John Knox Criticism - Essay

Robert Louis Stevenson (essay date 1882)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "John Knox and Women," in Familiar Studies of Men & Books, Chatto and Windus, 1882, pp. 295-356.

[In the following excerpt, the famous English novelist discusses the political expediency of Knox and the compromises Knox made concerning the controversial issue of female rule.]

When first the idea became widely spread among men that the Word of God, instead of being truly the foundation of all existing institutions, was rather a stone which the builders had rejected, it was but natural that the consequent havoc among received opinions should be accompanied by the generation of many new and lively hopes for the future. Somewhat as in the early days of the...

(The entire section is 7773 words.)

Edwin Muir (essay date 1929)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "The End," in John Knox: Portrait of a Calvinist, The Viking Press, 1929, pp. 291-302.

[In the following excerpt, Muir considers Knox's personal strengths and weaknesses.]

…[Knox was] a man who, for almost a generation, had amazed everybody, princes, statesmen, divines, burghers, students and common people alike, by three magnificent qualities: his vehemence, his persistence, and his incorruptibility. The first of these was his distinguishing quality; the others only served to emphasise it. Other great men of action have been vehement and placable, capable of both devouring ardour and repose; what distinguished Knox was the uniformity of his vehemence, his...

(The entire section is 908 words.)

J. H. Burns (essay date 1958)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "John Knox and Revolution, 1558," in History Today, Vol. VIII, No. 8, August, 1958, pp. 56573.

[In the following essay, which emphasizes Knox's writings of 1558, Burns explores the motivating factors that led Knox to become openly political.]

Early in 1558 John Knox returned to Geneva from Dieppe. He had gone there in the previous autumn, having been invited by four Protestant leaders to come back to Scotland and resume the successful preaching of the winter of 1555-56. But "contrary letters"—and, as he later acknowledged, certain hesitations of his own—interrupted his journey at the Channel. His final return to Scotland was delayed until May 1559. Before...

(The entire section is 4993 words.)

James S. McEwen (lecture date 1960)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Predestination," in The Faith of John Knox: The Croall Lectures for 1960, John Knox Press, 1961, pp. 61-79.

[In the following excerpt, originally delivered as a lecture at New College, Edinburgh, McEwen compares and contrasts Knox's sometimes inconsistent views on predestination with the views of Calvin and of Luther, and examines Knox's interpretations of election, assurance, free-will, and reprobation.]

There are certain historical facts that are known to everybody: as, for example, that the Norman Conquest dated from 1066, and that Calvinism was a predestinarian faith. One might go further and say that everyone is aware that Calvinism was not only...

(The entire section is 6362 words.)

Richard L. Greaves (essay date 1980)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Calvinism, Democracy, and Knox's Political Thought," in Theology and Revolution in the Scottish Reformation: Studies in the Thought of John Knox, Christian University Press, 1980, pp. 169-82.

[In the following excerpt, Greaves finds certain of Knox's writings to have some, albeit unintended, democratic implications.]

In the course of the long-standing debate on the possibility of democratic tendencies in the thought and practice of John Calvin and his followers, recent attention has focused on limited case studies. Certain of these studies have a direct relevance to understanding the role of John Knox in the history of Calvinism. It is [my] purpose… to...

(The entire section is 5507 words.)

Jane E. A. Dawson (essay date 1991)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "The Two John Knoxes: England, Scotland and the 1558 Tracts," in Journal of Ecclesiastical History, Vol. 42, No. 4, October, 1991, pp. 555-76.

[In the following essay, Dawson maintains that Knox's writings were intended for different readers and various purposes, and that attempts to interpret them as a unified whole are misguided.]

The tracts which John Knox wrote in 1558 are regarded as the core of his political writings and the key to his entire political thought.1 The most famous—and infamous—of his works, The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, was published in the spring and was followed in July by...

(The entire section is 11125 words.)

Robert M. Kingdon (essay date 1991)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Calvinism and Resistance Theory, 1550-1580," in The Cambridge History of Political Thought: 1450-1700, edited by J. H. Burns with Mark Goldie, Cambridge University Press, 1991, pp. 194-218.

[In the following excerpt, Kingdon asserts that Knox and others whose arguments were based on Calvinism had little impact on Political thought in Europe.]

Well before Calvin's death … one group of his followers developed a body of resistance theory. These were the English and Scottish Marian exiles, refugees from the England of Mary Tudor and the Scotland of Mary of Guise, resident in a number of Reformed cities on the continent, including Calvin's own Geneva. Like many...

(The entire section is 2979 words.)

Roger A. Mason (essay date 1994)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: An introduction to On Rebellion, by John Knox, edited by Robert A. Mason, Cambridge University Press, 1994, pp. viii-xxiv.

[In the following excerpt, Mason provides an overview of Knox's ideas, the political world around him, and his major writings.]


There was little in John Knox's background to suggest that as a self-styled instrument of God he was destined to wield considerable influence over the course of the Reformation in Britain. Of his early life, in fact, very little is known. Even the date of his birth—c. 1514—is conjectural, though we can say that he was born of humble parentage in the Scottish burgh of Haddington in...

(The entire section is 6918 words.)