Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Jane Dawson's "John Knox"

Jane Dawson is John Laing Professor of Reformation History at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. She is the author of Scotland Re-formed, 1488-1587 and The Politics of Religion in the Age of Mary, Queen of Scots and has produced editions of a number of primary sources from the period.

Dawson applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, John Knox, and reported the following:
When I checked Page 99 I was pleasantly surprised to find one of the pivotal points in the life of John Knox, the Scottish and British Protestant Reformer. It opens with a description of his predicament in the spring of 1555,
By the early morning of Tuesday 26 March, Knox was setting off on the road south, banished from Frankfurt, with a treason charge hanging over his head and not entirely sure what had hit him. Though at the start of the year he had been looking for a way to leave the city, this was not what he had had in mind.
Having fled England after the Catholic Queen Mary Tudor had come to the throne, Knox had served as minister to the English exile church in Frankfurt and become embroiled in a bitter dispute about worship. These ‘Troubles at Frankfurt’ culminated in a ‘furious fortnight’ following the arrival of additional exiles led by Richard Cox, later Bishop of Ely. As page 99 explains,
The attractive rhyming of the Coxians versus Knoxians has encouraged a tendency to explain the Troubles primarily as a clash of single-leader parties. Cox’s speedy victory over Knox has grabbed the headlines and disguised the longer and far less conclusive battles both before and after that furious fortnight.
The campaign was won when Knox’s opponents complained to the Frankfurt City Council about his strong denunciation of Queen Mary in a tract published the previous year. Knox had also attacked Mary’s father-in-law, the Emperor Charles V, leaving the Frankfurt authorities little option but to defend their Imperial overlord. They gave Knox his marching orders and he travelled to Geneva, the city transformed by the Reformer, John Calvin. Knox’s Frankfurt supporters followed several months later and established a new congregation in Geneva. Knox was one of its ministers and this proved the happiest period of his life. Without the defeat and humiliation Knox had faced at Frankfurt, the positive achievements in Geneva would not have happened.
The treatment of Knox split the English exiles and became part of a breach that never fully healed. As the anonymous 1575 tract proclaimed, the Troubles ‘begun’ at Frankfurt were a foretaste of the divisions besetting the Elizabethan Church and came to be seen as the foundation of English nonconformity and the Puritan movement. The liturgical and doctrinal stance that Knox and his supporters adopted during the Troubles led to the production of a new order of worship that was carried into the Reformed Church of Scotland and the Anglophone Protestant tradition.
The fascinating story of Knox’s life shows how the Reformation upheavals changed individuals. For this particular man the Troubles at Frankfurt and the creation of the Geneva congregation were a turning point but they also altered the religious landscape of the English-speaking world. That Genevan congregation’s remarkable productivity created the building blocks for the Puritan and Presbyterian tradition. Knox’s steps along that road from Frankfurt helped shape the world in which we live.
Learn more about John Knox at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue