Spring 2012

The Easiest Way to Memorize the Bible

By Kenneth Berding

One of my professors in college was really old. I can hear everyone asking: “How old was he?” (No, his social security number wasn’t 7 ....) Let’s put it this way: He was the founder of the college at which I was studying (Multnomah in Portland, Ore.), and the school was celebrating the half-century mark of its founding while I was there! In fact, Dr. John Mitchell was over the age of 90 when he taught the two classes I took from him. He continued to teach well into his mid-90s.

Not surprisingly, he was getting forgetful about some things by the time I had him as a teacher, but what he definitely was not forgetting were the Bible verses he had memorized. His ability to recall Bible verses was astounding. I do not know this for a fact, but I would guess that he had all of the New Testament and large sections of the Old Testament committed to memory. All of his students were profoundly impacted by his immersion in the Scriptures.

I only had one opportunity to sit and talk with him while I was a student. I had a single question to ask him that day: “How did you come to memorize so much of the Bible?” He answered, “Well, I never really tried to memorize.” (Oh no, I thought, this isn’t going to be very helpful ….) “But before I prepare to preach a series of sermons on a book of the Bible, I first read it out loud 50 times before preaching it.” (OK, this might be helpful.) “Since I preached a lot in my younger years,” (… now that is an understatement; read his biography!) “I had lots of opportunities to read passages over and over again.”

Dr. Mitchell’s comments that day were a helpful turning point for me in my own commitment to memorize the Scriptures. I had already tackled some large chunks of the Bible and committed them to memory, but the process of getting there had been rather painful. Rote memory (“look at the verse, cover it with your hand, look into the air and try to quote it by memory, uncover the verse with your hand to see what you missed, fix whatever mistakes you made, try again”) was hard work, and the results were not always satisfying from a long-term, remember-what-you-memorized standpoint.

After that single conversation with Dr. Mitchell, I changed tactics. From then on, before traveling down the “rote road,” I would read the passage I wanted to memorize 50 times out loud with great emphasis. Then — and only then — I would try the rote method. I learned three things by doing it this way:

  1. I discovered that I had already memorized most of the passage I was trying to learn before I ever really started to try to memorize it.
  2. I found out that the process of reading a passage over and over again in-and-of-itself became a wonderful means of God working his grace in my life. I wasn’t just learning words, I was thinking about where the passage was going. God used it to help me understand the passage better, to think about its implications in my life, and to impact my actions and affections.
  3. I discovered that this process helped immensely in holding in my long-term memory the passages I had memorized. It is a far better process for retention.

So, why don’t you try it yourself? Here is a summary of the process.

Step 1: Begin by selecting a passage of Scripture that takes approximately 15 minutes to read out loud. Here is a short list of New Testament passages that would fall into this category that also would probably yield you a lot of personal spiritual fruit: Matthew 5-7; John 14-17; Romans 6-8; Philippians (all); Colossians (all); 2 Timothy (all); Hebrew 11-13; James (all); 1 Peter (all); 1 John (though this one is tough because of how cyclical it is).

Step 2: Read your passage through once or twice a day aloud. Keep track of how many times you have read it through.

Step 3: Once you have read it aloud 50 times, then try to rote memorize it. Keep working on it faithfully until you can get through the entire passage by memory.

Step 4: Quote through it at least 25 times without looking to fix it in your memory. An additional step you can take that would ease the process would be to read your passage onto a digital recorder and listen to it whenever you can as you drive, walk, cook or wait for something. Your own recorded voice will work a little better than someone else’s voice, since it will match the intonation of your daily oral readings, but you can use a prerecorded section if you prefer.

I’ll close with this thought: If you started today, read aloud through Philippians once a day for 50 days, spent the following 15 days doing the rote-memory thing, reviewed for another 25 days, you could have all of Philippians memorized in three or four months by only spending a relatively painless 15 minutes a day doing it. Wouldn’t that be amazing?!

Ken Berding (M.A. ’96) is a professor of New Testament at Talbot School of Theology and the author of several books, most recently Walking in the Spirit (Crossway, 2011). He holds a Ph.D. in hermeneutics and biblical interpretation from Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.


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  • John Martin May 20, 2012 at 10:38 AM

    Funny, how I 'accidentally' picked up a brother's Biola Magazine this morning and began reading - the eschatolgy of the Rapture (I was one of those unsuspecting readers caught up in "Left Behind" - that is until a theologian friend brought some biblical admonishment) - well done and helpful analysis, Alan. Then I found this crazy article on memorizing the Bible. Read passages 50X? Then memorize? Huge chunks? Yeah, sure. (I do recall reading about Jerry Lucas, of bball kicks fame, running a summer bible memorization camp - sounded more like a bible 'prison camp' when I first heard about it, in which they used Lucas' and Harry Lorraine's technique of memorization - he could memorize a whole page of the phone book after a brief time with it!). But I think I might give it a try. My confirmation (from the Lord?) came when I saw the suggested beginning passage - ALL (!) of Philippians - and I remembered we were studying that beautiful book in Roy's Thurs nite bible study here in Long Beach. OK, I guess I will. Thanks, Ken....(I think). - John

  • Patrick Davis June 19, 2012 at 4:41 PM

    Dr. Berding,
    I attended Multnomah in 1973, (grad Biola '78), and dearly loved my Spiritual Life classes. Dr. Mitchell has given me a life long passion for memorizing the Word, though I certainly do not have his great mind.
    Thanks for the visit down memory lane! I found your article stimulating me to work more on memory.
    Patrick Davis
    Fourth Grade Teacher

  • C Mettler June 27, 2012 at 4:47 PM

    We really need to read yadayah.com -- we need to study God's testimony, and we need to understand what the words really mean -- it is not sufficient to read it in English without studying the underlying Hebrew . . . yadayah.com

  • John Bonner June 29, 2012 at 2:38 PM

    @John Martin - your comment led me to read the article to which you refer - regarding the end times. Posted at the end of that article is this very same response. It is not completely clear where you stand on the issue but it seemed a good idea to express it here as well for your consideration.

    To quote part of Dr. Hultberg's answer to one of the questions early in the interview: There is debate over the timing of the rapture in relation to the final tribulation, the final period of unparalleled persecution by the Antichrist. Some argue that God will not allow the church to suffer under Antichrist. But God does allow the church to suffer in this present age (John 16:33; Acts 14:22), so what makes the difference, if there is one?

    It is clear to me the difference is God's judgement. Christians have been persecuted since the beginning of the faith. You are correct that some argue that God will not allow the church to suffer under the Antichrist. This point is in error. To clarify: The purpose of the rapture is not to end the persecution which has not ended but to protect His bride from the judgement to come. Persecution although extremely uncomfortable is nothing like the unbridled judgement that is coming when He removes His restraining influence. That to me is the worst form of judgment. When God lets people do whatever they want with no restraint. That is judgment and that is why my belief in the Rapture is ever more strong thanks to this article. Blessings and see you here, there or in the air.

  • Philip Freimann June 29, 2012 at 6:47 PM

    Hey Ken, when were you at Multnomah? I studied at Conqueror's Bible College in Portland in the early sixties and we used to use the library at Multhomah for special projects.

  • Jen June 5, 2014 at 6:02 PM

    This is marvellous, thank you so much! I've a chronic health condition that has really wreaked havoc upon my memory, but this sounds doable. I'll have to begin working on it in addition to my everyday Bible study.

  • MICHELLE DRAKE June 15, 2014 at 2:10 PM

    thankyou for the tips and encouragement. I have three children and was wanting to start memorizing scripture with them. i remember verses i learned as a child. This will be how we will do it. Thankyou

  • Simon Dempsy February 6, 2015 at 12:12 AM

    I agree the importance of knowing and memorizing scripture. For it is Gods living word.
    I have lapsed in this rewarding discipline.
    Thank for your timely reminder.

  • Eugene Smith February 18, 2016 at 4:17 AM


  • Pastor John Kojo Aidoo April 15, 2016 at 12:48 AM

    God richly bless for that wonderful piece. I have tried several methods to memorize scriptures but they are not effective . I am starting today this new way of studying and memorizing scriptures .

  • margaret greene April 23, 2016 at 9:02 PM

    Thankyou. This is inspiring and encouraging. What a wonderful way to fill up your mind
    so in your 90's your mind has been steeped in the Word like a strong cup of tea! What a great example of one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way?! I'm prompted to do this!

  • Crystal May 16, 2016 at 8:41 PM

    I had a similar mentor, also a woman in her 90s. The inspiration of such a memory master has encouraged us to home school our children in classical methodologies. We also are starting to learn large swaths of Scripture. The idea of reading through several times before committing to memory sounds like a great way to grease the skids. I really appreciate your suggestions of fruitful scriptures to commit to memory.

  • Latoya Johnson Phillips May 31, 2016 at 6:01 AM

    Thank you I will get started on that.

  • Stephen Aydt June 10, 2016 at 7:59 PM

    Thanks a lot loved the article! I've been doing this 31 day challenge a mentor has given me because I have been just slightly trying to listen and follow god, but signs have told me to follow

  • Arthur Roshkovski June 24, 2016 at 3:47 AM

    Famous hymn-writer Frances Ridley Havergal (1836 - 1839) by early adulthood had memorized the New Testament, Psalms and Isaiah (her favourite book) and later memorized the Minor Prophets.

  • Juneakar June 27, 2016 at 4:26 PM

    I am very thankful and grateful and also very excited and confident to try this now I have also a voice tape recorder with microphone

  • Roberrt Wright July 14, 2016 at 9:44 AM

    How do you incorporate chapter and verse in this technique so that you can relate certain verses in let's say Philippians to a topic. Thanks. Robert

  • Daniel Jensen August 10, 2016 at 9:58 AM

    I too was a Multnomah student, but I was at MU after Dr. Mitchell passed away. Still his coined phrase, "Don't you folks ever read you Bibles" still rings in my ears. I remember hearing of his practice of reading a passage 50 times to prepare for a sermon in my preaching classes. I started the practice of reading a chapter 5 times in a sitting, with the goal of doing it every day until I got it. 50 times is about right. You typically have it memorized by then or close to it. What you don't have, you can work out the kinks pretty easily. You don't end up remembering the exact verse # and reference for each verse, but you do remember the chapters and the context.

  • Tamil Maran August 27, 2016 at 6:38 PM

    Dear brother in Christ,
    Thanks for your idea, I will try now,

    Tamil Maran
    Gb, 1, lady desika road,
    Alwarpet, Chennai,
    India 600004

  • Michelle Peel-Underwood, MU BA '00, MA '10 September 5, 2016 at 6:38 AM

    Thanks for sharing, Ken

  • Michelle Peel-Underwood, MU BA '00, MA '10 September 5, 2016 at 6:39 AM

    Thanks for sharing, Ken

  • Michelle Peel-Underwood, MU BA '00, MA '10 September 5, 2016 at 6:41 AM

    Thanks for sharing, Ken. I enjoyed reading your article and the comments below and am always encouraged to hear how God has and continues to use MU in our graduates lives. I came to MU in 96 so missed the privilege of sitting in on Dr Mitchell's classes but I have read his biography (Lion Of God) a few times and have listened to him on the radio and CD. A man full of faith and deeply in love with the Savior...makes you want to love the Savior more. We've taken on a few memory projects here in the summers (i.e. Colossians, Philippians, I John, etc)...I missed out this summer on portions of psalms but reading your article makes me want to tackle John 14-17 ( one of my favorite portions of scripture). Thanks again for sharing. Praying special blessings on you and all there at Biola. Sincerely, Michelle Underwood, Alumni Director - Multnomah University

  • oke September 23, 2016 at 12:47 AM

    Thank you so much for this ownderful article my hunger to know more of the lord has broght me this great discovery I will get to work on it God bless and see you in heaven

  • Carolina September 27, 2016 at 2:07 PM

    Found your article from a Google search. Brought back memories. I was in the last Grad class that had Dr. Mitchell. He passed away just before graduation. Not only do I remember Dr. Mitchell telling us this but also Dr. John Wecks demonstrating it in our Bible Study Methods class. We used Ephesians 3 as our main text throughout the semester. Our Final Exam? I believe it was the only question but not positive: Write out Ephesians 3. Many of us were surprised how much we remembered because we weren't trying to memorize it we were using it as our study text for the semester. Still can say parts of it after 25+ years!

  • Anna Keetui. October 9, 2016 at 10:22 AM

    I am 75 years of age and have tried and tried and tried to memorize Bible verses but cannot remember the whole verse after a while, how should I go about it .

  • Jackie October 20, 2016 at 10:41 AM

    I've been trying this for about 4 days. It's great but my problem is no matter how fast I read I can only read John 5 and and 6 in about 18 minutes. You wrote to read John 5 through 7 in 15 minutes. Is it okay to break it up in smaller portions?

  • kaycool December 23, 2016 at 11:57 AM

    wawo, these is great.I will try these method, if it we work for me.thank u.

  • Richard February 8, 2017 at 3:27 AM

    Thanks for the suggestions.

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