Cyrus Ingerson Scofield (1843–1921) was an influential American minister. His Scofield Reference Bible, filled with helpful annotations on the text, was published in 1909 and became the standard for a generation of fundamentalist Christians and popularized dispensational theology.
C. I. Scofield had quite a colorful early life as a Confederate soldier who served with distinction. After the war, he served in the Kansas House of Representatives and as the U. S. District Attorney for Kansas (appointed by President Grant) but was forced to resign due to scandal and questionable practices, and it is possible that he even served some time in jail. Scofield was a heavy drinker and abandoned his wife and children. He apparently courted another woman before his divorce (on the grounds of desertion) was finalized.
Some of the unsavory facts about Scofield’s life have been buried by those who agree with his teachings, and those same facts have been used by others who oppose his dispensationalism to prove that he was unfit to be a minister or Bible teacher. Both of these responses are wrong. The accuracy or inaccuracy of Scofield’s teaching is logically distinct from his personal life. His teachings must be evaluated by the Word of God. Furthermore, the life that he lived before coming to Christ, even if some of his bad behavior continued for a couple of years after his profession of faith, does not disqualify him from later ministry. John Newton also continued in some sinful behavior after making a profession of faith, but no one is ripping “Amazing Grace” out of the hymnal. The point is that, in both individuals, the Spirit of God began to bring about change, and ultimately the changes were manifest and significant.
C. I. Scofield came to faith in Christ through the witness of an acquaintance. He began serving in Christian ministries, including the YMCA, and he helped organize a D. L. Moody evangelistic campaign in St. Louis. Scofield eventually became an ordained Congregational minister and continued to work with D. L. Moody.
Scofield produced several major theological works. First, he wrote a book called Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth, which expresses the principles of dispensational hermeneutics. Second, his annotated reference Bible became the standard for a generation. Finally, his Bible correspondence course made his teaching readily available around the world. All three of these works are still available today. Scofield’s impact has been magnified by his influence on Lewis Sperry Chafer, who founded Dallas Theological Seminary. DTS became the most prominent dispensational seminary in the world; its many high-profile graduates include Chuck Swindoll, Tony Evans, David Jeremiah, J. Vernon McGee, Hal Lindsey, and Bruce Wilkinson.
Many dispensationalists and premillennialists still consider Scofield a hero, although his particular brand of dispensationalism is not as popular today, as progressive dispensationalism is more in favor.