- "We must rise to face them! There is no innocence among the outsiders in our midst! Give them the knife, the club, the fist if it's all you got! God rejoices in the spilling of wicked blood!"
- ―Sullivan Knoth
Sullivan Knoth was born in either 1933 or 1937, as there are contradicting sources surrounding his age. In 1966, he worked as a shoe salesman in Albuquerque, New Mexico. During these years, Knoth struggled with financial problems and was about to lose his property due to large debts that he could not afford. In desperation, Sullivan turned to a late-night Evangelical radio station for solace, but found no comfort in the voice preaching against the evils of extramarital fornication. As he listened through the preacher's speech, he started hearing something underneath the static, to what he proclaimed to be the voice of God.
The voice of God expressed to Sullivan his dissatisfaction with the world and its Churches, stating that he needed a brave new prophet. The man walked out into the night and saw in the dark sky a vision like that of the Prophet Ezekiel; a terrible, many-faced angelic creature crowned in fire, surrounded by "wheels within wheels". The vision bore a prophecy of Sullivan, who would lead a chosen few to Paradise and save them from eternal damnation before the end of days arrive.
Filled with purpose, Sullivan abandoned all his earthly possessions and started preaching in the streets of Albuquerque. His passion inspired people who were lost in the world and they flocked to him for guidance. Over the passing years, he had dozens of followers, all of whom had donated their possessions to the nascent church dubbed "Testament of the New Ezekiel". They lived communally on a luxury ranch owned by a wealthy woman named Lydia Degan. Sullivan continued to receive messages from God, which he faithfully recorded in a book of verse he called "The Gospel of Knoth".
Sullivan often encouraged all the women of the flock to breed frequently, even donating his own seed to to the cause and personally delivering each baby. The home births gave the New Mexico police the legal authority to crack down on the cult. With a warrant for health and safety violations, police raided Degan's ranch and arrested a dozen cult members. Knoth barely escaped with a handful of followers. All of their assets were seized and the church was in serious danger of falling apart.
Following the guidance of Moses and Abraham, Sullivan climbed a mountain alone to commune with God. He waited on the mountaintop, naked in the wilderness, until God's voice commanded that he sacrifice an eye in exchange for true vision. Knoth unsheathed his knife and slit his left eyeball open. With this act, the veil of reality fell away and Knoth saw with absolute certainty the destiny of his church. He foresaw a town, deep in the wilderness and hidden from civilization, that would be the gateway to the true temple of the Testament of the New Ezekiel. He would call this town Temple Gate and take his followers there to prepare for the end of times.
Knoth warned his flock that the road would be long and the horrors many, and they would all be forced to make difficult sacrifices and impossible choices in the hope of salvation and paradise everlasting. It was the winter of 1969 when Sullivan Knoth and nearly a hundred followers caravanned out into the desert and left their wicked world behind.
In 1971, Knoth and his followers arrived at the place that would later become Temple Gate. Temple Gate was established in 1975.
In the new gospels Knoth is shown to be hesitant about certain things. The voice that gives him the gospels tells him that the Antichrist will be born from his own flock. After a while, Knoth is encouraged (this is heavily implied to be Murkoff) to kill the children to preserve Temple Gate's "paradise." Similarly, Knoth may have been taken vows of celibacy or at least not marrying. He gets attracted to many women and gets confused on how to handle his attractions. The voice commands him that he can sleep with the women of his flock. In fact, the gospels show that The Testament of New Ezekiel does not prohibit incest. It encourages men to fornicate with their daughters as long as their mothers are no longer alive. Due to such practices, Knoth also sleeps with and impregnates Anna Lee (when she is around 15), Ethan's daughter, who later on is murdered at a hospital becoming the "Jane Doe" that sends Lynn and Blake ultimately to Temple Gate.
While Knoth's presence and influence among Temple Gate is the driving force of the entire story, he is very rarely seen himself. Most of his involvement in the plot is limited to his bellowing, passionate gospel echoing throughout Temple Gate via the intercoms, or his insane disciples referencing said gospel. His voice can be heard as he tortures Lynn Langermann, a captured journalist whose womb he believes houses the Antichrist. Later in the game, Lynn's husband Blake breaks into the church and hides in one of the confession booths, watching as Knoth and his followers violently torture a couple for information of Lynn's whereabouts, as she recently escaped. After finding out she's in the mines with the Heretics, a cult which has defected from the Testament, who want the Antichrist born, Knoth has the two "painlessly" put out of their misery.
Knoth is also suffering from syphilis. Blake reads this in a letter that someone wrote on how when some cultists go to the world outside to get gasoline and other amenities, as well as procuring penicillin. Knoth has lied to his congregation and said that the penicillin is for "study aids" whereas they are used to treat his syphilis. However, due to Knoth having unprotected sex with many of the women of the cult, he has spread it to other denizens. Though some of the cultists say that this could be syphilis and gonorrhea, Knoth had forced them to a separate encampment. Telling the afflicted that they are suffering "a sickness of the soul" through which only proper penance can save. These people have become the Scalled.
At the very end of the game, Knoth is encountered one final time by Blake, after Lynn dies from childbirth in the church. Knoth tells Blake that he slaughtered the entire town and that he failed; that it was too late and that the Antichrist has already been born, and that the apocalypse is imminent. Knoth is shown to be resentful, saying that God has gone silent after the storm and doesn't talk to him anymore, heavily implying the God was radio signals emitted by the Towers owned by the Murkoff Corporation. He is confused after killing his and his followers' children, thus declaring that there can be no more perfect faith than that, but remains confused by "God's" silence. He had thought that God would not abandon him or become silent on him after such "sacrifices" made in his name.
Bound by his own religion, he won't let himself kill Blake's newborn, and instead begs Blake to kill his own child. He sorrowfully states "I know God doesn't hear dead men, but I expect he answers them" before slitting his own throat.
Due to his exposure to the Murkoff radio towers, Knoth's faith in God has become horribly warped until he has turned into a delusional fanatic. He claims to be God's only prophet and his visions of what God has said to him are documented in most of his gospel scattered across Temple Gate, though they are raving, vulgar and outwardly disturbing slandering of his enemies, other religions and a testament to his own insanity. Knoth strongly believes the end of days is upon the world and Temple Gate is at the brink of Hell, thusly he has led mass infanticide to kill the supposed anti-Christ; many of which were his own children.
Knoth is implied to be a misogynist. His letter to Laird claims that self-pity is a "womanly sin" that he must raise his followers above. Also, he engages in heavy sex with most of the women of his cult (however, even their husbands encourage their wives to have sex with Knoth as they are so devoted and worship him that they consider this an honor). Ethan claims that Knoth "pressed himself" on his fifteen-year old daughter, implying Knoth's perversions were so bad that he was willing to commit statutory rape (though this was a side effect of the radio towers that increased his and his followers lasciviousness).
Despite his lack of action, Knoth's powers are in his oration. He can manipulate his followers by making them believe his enemies deserve the horrible fate coming to them. At one point he claims that the outsiders (Lynn and Blake) have no innocence within them though they were in fact bystanders caught in the middle of the Testament's cult war. In a letter to Marta, Knoth claims that doing nothing in the face of danger would make you as much as a murderer whether you have taken a life or not to trick her into becoming his executioner. Though Knoth claims to care about his followers as if they were his children, he has in fact launched a propaganda campaign across all of Temple Gate to keep his followers in constant fear of the anti-Christ. A letter from a child shows that she was aware of the fate in store for her but this was written illiterately, implying Knoth did not make sure that the children were well-read and educated but only groomed for their deaths if they were or were not in fact the anti-Christ.
When it suited him, Knoth has been willing to bend his own rules. Despite suffering from syphilis and presumably infecting other members of Temple Gate, he did not go to live with the Scalled but discreetly asked for penicillin from one of his followers from the outside world. Ultimately, Knoth was still bound by his own religion and didn't waver to commit suicide along with the rest of his followers when "God had gone silent".
Sullivan appears as an obese, elderly man of medium height with brown eyes, a scar across his left eye and shoulder length receding hairline. His vestments consist of green robes, a stole decorated with his signature crosses and two additional ones around his neck, the larger being modified to resemble the cult's insignia; a cross with two intertwining wheels.
- Throughout the settlement, pictures of Sullivan Knoth that resemble Christian iconography can be seen in several of the cabins of the village. These pictures are all the same iconographic portrait showing Sullivan with a halo behind him as if to depict him as a saint.