Henry Frowde, the Mysterious OUP Publisher of Zionist Scofield Bible, Was a Lifelong Darbyite Plymouth Brother
SPECIAL FEATURE, 4 Aug 2014
In a 2009 piece entitled “Zionism’s Un-Christian Bible,” I wrote that “it remains a mystery” why the reputable Oxford University Press had a century earlier published The Scofield Reference Bible, the highly influential but controversial work whose annotated Zionist commentary on the Authorized King James Version has “induced generations of American evangelicals to believe that God demands their uncritical support for the modern State of Israel.”
Now, however, thanks to a message I recently received on Twitter, that mystery has been at least partially solved. On an evangelical website called “Gospel Hall,” a biography of Henry Frowde (1841-1927) reveals that although the OUP publisher was “[n]ot demonstrative in his religious views, all his Christian life he was associated with brethren known as “Exclusive.”
The “Exclusive Brethren” refers to the group of Christian evangelicals that in a 1848 split in the Plymouth Brethren followed John Nelson Darby. As Stephen Sizer observed in a November 2012 presentation on the history of Christian Zionism behind the British government’s 1917 Balfour Declaration in support of “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people”:
John Nelson Darby is regarded by many as the father of Dispensationalism and the most influential figure in the development of Christian Zionism. He was a charismatic figure with a dominant personality. He was a persuasive speaker and zealous missionary for his dispensationalist beliefs. He personally founded Brethren churches as far away as Germany, Switzerland, France and the United States, and translated the entire Scriptures into English. The churches Darby and his colleagues planted with the seeds of Premillennial Dispensationalism in turn sent missionaries to Africa, the West Indies, Australia, New Zealand and, ironically, to work among the Arabs of Palestine. From 1862 onwards his controlling influence over the Brethren in Britain waned due, in particular, to the split between Open and Exclusive Brethren in 1848. Darby consequently spent more and more time in North America, making seven journeys in the next twenty years. During these visits, he came to have an increasing influence over evangelical leaders such as James H. Brookes, Dwight L. Moody, William Blackstone and C. I. Scofield.
In light of his lifelong association with the Darbyite Exclusive Brethren, it’s little wonder that the “mysterious” Henry Frowde “expressed immediate interest” in Cyrus I. Scofield’s project when Darby’s American acolyte made a trip to England in search of a publisher for his Zionist reference bible. In The Scofield Bible: Its History and Impact on the Evangelical Church, we further learn that
Frowde coordinated publication of The Scofield Reference Bible with John Armstrong in New York, head of the American branch of the Oxford Press. And so, the publication of Scofield’s Bible by the prestigious Oxford University Press was secured.
And thus an influential member of a tiny cult had helped catalyse a potentially apocalyptic conflict centered on the Holy Land.
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