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John Knox

By John J. Murray
May 2012 | Review by Stuart Fisher


As well as modelling the Church in Scotland, Knox laid the foundation of an extraordinary forward-looking new state, way ahead of the time in such matters as education, social welfare and democracy. The Reformation had its effect in all spheres of national life. Knox roused the common man to a sense of his true dignity. He said: ‘Before God all men are equal. In matters of religion God requires no less of the subject, be he ever so poor, than of the prince and the rich man.' Educationally the Reformation gave a great impetus to literacy as the common people learned to read the Bible for themselves. Knox brought forward the first comprehensive scheme of national education, where every parish would have a schoolmaster and every notable town a college, and where the children of the poor would have their education free. The importance of education became a basic characteristic of the Scots both at home and abroad.

  • Publisher: EP Books
  • ISBN: 978-0-85234-759-1
  • Pages: 112
  • Price: 5.99
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Book Review

John Knox
John J. Murray
EP Books,

112 pages, £5.99,

ISBN: 978-0-85234-759-1

While writing this review, I have been reflecting on the recent discussions on Scotland’s future possible independence. I wonder how many politicians, both sides of the border, are aware of the impact that a man by the name of John Knox has had on both nations.
This little book points us to Scotland’s past and to the life of one of its great heroes. It is divided up into manageable chapters that carefully trace his life from its beginnings, through the stormy stages of the Reformation, to his death at the age of 58.
John Knox was a man for his times, robust, passionate and full of faith. During his lifetime he made his name as a preacher and theologian, endured life as a galley slave, and played a significant role in the Continental church.
There he led the emerging Protestant church at Frankfurt and later met John Calvin. Back in England, he played a significant role in the developing English Protestant church, becoming influential at King Edward VI’s court. His main work, however, was with the Reformation in Scotland.
The author has a real grasp and love of the history and is able to skilfully move through the complex politics of the day, which was so intertwined with the church, without getting bogged down in a mass of details.
For those unfamiliar with the history, it can at times be complex, but perseverance will bring its rewards. John Knox, though little in stature, is too big to miss. He stands as one of the great men of the past. This makes it all the more a tragedy that he is so little known by Christians today.
I am reminded of a recent reference to Knox in a Christian magazine, that while Darwin lays in state at Westminster, a small brass marker may be the only reminder of John Knox’s final resting place: car space 23 of a car park, St Giles Church, Edinburgh. ‘The world was not worthy of them’ (Hebrews 11:38)
It would have been great to have had a fuller, more rounded figure of Knox, describing his marriage and family life, but this is not possible in so short a space.
The author is to be commended for bringing Knox to hopefully a wider audience. This is a great little book. Ideal for first timers, refreshing for the more experienced.
Stuart Fisher

John Knox

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