Scofield was born in Lenawee County, Michigan, on August 19, 1843. He studied law in St. Louis, Missouri and moved to Topeka, Kansas, where he was admitted to the bar in 1869. He was a member of the Member of::Kansas legislature in 1870-71 and was appointed United States district attorney for Kansas in 1873 under the administration of President Ulysses S. Grant. However, in his legal career, Scofield began drinking heavily and ran up substantial debts. He was replaced as U.S. attorney and served a brief jail sentence for forgery in 1879.
While in jail, Scofield underwent a religious conversion and became a Christian. As a neophyte Christian, Scofield was profoundly influenced and indeed schooled by Influenced by::James H. Brookes, the minister of Walnut Street Presbyterian Church, St. Louis also known as "The Father of American Dispensationalism." Brookes helped Scofield in his study of the Bible and introduced him to dispensational teaching.
In 1883 Scofield was ordained as a Congregationalist minister and at the encouragement of Brookes accepted a pastorship of the Pastor of::First Congregational Church in Dallas Texas. Scofield was called as an associate pastor of Associate pastor of::Moody Church, Northfield, Massachusetts from 1895-1902, returning to his Dallas church from 1902-1907. He spent his later years lecturing on biblical subjects on both sides of the Atlantic. In 1914, Scofield, with William Pettingill and the assistance of Lewis Sperry Chafer, established the President of::Philadelphia School of the Bible and served as its first president.
Scofield developed a correspondence Bible study course that became the basis of the work for which he is chiefly remembered, the Scofield Reference Bible, a widely circulated and popular annotated study Bible that was first published in 1909 by Oxford University Press. This Bible teaches the theology of dispensationalism devised in the nineteenth century by John Nelson Darby, and it was largely through the influence of Scofield's notes on the Bible that dispensationalism became influential among fundamentalist Christians in the U.S.A.
This belief system sees a distinction between the Church described in the New Testament and the promises made by God in the Old Testament to ancient Israel — i.e. there are two peoples of God with two different destinies, ethnic Israel (OT) contrasted to the spiritual church (NT). Some see it as one of the intellectual foundations of Christian Zionism, a belief that Christians are obliged to support the Jewish state of modern Israel (as the people of God) not only as a matter of morality but as an item of faith.
Scofield's work was based upon the King James Version, but in recent years his notes have been updated and applied to the New International Version and others. His study Bible has now greatly influenced several generations of evangelical pastors. Although his ideas have gained widespread acceptance in evangelical circles their acceptance is far from universal.
"Optimists" patter of peace when there is no peace, and will not see that the evils from which the philosophers would save us are as old as the human race itself. Every method whereby the race has sought to realize the deathless vision has been tried to the dregs, and has failed. The futility of the ideal commonwealth of Plato and the others is precisely the futility of all superficial optimism --- the notion that for the common good, men are going to give up ambition, greed, and pride. But that which has sought expression in the Utopias, stands boldly forth in Scripture as a revealed purpose of God. What do the Prophets Say, (1918).
- Ernest R. Sandeen, The Roots of Fundamentalism, British and American Millenarianism, 1800-1930 (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1970)
- Charles G. Trumball, The Life Story of C. I. Scofield (Oxford University Press, New York, 1920)
- John Gerstner, Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth (Brentwood, Tennessee, Wolgemuth & Hyatt, 1991)
- Joseph M. Canfield, The Incredible Scofield and His Book (Ross House Books, Vallecito, California, 1988)