. 34. 1-12). The Palestinian Covenant is in seven parts,
(1) Dispersion for disobedience, v. 1 (Deut. 28. 63-68. See Gen. 15. 18. note).
(2) The future repentance of Israel while in the dispersion, v.2.
(3) The return of the Lord, v. 3 (Amos 9. 9-14; Acts 15. 14-17).
(4) Restoration to the land, v. 5 (Isa. 11. 11, 12; Jer. 23. 3-8; Ezk. 37. 21-25).
(5) National conversion, v. 6 (Rom. 11. 26, 27; Hos. 2. 14-16).
(6) The judgment of Israel's oppressors, v. 7 (Isa. 14. 1, 2; Joel 3. 1-8; Mt. 25. 31-46).
(7) National prosperity, v. 9 (Amos 9. 11-14)138
Far from the Abrahamic covenant being 'unconditional', Scofield and his later dispensational revisionists, ignore or minimise the seriousness of the injunctions contained in this very passage of Deuteronomy which plainly teaches that occupation of the land would always be conditional on adherence to her covenantal obligations, a principle Moses was concerned to impress upon Israel before she entered the land, a principle subsequently demonstrated throughout Israel's history, and in particular under the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities.
Schuyler English, in his 1967 revision of the Scofield Reference Bible, consistently adds to Scofield's original notes to give a more explicit dispensational reading of key texts. In many cases references to contemporary Israel are appended to verses on which Scofield originally made no comment at all. So, to Genesis 12:7, Schuyler English adds,
(12:7) The verb 'give' appears over 1000 times in the Bible, with greatest frequency in relation to God giving the land of Palestine to his people Israel, a truth here announced for the first time but repeated in nearly 150 passages in the O.T...139
One may legitimately ask for evidence of the same promise being made in the New Testament. Again, on Deuteronomy 30:5, Schuyler English adds the following innovation,
No passage of Scripture has found fuller confirmation in the events of history than Dt. 28 - 30. In A.D. 70 the Jewish nation was scattered throughout the world because of disobedience and rejection of Christ. In world-wide dispersion they experien