John Knox


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Jane Dawson

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The definitive biography of John Knox, a leader of the Protestant Reformation in sixteenth-century Scotland

“Never before has there been such a thoroughly and sympathetically critical treatment of the 16th-century Scottish reformer’s thought and times. . . . A joy to read and a book to value.”—Sean Michael Lucas, Gospel Coalition

Based in large part on previously unavailable sources, including the recently discovered papers of John Knox’s close friend and colleague Christopher Goodman, this biography challenges the traditionally held stereotype of the founder of the Presbyterian denomination as a strident and misogynist religious reformer whose influence rarely extended beyond Scotland. Instead, Jane Dawson maintains that Knox relied heavily on the support of his “godly sisters” and conferred as well as argued with Mary, Queen of Scots. He was a proud member of the European community of Reformed Churches and deeply involved in the religious Reformations within England, Ireland, France, Switzerland, and the Holy Roman Empire.

Casting a surprising new light on the public and private personas of a highly complex, difficult, and hugely compelling individual, Dawson’s fascinating study offers a vivid, fully rounded portrait of this renowned Scottish preacher and prophet who had a seismic impact on religion and society.

Jane Dawson is John Laing Professor of Reformation History, School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh. She lives near Cupar in Fife.

'Quite simply, this life of John Knox renders all his previous biographies obsolete. Excitingly enriched by new manuscript discoveries, it expertly fillets Knox's genius for personal myth-making, but leaves him still the most significant Scotsman of his generation. The result is surprising, fascinating and a major achievement of scholarship.' - Diarmaid MacCulloch, author of A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years

'This is an excellent book, a fine piece both of research and of writing, and displays a finely balanced judgement. It gets as far as possible "under the skin" of its subject and yet manages to avoid uncritical or overflowing sympathy for him. This balanced and insightful biography should be definitive for many years to come.' - Euan Cameron, author of The European Reformation

'Full-blooded and bloody, compelling and engrossing, the life of John Knox presented by Jane Dawson is a masterpiece of biography. The Scotsman rages against all foes, bows in prayer to a mighty God, and transforms a nation, all brought to life by Dawson's deep knowledge and vivid prose. Marvellous.' - Bruce Gordon, author of Calvin

“Carlyle’s characterisation of Knox — “shrewd, observing, quietly discerning”, with a “certain sardonic taciturnity”… would serve equally well as a description of Dawson’s own strengths as a historian… The image of Knox that emerges is more complicated, interesting and – not a word one would expect for Knox – vulnerable.”—Arnold Hunt, Times Literary Supplement

“Never before has there been such a thoroughly and sympathetically critical treatment of the 16th-century Scottish reformer’s thought and times. . . . A joy to read and a book to value.”—Sean Michael Lucas, Gospel Coalition

“A thoroughly researched and judiciously argued biography… Dawson brings an unobtrusive but exceptional level of learning to her task that illuminates Knox’s life as never before without ever overloading with academic detail her clear and compelling prose… One is by turns repelled and captivated by Dawson’s portrait of a complex man who, thoroughly convinced of his calling as God’s prophet, was nonetheless prone to serious bouts of guilt and depression, and who was as capable of hateful  vindictiveness as he was of gentle pastoral persuasion.”—Roger A. Mason, Theology

“[John Knox] is engaging, lucid, comprehensive, peppered with fascinating details, and an ennobling account of a major figure of the nascent Protestant movement.”—David George Moore, Patheos

"Dawson’s Knox provides an up-to-date and complex portrayal of what may be known today about Knox and Scotland’s early Reformation era. It will not easily be surpassed."—Kenneth J. Stewart,Haddington House Journal

“Dawson has written the definitive biography of the Scottish Reformer. . . . I don't remember a comma being out of place in Dawson's John Knox. . . . Having read Dawson on Knox, you'll want to read Knox, too.”—James E. Bruce, Anglican and Episcopal History

"In the best possible way, this biography makes Knox far less of an icon, and far more of a man—it does, in fact,exactly what a scholarly biography should do."—Mark S. Sweetnam, Renaissance Quarterly
ISBN: 9780300219708
Publication Date: July 5, 2016
384 pages, 5 x 7 3/4
11 b/w illus.