Witness to Israel

by Bernard R. DeRemer

Witness to Israel

Arno C. Gaebelein was an outstanding prophetic scholar, author, and teacher who uniquely ministered to multitudes of Jewish people in many parts of the world. He occupied a number of pastorates, lectured at Dallas Theological Seminary, founded and edited Our Hope, and served as a consulting editor of the Scofield Reference Bible. The prodigious contributions of this "central figure in the fundamentalist movement" almost defy description.

Born in Germany in 1861, he came to the U.S. in 1879, settling in New England. Even as a youth he displayed deep spiritual fervor; the company of German Methodists provided joyous fellowship and service.

Gaebelein's rigorous home studies in church history and other subjects prepared him for his first pastorate; others followed. Having learned Latin and Greek on his own, he set himself to study Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic, Syriac, and Persian from 4 to 7 a.m. daily! Also he carried small vocabulary notebooks to review whenever he could.

He settled in New York City, where thousands of immigrants had flocked to the east side, mostly Russian Jews who had suffered horrible persecution. His Saturday meeting soon reached large numbers.

Further, he began social work which "extended from dispensing food and medicine to providing Jewish children with a sewing school." In those hard times bread lines and soup kitchens abounded. Gaebelein and a colleague found numerous families in tenement houses on the verge of starvation. To provide maximum relief, Gaebelein sometimes denied himself necessities to relieve such acute and widespread distress.

A milestone occurred in 1894 with his founding of Our Hope, a key periodical in the 20th century fundamentalist movement. It coupled Bible prophecy with in-depth scholarship, focused on the Jewish people. It never accepted commercial advertising, though "finances were often lean." William J. Erdman, W. G. Moorehead, and other leaders wrote for it.

Gaebelein actively encouraged the Jewish settlement of Palestine and shared "the belief of the Orthodox Jews in the fulfillment of prophecy and the restoration of Israel to the promised land." He traveled to Europe to learn Jewish conditions in various countries. Long before Hitler, he discovered that "Protestant Germany is Jew-hating," and warned of another outbreak of anti-Semitism.

Upon his return, he was deluged with speaking requests. As his popularity grew, he addressed more and more Bible conferences and church meetings across the U.S. He participated in the great 1914 prophetic conference at Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, perhaps one of the most important such gatherings of the century. Daily sessions from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. filled the 2,000-seat Moody Church to capacity. Gaebelein discussed "the future restoration of the Jewish people and their current treatment by Gentiles," and detailed the awful persecution of Jews by "so-called ‘Christian' countries." Yet he ended on a note of hope and triumph.

An ardent dispensational pre-millennialist, he served as a consulting editor of the Scofield Reference Bible, responsible for the prophetic portions of that famous and perhaps unparalleled work.

Gaebelein was responsible for the major prophetic interpretations of The Fundamentals. This series of books, published from 1910-15, contained articles by dozens of authors, a veritable Who's Who of reverent, conservative scholarship. They were distributed to pastors, professors, and others throughout the English-speaking world. Eventually nearly 3 million copies were circulated, with an enormous, lasting impact for the cause of Christ.

In the 1930s he warned that "Soviet communism will develop into a menace to world peace and stability [with its goal of] world domination...."

When much of the world was disregarding reports of Hitler's maniacal Holocaust atrocities, Gaebelein was faithfully documenting increasing Nazi persecution of the Jewish community.

How did Gaebelein accomplish so much in so many fields? For sixteen years he never took a vacation. But above all, God gave him "the needed strength, spiritually and physically. So to Him be all the glory."

Gaebelein married Emma Grimm and they had four children. One son, Dr. Frank E. Gaebelein (1899-1983), himself a distinguished author, editor, and educator, recalled that while his father was often absent on his travels, they had many precious times together, including Sunday afternoon walks in the countryside. Also, his father actively encouraged Frank's writing when he saw ability in that area.

Gaebelein authored more than 50 books, hundreds of pamphlets, and thousands of periodical pages. Perhaps his most outstanding work was The Annotated Bible. In 10 years, he covered all 66 books, in 9 volumes of more than 3,000 pages. Other works include The Prophet Daniel; Revelation, and Analysis and Exposition; The Hope of the Ages; and Studies in Prophecy. While Books in Print lists none of his titles, many are readily available in libraries and secondhand stores.

Gaebelein went to be with the Lord in 1945, but his influence continues today. "He being dead yet speaketh."