Knox, John ca. 1514–1572 Scottish Protestant Preacher

views updated

Knox, John
ca. 1514–1572
Scottish Protestant preacher

Apowerful preacher, John Knox had a major impact on the course of the Protestant Reformation* in Scotland and England. Born near Edinburgh, Scotland, Knox became a Catholic priest in 1536. He converted to Protestantism in the early 1540s and became an associate of George Wishart, a well-known Protestant preacher. Although reluctant at first to become a minister himself, Knox eventually became convinced that God called him to serve.

In 1547 French forces attacked Scotland and took Knox prisoner. He spent most of the next two years as a slave on French ships. Released in 1549, he chose to settle in Protestant England rather than return to Catholic Scotland. His powerful preaching earned him an appointment as a royal chaplain. Knox became known for his strict interpretation of the Bible—a view that often placed him at odds with English religious leaders such as Thomas Cranmer.

When the Catholic Mary Tudor took the throne of England as Mary

I in 1554, Knox fled to mainland Europe. He eventually reached Geneva, Switzerland, home of the Protestant theologian* John Calvin. A year later Knox went on a secret mission to Scotland and reestablished contact with leaders of the Protestant movement there. In 1558 Knox wrote a series of pamphlets justifying armed resistance against "ungodly" rulers. In one of these works, he attacked female rulers as "monstrous." As a result, the new Protestant queen of England, Elizabeth I, prevented Knox from reentering England. He returned to Scotland instead.

In 1559 Knox's preaching triggered a Protestant rebellion against the queen regent* of Scotland, Mary of Guise, whose daughter Mary Stuart had married a French Catholic prince. Under Knox's influence, Scotland briefly adopted Protestant doctrines. In 1561, however, Mary Stuart regained power. Knox spoke out against the queen's Catholic beliefs and tried unsuccessfully to convert her to Protestantism. However, his influence gradually declined, and he played no significant role in the rebellion that deposed* and exiled the queen. Knox spent the last years of his life writing a history of the Scottish Reformation, which appeared in print in 1586, 14 years after his death.

(See alsoProtestant Reformation. )

* Protestant Reformation

religious movement that began in the 1500s as a protest against certain practices of the Roman Catholic Church and eventually led to the establishment of a variety of Protestant churches

* theologian

person who studies religion and the nature of God

* regent

person who acts on behalf of a monarch who is too young or unable to rule

* depose

to remove from high office, often by force

About this article

Knox, John ca. 1514–1572 Scottish Protestant Preacher

Updated About content Print Article