Who was John Knox?
John Knox (1514 – 1572) was a Scottish clergyman and a leader of the Protestant Reformation who brought reformation to the church in Scotland. He was educated at the University of St Andrews and was ordained to the Catholic priesthood in 1536. Influenced by early church reformers such as George Wishart, he joined the movement to reform the Scottish church. He was caught up in the ecclesiastical and political events that involved the murder of Cardinal Beaton in 1546 and the intervention of the regent of Scotland Mary of Guise. He was taken prisoner by French forces the following year and exiled to England on his release in 1549.
While in exile, The Rev. John Knox was licensed to work in the Church of England, where he rose in the ranks to serve King Edward VI of England as a royal chaplain. He exerted a reforming influence on the text of the Book of Common Prayer. In England he met and married his first wife Marjorie. When Mary Tudor ascended the throne and re-established Roman Catholicism, Knox was forced to resign his position and leave the country. Knox moved to Geneva and then to Frankfurt. In Geneva he met John Calvin, from whom he gained experience and knowledge of Reformed theology and Presbyterian polity.
Life and career
Knox created a new order of service, which was eventually adopted by the reformed church in Scotland. He left Geneva to head the English refugee church in Frankfurt but he was forced to leave over differences concerning the liturgy, thus ending his association with the Church of England.
On his return to Scotland he led the Protestant Reformation in Scotland, in partnership with the Scottish Protestant nobility. The movement may be seen as a revolution, since it led to the ousting of Mary of Guise, who governed the country in the name of her young daughter Mary, Queen of Scots. Knox helped write the new confession of faith and the ecclesiastical order for the newly created reformed church, the Kirk. He continued to serve as the religious leader of the Protestants throughout Mary's reign.
In several interviews with the Queen, Knox admonished her for supporting Catholic practices. When she was imprisoned for her alleged role in the murder of her husband Lord Darnley, and King James VI enthroned in her stead, he openly called for her execution. He continued to preach until his final days.
Lady Antonia Fraser says of Knox, "He saw himself as a heaven-sent preacher, whereas in fact he was a bold earthly revolutionary, who openly preached violence, and notoriously considered the death of an unjust ruler absolutely justified."
Despite his strictness and dogmatism, he has also been described as contributing to the struggle for genuine human freedom, by teaching a duty to oppose unjust government in order to bring about moral and spiritual change.
Knox was notable for the overthrow of Roman Catholicism in Scotland, and for assuring the replacement of the papal religion with Presbyterianism rather than Anglicanism. It was thanks to Knox that the Presbyterian polity was established. In that regard, Knox is considered the founder of the Presbyterian denomination whose members number millions worldwide.
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