The Thundering Scot John Knox [Review]

Book Reviewed: The Thundering Scot, A Portrait of John Knox
Author: Geddes MacGreggor Copyright MCMLVII (1957)
ISBN: Library of Congress Catalog  Card Number: 57-6850  pp. 240
Reviewed By: Pastor Tim Crockett

Another great book! A biography of John Knox the Thundering Reformer in Scotland.

Reformer John Knox was born sometime time early in the sixteenth century. There isn’t much detail concerning the early part of his life and there is some debate about the date of his birth.

At this time in history the rumblings of the Reformation had begun and in 1517 Luther’s ninety-five thesis really lit the conflagration in what is known as the Protestant Reformation.

The author goes on to describe how Knox would live through and influence greatly in the midst of some of the greatest tension between the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestants both in England and Scotland. While making no claim myself to being a Protestant, after reading this and other historical accounts of the time, I can say that I appreciate some of what these men did and endured.  Read up on the massacre of the Huguenots in St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre for just a sample of the suffering the Protestants endured at the hands of Rome.

These times in church history were troubling and religion was central in nearly every facet of life especially politically. Freedom meant something different then than it does now, to Americans in particular. My research of early American history shows that it was those with Protestant/Reformed leanings who secured for us as a nation, Individual Soul Liberty. What was even more fascinating to learn was the Knox Revolution formed a template that served as an inspiration for the American Revolution.

While the author went into more detail the crux of Knox’s story is centered in Scotland dealing with the rule of the Roman Catholic Church and its oppressive rule. The author brings up two very important events that most assuredly made an impact on young Knox. One was the burning of Patrick Hamilton, and early Protestant Reformer in Scotland, at St Andrew’s. His martyrdom (they called it an execution) was recorded as being a “horrible death”. He was tied to the stake and because of the shifting winds at St. Andrews, he endured the stake for six long torturous hours. This was at the hands of a disgruntled deviant Roman Catholic Archbishop by the name of James Beaton.

There was talk of Hamilton’s martyrdom amongst the locals while Knox was a young boy. Something of this incident must have stuck with Knox. Another martyrdom, while Knox was a bit older and training as it were, was that of his mentor, George Wishart. It is said that this is where Knox’s views and passion for reform originated. The young Reformer and he were very close, in fact, Knox followed him almost everywhere, learning and gleaning all he could. The impact his martyrdom had a profound effect on the young Knox which kindled a fire that would later rage as he spearheaded the Reformation in Scotland.

Another pivotal moment in the young reformer’s life was when he spent nineteen months in a French galley. This was for most a death sentence, but Knox endured through feeling God’s providential hand on his life. Knox knew he was destined for more than just death on a French Galley. He was going to preach boldly in Scotland.

Notwithstanding the various conflicts, he had, his back and forth, at point living in England and then to Geneva (which according to him were some of the most pleasant years of his life) and his talks with the other reformer John Calvin the bulk of the story had to do with reform being brought to Scotland. As I recall, of the many cases of abuse by the Roman Catholic Church including its blatant Idolatry, (by the way neither he nor Calvin was iconoclasts) the MASS was in the words of Knox of idolatry. Laws were implemented outlawing this practice.

Perhaps the pinnacle of Knox’s influence as a Reformer was in his dealings with Mary Queen of the Scots. At the time Knox was around forty and young Mary only nineteen. The exchanges (there were several of them) were a testimony of courage, boldness, and tact. These encounters served as an example of the American Revolution.

These exchanges really drew me into the book and the man John Knox. I actually went online to see if by chance someone had posted the dialogues between Knox and Queen Mary, Queen of Scots and sure enough there were. I am thankful for there work in putting these together. Well worth the read in my opinion.

Here is the link –

When all was said and done John Knox was accredited with Reformation in Scotland and to my understanding, many of the liberties there today are a result of the reforms that Knox instituted. His magnum opus was the History of the Reformation in Scotland.

In order to have a balanced perspective on church history, you must read the Reformers and the challenges and changes that they helped bring to pass. I know many don’t agree with them and that’s fine, how camps agree even within the camps, you don’t have to cultivate a more thorough view of church history.

John Knox’s death was as triumphant as was his life. Seeking to glorify God even in his later hours with scripture being read, a vigil of prayers, and finally being released from what he often called his, “wicked carcass” to the glory above. His funeral was well attended by many both nobility and peasant alike.

While referencing another source I came across this reference to remarks made by some who tended his bedside. This is written in the English of its day:

Of this manner departit this man of God, the lycht of Scotland, the comfort of the Kirke within the same, the mirrour of Godliness, and patrone and example to all trew ministeris, in puritie of lyfe, soundness in doctrine, and in bauldness in reproving of wicketness, and one that caired not the favore of men (how great soever they were) to reprove thair abuses and synes.

The words read at his body’s committal were very telling of this man’s life and service to God:

“Here lies one who neither flattered nor feared any flesh”

Overall good book, not a bad read certainly enough to pique my interest in further study. I plan to be doing something a bit more along the lines of a biographical sketch but only after reading up on him a bit more.

Much more could have been said but I want to keep these reviews brief. Enjoy and hey go and read a book.