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Models for Reformation: John Knox (1505-1572)

By Jay Rogers
Published March 31, 2008

John Knox was ordained a priest in the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland at the time when John Calvin began the Reformation of Geneva. The flames of the Reformation began to be kindled in Scotland in the heart and mind of Knox’s close friend George Wiseheart. Being on familiar terms with Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, Wiseheart was chosen by King Henry the Eighth for going to Scotland and interceding for the hand in marriage of Mary Stuart, the infant “Queen of Scots,” with Edward, the infant son of the King of England. Wiseheart was an unwilling tool of King Henry in this matter and his action set Catholic Scotland against him. When Wiseheart was burned at the stake by Cardinal Beaton, the fires that consumed his body fired the heart of John Knox. From that hour he was the enemy of the Roman Catholic Church. Two years later, Beaton was assassinated by “parties unknown.”

Shortly after the death of Beaton, John Knox came to Edinburgh as a newly ordained priest, having been accused of “hatching the plot” against the cardinal even though he did not personally take a hand in executing it. Soon Knox had a growing group of followers. He accused the Catholic clergy of Scotland of being “gluttons, wantons and licentious revelers, but who yet regularly and meekly partook of the sacrament.” Knox traveled to Geneva three times to study under Calvin who had a high regard for the young Scotsman. Knox returned to Scotland, was married at age 38, and was widowed a few years afterward.

Then hell sent a close call for the Reformer in the person of Mary Queen of Scots. Mary’s mother was Mary of Guise, a French woman married to King James of Scotland. Knox bore a terrible hatred toward Mary of Guise. His book, The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, had Mary Tudor, Mary of Guise, and Mary Queen of Scots, in mind. As soon as Mary Queen of Scots had landed on Scottish soil, Knox fled fearing for his life. Before long he returned to Scotland and sought a personal interview with the queen, then 20-years-old, “with intent to bring her heart to Jesus.” Mary then tried her hand at converting Knox back to Roman Catholicism – or the “Mother Church” – with bribes of political power. Stormy interviews followed, punctuated by “covenantal lawsuits” served up by Knox and his followers.

In response to Knox’s imprecatory prayers, Mary Queen of Scots is reputed to have said: “I fear the prayers of John Knox more than all the assembled armies of Europe.” In response to the rising resistance of the Scottish Reformers, Mary fled Scotland and was later put to death by a court of English who had accused her of plotting to assassinate Elizabeth I. Knox was survived by the Scottish Covenanters, who drew up a compact in 1638 asserting their right, under God, to national sovereignty.

Progress of Nations, ed. Charles H. Sylvester (Hanson-Bellows Company, 1912) vol. III, pp.454-457.

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Your comments are welcome!

You should Add a timeline.

Posted by Amanda Ruppel on 12/18/2008 06:42 PM #

I have a book called the Life of Christ that has the bible traslation buy John Know.. I would love to find a complete Knox Translation of the Bible do you have any suggestions..

Posted by Cristy L. Wierda on 04/12/2009 03:34 PM #

I have the 1912 series of “The New Practical Reference Library” Volume 1 to Volume 6
would you know of anyone interested by Editor in-chief Charles H Sylvester and Associate Editor William F Rocheleau,If interested I can be reached at 519 836 9342 or e-mail royoils@rogers.com

Posted by Douglas Pollock on 07/26/2009 08:45 PM #

this is the same John Knox who wrote: “Women in her greatest perfection was made to serve and obey man.”

So disgusting!!!

Posted by mary mont on 11/15/2009 01:36 PM #

I an not, have never been a Roman Catholic but, John Knox did not treat Mary Queen of Scots as the Bible tells us to treat out enemies. Who gave John Knox the right to treat anyone in the despicable manner he used on his enemies.

Posted by Cecilia o'Kelly on 07/11/2010 04:23 AM #

It's too interesting to have men like John Knox who lived the Bible.

Posted by Batambuze Paul Wamuka on 07/26/2010 10:33 AM #

We (Still Waters Revival Books) have place a number of John Knox’s writings online for free at http://www.swrb.com/newslett/freebook/jknox.htm – enjoy! To visit this link you may also click on my signature below.

Posted by Dr. Reg Barrow (Free John Knox Books & MP3s at Still Waters Revival Books) on 09/13/2010 05:18 PM #

Well, (Cecilia o’Kelly), what about Elijah? Didn’t he speak out against King Ahab? John Knox disagreed with Mary, and he was trying to let her know that she was wrong, by protest. This is one of man’s inalienable rights according to the American Constitution, written by men with a strong sense of God and morality. They looked to the Bible for their new government’s structure. So we can assume that Knox was not morally wrong for his feud with the queen, and we should let God decide if it was the wisest and most helpful thing to do.

Posted by Wyatt Tisland on 02/16/2011 01:29 PM #

Others state the date of Knox’s birth as 1514.
“Plain Mr. Knox”(e.whitley)indicates that his father may have been killed at Flodden (1513). 1505 seems to be out.

Posted by dugie mc nab on 02/27/2011 07:55 AM #

As a historian and Scot, living in Scotland, may I point out that the murderers of Cardinal David Beaton were very well known. Please bear in mind that history is written by the winners. most of the primary sources for the whole incident of Knox’s life were written by himself. Regardless of your politics or religion, his glee and joy at the murder of the Cardinal was vastly at odds with what should be seen in a professed Christian and man of God. I have intensively reasearched the period – as a historian, not a member of any faction, and the ‘facts’ do not tally with the other evidence.
May I also point out the Cardinal (Beaton) had one ‘mistress’ for over 25 years. She was by the laws of Scotland then and now, his wife, ‘by habit and repute’. Please do not equate any church or belief system of today with what was the norm in the past.

Posted by A. D. on 06/16/2011 05:54 AM #

John knox was a good Scottish man and I know everything about him now. Thanks for everything because I am writing a biography and this really helped

Posted by James hellokitty on 01/06/2012 04:07 PM #

Queen Elizabeth said… “all the weapons put together in England she’s not afraid of but a man called John Knox”
this is great!

Posted by Shiloh Dunamis on 01/18/2015 10:15 AM #

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