Many of the details of Knox 's early life are unclear. His place of birth is not known for certain, though Giffordgate, a suburb of the burgh of Haddington, East Lothian (16 miles/26 km east of Edinburgh), is the generally accepted location. He may have been born in either 1513 or 1514, though some sources favour 1505.
His father, William Knox of Haddingtonshire, had fought at the Battle of Flodden; his mother 's maiden name was Sinclair. The young Knox received his education via the Scottish Church, which was regarded as "liberal" when compared with the pre-reformation Catholic standards of the day.
The uncertainty about Knox 's early life is such that it is not even known at which university he studied, since the dates and time he spent at college are uncertain. He certainly studied under the celebrated John Mair (or John Major), a native, like Knox, of East Lothian and one of the greatest scholars of his time. Mair was at the University of Glasgow in 1522 and at St. Andrews in 1531. The name "John Knox" is listed amongst Glasgow 's incorporati in 1522, though it is also claimed that he went to St. Andrews.
Knox did not shine as an outstanding scholar when compared with contemporaries such as George Buchanan and Alesius. Indeed, there is no evidence that he even graduated. He did, however, know Latin well, and was familiar with the works of classical writers, such as Saint Augustine and Saint Jerome. From his writing it is clear that Knox learnt the Greek and Hebrew languages after ending his formal studies.
Knox is first mentioned as a priest in 1540, and in 1543 he was still an ordained Catholic clergyman. A notarial instrument dated 27 March 1543 and signed by him in his capacity as a priest is still in existence, and is kept in the charter-room at Tyninghame Castle.
Up to this time, however, he seems to have employed himself in private tuition, rather than in parochial duties. At the moment when he last signed his name as a
References: Mackenzie, The Reverend James, The History of Scotland, London: T. Nelson and Sons, 1888. Schaff, Philip, The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. VI: Innocents - Liudger, Grand Rapids: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 2000-01-27, v0.1.