John Robins (prophet)

A plebeian prophet of the English Civil War era, known for his radical spiritual expressions and confrontation with the law.


John Robins, active around 1650 to 1652, was an English Ranter and a self-proclaimed prophet during the tumultuous period of the English Civil War. As a Ranter, Robins was part of a radical religious group that rejected orthodox Christianity and often embraced antinomianism, the belief that the elect are not bound by moral law. Robins’ teachings and activities drew the attention of the authorities, leading to his imprisonment. Despite his lack of formal education, Robins claimed that his knowledge of Hebrew, Greek, and Latin came through divine inspiration, underscoring a common Ranter theme that spiritual truth could be directly revealed to individuals without the need for ecclesiastical mediation or scholarly learning.

Robins’ time in prison was marked by a significant incident where he avoided charges of blasphemy by signing a recantation. This act of recantation was a strategic retreat that allowed him to escape the harshest penalties that could be imposed for his religious teachings and activities. The details of his life, including his imprisonment and the content of his teachings, highlight the broader context of religious and political upheaval during the English Civil War. This period saw a flourishing of religious sects and prophets who, like Robins, challenged the established church and social order with their visionary claims and radical teachings.