Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

The Scofield Bible-The Book That Made Zionists of America's Evangelical Christians

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

The Scofield Bible-The Book That Made Zionists of America's Evangelical Christians

Article excerpt

"For a nation to commit the sin of anti-Semitism brings inevitable judgement."

-The New Scofield Study Bible

Since it was first published in 1909, the Scofield Reference Bible has made uncompromising Zionists out of tens of millions of Americans. When John Hagee, the founder of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), said that "50 million evangelical bible-believing Christians unite with five million American Jews standing together on behalf of Israel," it was the Scofield Bible that he was talking about.

Although the Scofield Reference Bible contains the text of the King James Authorized Version, it is not the traditional Protestant bible but Cyrus I. Scofield's annotated commentary that is problematic. More than any other factor, it is Scofield's notes that have induced generations of American evangelicals to believe that God demands their uncritical support for the modern State of Israel.

Blessing Israel, Cursing Its Critics

Central to Christian Zionist belief is Scofield's commentary (italicized below) on Genesis 12:3: "'I will bless them that bless thee.' In fulfillment closely related to the next clause, '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."

Drawing on Scofield's rather tendentious interpretation, Hagee claims, "The man or nation that lifts a voice or hand against Israel invites the wrath of God."

But as Stephen Sizer points out in his definitive critique, Christian Zionism: Road-map to Armageddon? (available from AET's Middle East Books and More): "The promise, when referring to Abraham's descendants, speaks of God blessing them, not of entire nations 'blessing' the Hebrew nation, still less the contemporary and secular State of Israel."

Notwithstanding this more orthodox reading, The New Scofield Study Bible, published by Oxford University Press in 1984, intensified Scofield's interpretation by adding, "For a nation to commit the sin of anti-Semitism brings inevitable judgement."

"Sustained by a dubious exegesis of selective biblical texts," Sizer concludes, "Christian Zionism's particular reading of history and contemporary events...sets Israel and the Jewish people apart from other peoples in the Middle East...it justifies the endemic racism intrinsic to Zionism, exacerbates tensions between Jews and Palestinians and undermines attempts to find a peaceful resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, all because 'the Bible tells them so.'"

The Incredible Scofield

In his 2008 book, The Rise of Israel: A History of a Revolutionary State, Jonathan R. Adelman describes the crucial support Israel receives from Christian fundamentalists as "totally fortuitous." That assertion is belied, however, by the incredible career of the man who wrote "the Bible of Fundamentalism."

Two years after Scofield's reported conversion to Christianity in 1879, the Atchison Patriot was less than impressed. Describing the former Atchison resident as the "late lawyer, politician and shyster generally," the article went on to recount a few of Scofield's "many malicious acts." These included a series of forgeries in St. …

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