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John Knox (ca. 1513-1572)


John Knox (ca. 1513-1572)

James Dodson

Biographical Sketch

John Knox was born in Haddington, Scotland, most likely between 1513 and 1515. His later education included instruction by John Major, a noted Scottish scholar. By 1540, he was a priest in the diocese of St. Andrews. Shortly thereafter, due to his embracing of the Protestant faith, he fled to England and later traveled to Germany and Switzerland. He returned to Scotland, in 1544, at the beginning of Cardinal Beaton’s persecution of Protestants. During this time, he avoided arrest and engaged in tutoring. In April of 1547, Knox came to the attention of Protestant minister John Rough who desired to see Knox become a Protestant minister. By June 1547, Knox’s preaching brought him to the French galleys where he was imprisoned into forced labor until May 1549. After his release, Knox went to England and was licensed to work in the Church of England. He continued there until 1554, at which time he went to Geneva and spent time with Calvin. In 1554 and 1555, he had a brief pastorate of the English speaking congregation in Frankfurt. From 1556 to 1559, Knox returned to Geneva where he preached often. Finally, in May 1559, Knox returned to Scotland where he would spend the rest of his life promoting the Reformation. His efforts insured the triumph of Presbyterianism in Scotland. Besides being one of the authors of the Scottish Confession (1560) and the First Book of Discipline (1560), Knox penned numerous tracts and letters. His magnum opus was his expansive History of the Reformation in Scotland (five volumes, 1559-1566). However, his most notorious work was his pamphlet, written while he was in Geneva, The First Blast of the Trumpet (1558). Its diatribe against the rule of women brought him into conflict with both the queens of England and Scotland. He died, in Edinburgh, November, 24, 1572.