Time Line of Key Events in the Life of John Knox (1514-1572)

John Knox Preaching (stained glass)

Under threat of death, John Knox boldly preaches at St. Andrews Kirk in 1559

“In the hearts of Scotsmen…he became the Moses of the Scots; more indeed, for he was their Amos and their Isaiah too…” Geddes MacGregor, The Thundering Scot

Who was John Knox? Briefly stated: he was born in Scotland, attended classes at St. Andrews University, experienced a life-changing conversion to Jesus Christ and a call to the ministry; he was enslaved by the French and forced to row all over the North Atlantic coming close to death while in captivity; in God’s kind providence he was released and became a diligent and esteemed pastor in England; he fled to Europe during the reign of Bloody Mary, and while there he ministered to English exiles in Frankfurt, Germany and later in Geneva, Switzerland; he studied at the feet of John Calvin. He was a husband to Marjorie Bowes, and after her untimely death, to Margaret Stewart; he was a father to two sons and three daughters. In triumph he returned to his native Scotland where he courageously advanced the cause of the Reformation as a pastor at St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh for the remainder of his life. After his death, he became widely known as an author with his gripping book, The History of the Reformation in Scotland (which is still in print). By his preaching and teaching, he was able to bring virtually all of Scotland to a thorough-going knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and he engendered in the Scots a stalwart resolve to advance Christ’s Kirk (or, Church) here on earth. This is why many of the spiritual descendants of Knox—the Scottish Covenanters, the English Puritans and Pilgrims, and the American Presbyterians and Reformed Baptists—uniformly thank God for the life and ministry of John Knox. The “rallying cry” of the Scots Covenanters and their spiritual children is “For Christ’s Crown and Covenant” and this motto is directly connected to the preaching of John Knox.



1514 – John Knox was born at Giffordgate on the outskirts of Haddington, in Scotland

1528 – Patrick Hamilton is martyred for his faith in St. Andrews–all Scotland grieves

1532 – Knox was sent by his father to study at the University of St. Andrews

1536 – In March, John Calvin published the Institutes of the Christian Religion in Basle

1540 – Knox is ordained to the Roman Catholic priesthood; and serves as a Papal notary


1543 – Knox begins tutoring the young sons of two Scottish Lords open to Protestantism

1543 – Knox is converted to Christ after reading John 17, “Where I cast my first anchor.”

1544 – He serves the bold Scottish evangelist, George Wishart, as a personal body guard and carries a large two-handed sword to defend him

1546 – George Wishart is captured by Cardinal David Beaton, quickly tried & burned alive on March 1, 1546 outside the Castle of St. Andrews

1546 – In revenge, Cardinal David Beaton is murdered by several young Scottish assassins who take refuge in St. Andrews Castle

1547 – Knox is called to preach by Chaplain John Rough and the people of St. Andrews Castle

1547 – Knox preaches his 1st sermon in the parish church of St. Andrews Castle


1548 – St. Andrew’s Castle falls to French forces; all are captured and enslaved

1548 – Knox is forced to be a galley-slave on the French ship, Notre Dame

1548 – Knox assists his friend Sir Henry Balnaves in writing a treatise on Justification

1549 – Near death, Knox prophesies that he will once again preach in St. Andrews Kirk

1549 – As a result of English negotiations, Knox is released in March from the galley-ship after nineteen months of enslavement

1549 – Knox makes his way to England; is licensed to preach by the English Privy Council


1549 – Knox is appointed as a preacher in Berwick, England

1549 – Knox meets Mrs. Elisabeth Bowes of Aske, and her daughter Marjorie

1549 – 1st edition of the Book of Common Prayer is adopted; Knox assists in this project

1550 – Knox writes Vindication of the Doctrine that the Mass is Idolatry in Newcastle

1550 – Knox writes a practical treatise on True Prayer, and how we should pray

1551 – He receives a ministerial call to Newcastle, England

1551 – Elected to serve as one of six Royal Chaplains to King Edward VI

1552 – 2nd edition of the Book of Common Prayer is adopted

1553 – Edward VI dies on July 6, and Mary I becomes the Queen of England

1553 – Mary begins her bloody persecution of the Protestants; many flee to Europe


1554 – In January, Knox flees to France and takes up temporary residence in Dieppe

1554 – He writes A Godly Letter of Warning or Admonition to the faithful in London, Newcastle, and Berwick

1554 – In March, Knox visits John Calvin in Geneva, then returns to Dieppe

1554 – Knox quietly enters into a binding engagement with Marjorie Bowes

1554 – Writes Two Comfortable Epistles to his Afflicted Brethren in England

1554 – Writes A Faithful Admonition to the Professors of God’s Truth in England

1554 – In August, Knox returns to Geneva for the purpose of study with John Calvin

1554 – In November, Knox is called to serve as the pastor to English refugees in Frankfort

1554 – Knox befriends the young scholar William Whittingham in Frankfort

1555 – In March, Knox is ousted by the unruly congregation in Frankfort over disputes about the proper forms of worship

1555 – Knox returns briefly to Scotland and secretly marries Marjorie Bowes; returns to Dieppe

1556 – In May, Knox begins an extended preaching mission throughout Scotland

1556 – Knox writes the Queen Mother, Mary of Guise, of the need for reform in the Kirk

1556 – Knox leaves Scotland, reunites with Marjorie and her mother; travels to Geneva

1557 – Birth of his 1st son, Nathaniel, and later a 2nd son, Eleazer; both are born in Geneva

1557 – Knox intends to return to Scotland, but is warned off by friends; remains in Dieppe

1557 – Writes The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women

1558 – Knox returns to Geneva and works out his theory of a “godly revolution” and the resistance of tyrants through the interposition of lesser magistrates

1558 – Knox writes a massive treatise on Predestination in Geneva; published in 1560

1558 – Works with William Whittingham translating the Geneva Bible; published in 1560

1558 – Mary I, “Bloody Mary”, dies on November 17th and is succeeded by Elizabeth I


1559 – In January, most of Knox’s congregation safely returns to England

1559 – Knox arrives at Leith, Scotland on May 2nd and begins preaching in Perth

1559 – On June 11th Knox preaches at St. Andrews under threat of death; fulfils his prophecy

1559 – On June 29th Knox begins preaching at St. Giles, Edinburgh; opposition increases

1560 – On June 11th the Queen Mother, Mary of Guise, suddenly dies

1560 – In August, Knox and five other “Johns” write the Scots Confession; adopted by Parliament

1560 – In December, Knox’s wife Marjory, his “dear bedfellow,” dies in Edinburgh (24 yrs. old)


1561 – In January, the Book of Discipline is presented to Parliament and rejected

1561 – In August, Marie Stuart, “Mary Queen of Scots”, arrives to assume her throne

1561 – 1st audience with Marie Stuart regarding her authority as Queen and private Mass

1561 – 2nd audience with Marie Stuart regarding Knox’s sermon critical of her actions

1562 – 3rd audience with Marie Stuart regarding Roman Catholic priests saying Easter Mass in her Chapel at Holyrood

1562 – 4th audience with Marie Stuart regarding her plans to marry a Spanish Prince

1562 – 5th audience with Marie Stuart regarding Knox’s suspected treason; he is formally accused

1562 – After a stout defense Knox is unanimously acquitted of treason by the Scottish Lords

1564 – Knox (50 yrs. old) marries Margaret Stewart (17 yrs. old); three daughters follow: Martha, Margaret, and Elizabeth

1565 – In July, Mary Queen of Scots weds Lord Darnley; confers on him the title of “King Henry”

1566 – James VI is born to Mary Queen of Scots and Lord Darnley

1567 – In February, the Earl of Bothwell murders Lord Darnley (King Henry)

1567 – On May 15th Mary Queen of Scots weds the Earl of Bothwell to public outrage

1567 – In August, Mary Queen of Scots is deposed by the Scots General Assembly

1568 – Marie Stuart, the ex-Queen, escapes her captivity by fleeing to Elizabeth I in England

1570 – Civil War breaks out in Scotland; a bullet is fired through Knox’s dining room window


1571 – In July, Knox moves to St. Andrews due to the Civil War that has broken out

1571 – Knox finishes compiling material for his History of the Reformation in Scotland

1572 – In August, Knox returns to Edinburgh and resumes preaching at St. Giles

1572 – On November 24th after hearing his wife read aloud John 17, “Where I cast my first anchor,” John Knox dies in his bed at Edinburgh (58 yrs. old)

Copyright April, 2016   Dr. Marcus Serven, ThM and DMin
Used by Permission.  All Rights Reserved.

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