Feb 9, 2015

Dispensationalism and the Scofield Bible

Tony Garland

Dr. Tony Garland

Q. I am fairly new to dispensational thinking and wanted your opinion concerning the Scofield Bible. Is this still a useful tool for the study of the Bible from a dispensational perspective? Also, do you have an opinion concerning whether one should use the Old (1917) vs. the New Scofield Bibles?

Scofield Bible

The Scofield Study Bible

A. I do believe the Scofield Bible is still a useful tool for bible study. I believe it is useful for two reasons: (1) for the teachings it contains, many of which are excellent summaries of dispensational thought; (2) for reference—this Bible had a major impact upon Bible understanding in the pews of America and Scofield is a giant among dispensational teachers.

Having said that, there are also some areas where I would disagree with Scofield. Two which come to mind are: (1) the Gap Theory where an undetermined period of time is inserted between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2; (2) the view that there are two Babylons in Revelation: "Mystery Babylon" in Revelation 17 and "Babylon the city" in Revelation 18. (However, both of these views are not uncommon even today.) In many other ways, Scofield's Bible has some excellent summary material.

I wouldn't choose the Scofield Bible as my main study bible simply because I think there are other study Bibles from a dispensational perspective which are superior. I rely heavily upon cross-references between related passages and Scofield's Bible is weak in that area. So if you get one, I'd get it mainly for access to his notes and for reference to the doctrinal summaries.

As for the new vs. the old Scofield, I have both ☺. My impression is that the new Scofield is probably better in that it clarifies some statements that he made which have been pulled out of context to imply he taught salvation by works prior to the cross and a different way of salvation (by faith) afterward. He did not hold this view—as other passages in the original work make clear—but he made an unguarded statement to that effect which has been highly criticized by those who dislike dispensational teachings. Overall, I think the new Scofield would be preferable as it clarifies some of these areas and also has more readable fonts. Another issue to consider is that the older version used Roman numerals for chapters which is much more difficult to read for modern readers.

My preferences for a study bible for ongoing use would be:

  • Ryrie Study Bible (KJV or NASB)
  • Baptist Study Edition (NKJV)
  • KJV Study Bible (Nelson)
  • MacArthur Study Bible (NKJV)

These are all basically dispensational and include full cross references. Of the four, MacArthur is the least dispensational—not clearly distinguishing between the various OT covenants in some of his notes and the topical index.