HERE'S HOW YOU CAN REMEMBER SCRIPTURES
I just can't remember scriptures!" is the anguished cry of many
brethren. Just how IMPORTANT is the ability to memorize hundreds of
verses? And how can you develop and improve your ability to RECALL the
MANY have suffered needless frustration because of
fruitless efforts to retain certain passages of Scripture in their
memory. Perhaps you have tried and repeatedly failed to commit to
memory important verses from our Maker's Instruction Book.
the other hand, the ability to remember chapter and verse and to dazzle
others with this skill becomes a fetish with some! There are those who
delight in "showing off" their capacity to quote from memory long
sections of Scripture or even whole books of the Bible. Some might
claim to have "the fastest Bible in the West" (or the East as the case
may be!). On a moment's notice these individuals will fire a rapid
series of scriptural verses at their helpless victims, hoping to
impress them with their spirituality.
Is this a proof of spiritual mindedness? Or is it rather merely evidence of great, toadishly swollen vanity?
Is Memorizing Word for Word Necessary?
be balanced! Let's understand
that SALVATION DUES NOT DEPEND ON one's ability to
quote chapter and VERSE FROM THE BIBLE ! If it did, it is conceivable
that none of the original apostles and authors of the New Testament
would ever have qualified for the Kingdom of God !
in the days of the twelve apostles and the writers of the New
Testament, the Old Testament writings had not yet been divided into
chapters and verses. In fact, it was not done until long after those
men were all dead!
The sole exception to this was the Book of
Psalms. The Psalms are actually songs. They were composed by a number
of authors and originally intended to be set to music. Therefore it was
necessary to divide them into chapters and verses for musical and
poetical expediency. And as songs, of course, they were intended to be
memorized. For ease of memorization the verses were sometimes arranged
Now consider this fact: The New
Testament authors quoted directly from the Psalms 116 times — yet in
only one instance did they mention the chapter from which they were
quoting! This one case is Acts 13:33: "... as it is also written in the
second psalm. . . ."
The remaining quotes from the Psalms make no mention of either the chapter or the verse.
than those from the Psalms, the New Testament contains 167 more direct
quotations from the Old Testament and, of course, no chapter or verse
is referred to in a single instance. In some cases, when quoting from
the Old Testament, the speaker or writer did not even mention the name
of the person or the book he was citing. Take, for example, the time
when Jesus Christ was being tempted by the devil. Jesus quoted directly
from the Book of Deuteronomy, which was written by Moses, yet he did
not even mention the author or the name of the book! Check that for
yourself in Matthew 4:4, 7 and 10.
In other instances where the
prophets of old are referred to, they are simply mentioned by name,
but, of course, no verses or chapters are given. For some examples,
read Matthew 2:17; 8:17; Luke 4:17.
The Bible was not divided
into chapters until about 1250 A.D. when Cardinal Hugo composed a Latin
concordance or index of the Scriptures. Over 300 years later, in 1560
A.D., the first Bible translation
wholly divided into chapters and verses was produced in
Geneva, Switzerland. It was known as The Geneva Bible.
be apparent, then, that the ability to quote chapter and verse from the
Bible like a human computer is not necessary, and is in some cases
nothing more than sheer vanity! If, however, a person is gifted with an
exceptional memory for scriptures, it is certainly to his advantage if
he exercises his ability in right humility and for an honorable
purpose. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having an excellent
It IS Important to Retain Knowledge
are told to "grow in grace and in knowledge" (II Peter 3:18). As
Christians, we should be continually increasing our knowledge of God's
Word. Peter also instructs us, ". . . be ready always to give an ANSWER
to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with
meekness and fear" (I Pet. 3:15).
Memory is therefore one of the
important attributes that God has given to humans. For most people,
however, remembering does not come easy. It seems many have difficulty
retaining even the simplest things! Perhaps you have that difficulty.
so, then you can take heart from this fact: Even though most of the
Bible was not originally written with chapters and verses, the Bibles
we use today are ! And since they are, we can certainly take advantage
of this valuable aspect of modern translations.
chapter and verse divisions do make it easier to locate the scriptures
we need, and to do it in a systematic way without having to wade
through whole books and sections of the Bible to find them. By
increasing our memory of scripture locations, we can improve our
overall knowledge of God's Word and be better able to "rightly divide
the word of truth" (II Tim. 2:15).
We should stand in awe of the
authority of the scriptures inspired by the great Creator of mankind!
We should tremble before the Word of the living God! (Isa. 66:2.) We
should FEAR to misuse, twist, or misquote the
Bible! A fast,
flippant answer, hastily given to "save face," is often inaccurate and
wrong! Therefore it is important that we come to really KNOW our Bibles
and develop the ability to use them correctly as Peter said.
Understanding More Important Than Rote Knowledge
may be impressive to be able to "rattle off" dozens of scriptures from
the Bible. But it is more impressive and vastly more profitable to have
a good understanding of the Scriptures!
Of what value
(spiritually speaking) is a man who has the capacity to cite from
memory a large number of scriptures without understanding? Probably
less than eight dollars! An inexpensive concordance may be purchased
for about eight dollars and likely contains a far greater list of
scriptures than any man could normally memorize.
Solomon, in his
God-given wisdom, recognized the transcendant importance of gaining
understanding. He said, ". . . lift up your voice [pray] for
understanding. . . ." ". . . happy is the man that findeth wisdom and
the man that getteth understanding." He said we should ". . . get
understanding" (Prov. 2:3; 3:13; and 4:5). There is a tremendous joy
and a sense of exhilaration in realizing you have grasped and
understood a spiritual principle for the first time!
Why is it
so much more important to have understanding of the Scriptures than
merely to be expert in locating and quoting them? Simply because the
ability to cite verses and chapters from the Bible is merely a
mechanical operation. But comprehending their meaning is a spiritual
accomplishment! Read Rom-mans 7:14 and I Corinthians 2:14 in connection
Surely you can see that the important thing is to study for UNDERSTANDING, and not merely to memorize by rote!
course, it is also fine to want to increase your skill and ability in
rapidly locating and citing scripture verses. And since it is, here are
some pointers that will help you — if you practice them habitually —
not only to understand, but also to be better able to recall verses of
Get the Overview of the Bible
have failed to recall the location of certain scriptures because they
have thought of God's Word as a disjointed and disconnected collection
of thousands of unrelated verses. Therefore, you should strive to see
the Bible as an organized whole. Get the Big Picture! Learn the books
of the Bible first and try to have a general idea of what they are
about. Become familiar with the basic divisions of the Bible, the types
of books, and the general subject of each book. (For more information
on how the Bible was put together, write for our reprint article "Do We
Have the Complete Bible?")
In order to get the overview of the
Bible, you should at your earliest opportunity quickly read through the
entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Studying just bits and pieces,
here and there, will never enable you to grasp the broad picture — the
panorama of the Bible.
To read the whole Bible through, you need
to set up a program of Bible study. You should set aside a certain
period of time each day to read perhaps five chapters. In order to be
sure you don't bog down, read rapidly to get the general idea of what
each chapter is about. Don't worry about little details. Skim more
rapidly over genealogies and those areas where you may be tempted to
As you read you'll find the Bible coming alive
with fascinating stories about the lives of godly men of old, gripping
true exploits of Biblical heroes, and containing encouragement,
exhortation, and valuable instruction in
Study by Subject or Chapter
chapters in the Bible were made chapters because of a natural subject
content. For example, I Corinthians 13 has been called the "love
chapter" because it primarily deals with that subject. Exodus 20 and
Deuteronomy 5 both discuss the Ten Commandments. Revelation 20, I
Corinthians 15 and I Thessalonians 4 are concerned with the
Hebrews 11 is known as the "faith" chapter. Psalm
51 is David's psalm of repentance after his sin with Bathsheba.
Psalm 119 deals extensively with the Law of God. Isaiah 11 speaks in
detail of the millennial reign of Christ. On and on we could go.
is easier to remember the subject of an entire chapter than individual
verses. But to really remember what is in entire chapters, you need to
familiarize yourself with them by studying and poring over them. Doing
this will help your overall ability to retain Bible knowledge! And when
you do learn the overall content of some of these basic chapters, you
will begin to more rapidly locate individual scriptures on the subjects
covered in them.
Be Impressed With the Verses You Are Studying
you were driving a nail into a board and you tapped very lightly on it
with the hammer, it would not penetrate the wood very deeply. Your mind
is the same way.
Our minds adequately retain for instant recall
only those things that have left a deep impression on them. Unless you
are sufficiently impressed with something the first time you hear or
study it, chances are it will soon fade from memory. Therefore, you
must allow the verses you are studying to make a deep mental impression
If you merely read superficially over verses, simply skimming
them, they will leave little or no impression! There is a proverbial
saying to the effect that if you eat Chinese food, half an hour later
you will wonder what you ate. If you study superficially, half an hour
later you will wonder what you read!
It is imperative,
therefore, that you dwell on and concentrate intensely on what you are
studying! Let the words of the Creator sink deeply into the innermost
recesses of your mind.
Associate What You Study with Real-Life Situations
not allow your Bible study to be merely academic or impractical. Relate
what you are studying in the Bible to actual situations in this life.
Relate it to history or future events in world affairs.
study prophecy (about one third of the Bible deals with prophecy) ask
yourself, "Has this ever happened? Is it happening now? Or is it yet
future?" Then, as you read the daily newspaper, and as things happen on
the world scene, certain verses from the Bible will spring to mind!
you study a section in the Book dealing with a law or some aspect of
Christian conduct, ask yourself, "Am I obeying this? How can I perform
this?" Then when you come up against a situation in daily life which
involves that principle, the verse will come to mind.
If in your
mind the Bible is relevant to life, both past and present, its verses
will spring to life ! They will become living oracles which have a
definite bearing on human life in general — and yours in particular!
This will make them much easier to retain and recall.
Meditate and Think on the Verses You Have Studied
old cliche "out of sight, out of mind" applies here. After you have
closed the Book, unless you continue to mentally digest its words, they
will tend to fade from conscious thought. They will be crowded out by
The example of King David of Israel applies in this
case. He said, "Oh how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day"
(Psalm 119:97). David's mind was perpetually on the things of God. Not
to the exclusion of his responsibilities as administrator of the
kingdom, but including those principles in his rulership as well.
Word is truth (John 17:17). We are admonished by the Apostle Paul to
think on (meditate on) the truth. (Phil. 4:8.) The more you do this,
the more the verses and chapters of our Maker's Instruction Book will
become real "mind stickers"!
Drill Yourself in the Scriptures
To "drill" is to indulge in mental exercise aimed at perfecting facility and skill by regular practice.
yourself in the verses of the Bible is one of the finest ways of
committing them to memory. Many have found the use of "flash cards"
helpful in this respect. These can be made very simply by purchasing a
supply of 3x5 index cards and writing or typing the scripture out in
full on one side, and then the chapter and verse location on the other
side. Use these cards for key scriptures you wish to recall.
through the cards regularly by reading the quote and then trying to
recall its location by chapter and verse. Then turn the card over and
check on yourself. You could reverse this process by reading the
chapter and verse first and then trying to recall its wording. Since
every translation varies, don't necessarily try to memorize word for
word, but just the key thought, subject, or point of the verse. This
method will provide you with a helpful review of the scriptures and is
a valuable means of aiding your memory.
Drill yourself also on
the subjects of basic chapters such as those mentioned earlier in this
article. You'll find that repetition 75 indeed the best form of
Ask God For Help
Christ promised His disciples: "But the Comforter (Greek paracletos —
"one called alongside to help") which is the Holy Spirit, whom the
Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring
all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you" (John
God's Spirit is intended to help and assist you in both
understanding and recalling to mind the words of Jesus Christ. Utilize
that help! Ask God to help you apply the principles in this article
daily. Practice them and work on them faithfully. Develop right study
habits and stand in awe of the words of the living God. As you continue
to submit to God and respect His Word, He will help you in your efforts
to study and retain scriptures.
But don't become discouraged if
you don't become a "walking concordance." Remember the ability to
UNDERSTAND Scripture is vastly more valuable than the ability to merely
quote it! (For more information on how to make your Bible study more
profitable and interesting, be sure to request the article "Twelve Rules for Bible Study.")
by Brian Knowles The GOOD NEWS January-April 1971