5" X 7" Watercolour on 200lb Bockingford Paper

John Knox’s House, Royal Mile, Edinburgh

John Knox, the great Scottish Protestant reformer, lived in or near this house in Edinburgh High Street (The Royal Mile) during the 16th century. The building dates back to 1490, making this one of the oldest buildings still standing in this famous city.

I was entranced by the beautiful, subtle colours in the stonework. Painting it was a bigger challenge than I first thought – lots of detail which had to be as accurate as possible within the constraints of the paper size. I’ve cropped the image to what I think would be about right for mounting and framing.

You may be straining your eyes to try and read the inscription that goes around the building in gilded letters – ‘fraid you won’t be able to decipher it as it was just too small to paint clearly! The inscription, in old Scots English reads:


It is an abbreviated version of the passage in Mark chapter 12, where an exceptionally good living man asked Jesus “What is the first” – the greatest, the most important – “commandment of all?” His answer encompasses both Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18:

“The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)

The same passages are referred to in Luke 10:27, where a doctor of the Law of Moses (the Torah), asks Jesus what he can do in order to inherit eternal life. Jesus asks him to state what he understands the law to say on this point. The man quotes directly from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.”

The Lord Jesus tells him he has answered correctly – and then He delivers the killer line:

“do this and you shall live.”

How many of us could truly say, hand on heart, that we had fulfilled this scripture? I would suggest it is impossible for “unregenerate” sinners like you and me to keep this greatest of all commandments. Romans 3:23 underlines this sad truth:

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”

This is the reason Jesus told another good living man named Nicodemus, who was also a Bible scholar: “You must be born again.” (John 3:7). Only by placing our trust in the only person who kept the above commandment perfectly – because He was Holy, i.e. completely sinless – can we be assured of eternal life. As Jesus went on to explain to Nicodemus:

“No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:13-17)

Those who place their trust in Christ as Saviour are “regenerated” – created anew – born from above – and by the power of Christ who lives in them, can begin to keep the inscription on John Knox’s house – the greatest of all God’s commandments.


5″ X 7″ Watercolour on 200lb Bockingford Paper