Bible Memorization and Reading

When I wrote about different approaches in reading the Bible I left an important one out–memorization. I was reminded of this when writing an e-mail to some friends and quoting scripture. I quoted the KJV and wasn’t even aware of it until I’d completely quoted the text.

So what does quoting the KJV have to do with the value of memorization? It goes back to my school experience. For four years of elementary school I attended a small Christian school that required regular Bible memorization. We didn’t do memory verses–well, we did a few of those two–but the bulk of the program was memorizing chapters or groups of chapters. These included Matthew 5-7 (The Sermon on the Mount), Psalm 78, Genesis 1:1-2:4, and Psalm 119 (all 176 verses). All of this memorization was from the KJV.

Since that time I’ve learned to read Greek and Hebrew, and I include both in my daily devotional reading. I’ve read the Bible through numerous times in a variety of translations, and I’ve written any number of working translations of verses I’m studying. But I still remember most verses, even ones I never memorized, in the KJV.

I’m not making an argument in favor of memorizing the KJV specifically. Rather, I’m suggesting that memorizing scripture and doing it early will tend to keep that scripture with you later in life.

There was one aspect of this training that didn’t stick. They hoped that by making us memorize all this carefully selected scripture, they would guarantee that we’d stick with the doctrinal positions they held. That was one of the major reasons they included texts as well as chapters. We had four texts on the Sabbath, four texts on the state of the dead, and various other Adventist doctrines. It was also hoped that having memorized Genesis 1 we’d be protected against the wiles of evolutionary theory. They didn’t consider that one might love those words, and yet understand them very differently.

Nonetheless I recommend memorization. In fact, to Greek and Hebrew students I recommend memorizing texts in those languages. I have much better memory for both words and constructions that are in passages I have memorized than I do otherwise. Even better, when I’m discussing the meaning of those words of constructions, I can easily cite the memorized text. I wish I had memorized more back when I was a student, but I still can remedy that.

So I recommend memorization of selected texts as an aid to your Bible study, whether in English (or your native tongue, whatever that is), or in the original languages.

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