Presbyterian tradition, particularly that of the Church of Scotland, traces its early roots to the Church founded by Saint Columba, through the 6th century Hiberno-Scottish mission. Tracing their apostolic origin to Saint John, the Culdees practiced Christian monasticism, a key feature of Celtic Christianity in the region, with a presbyter exercising "authority within the institution, while the different monastic institutions were independent of one another." The Church in Scotland kept the Christian feast of Easter at a date different from the See of Rome and its monks used a unique style of tonsure. The Synod of Whitby in 664, however, ended these distinctives as it ruled "that Easter would be celebrated according to the Roman date, not the Celtic date." Although Roman influence came to dominate the Church in Scotland, certain Celtic influences remained in the Scottish Church, such as "the singing of metrical psalms, many of them set to old Celtic Christianity Scottish traditional and folk tunes", which later became a "distinctive part of Scottish Presbyterian worship".
Presbyterian history is part of the history of Christianity, but the beginning of Presbyterianism as a distinct movement occurred during the 16th-century Protestant Reformation. As the Catholic Church resisted the reformers, several different theological movements splintered from the Church and bore different denominations. Presbyterianism was especially influenced by the French theologian John Calvin, who is credited with the development of Reformed theology, and the work of John Knox, a Scotsman and a Roman Catholic Priest, who studied with Calvin in Geneva, Switzerland. He brought back Reformed teachings to Scotland. The Presbyterian church traces its ancestry back primarily to England and Scotland. In August 1560 the Parliament of Scotland adopted the Scots Confession as the creed of the Scottish Kingdom. In December 1560, the First Book of Discipline was published, outlining important doctrinal issues but also establishing regulations for church government, including the creation of ten ecclesiastical districts with appointed superintendents which later became known as presbyteries.
In time, the Scots Confession would be supplanted by the Westminster Confession of Faith, and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, which were formulated by the Westminster Assembly between 1643 and 1649.