Memorizing the Bible


I would like to memorize a few verses from the Bible, but it got me thinking about how one would go about organizing memorization of the entire Old and New Testaments, or anything of extreme length. What kind of memory journey/palace would one build? What would it look like? I would think you’d want to be able to access book/chapter/verse from memory.

From wikipedia: There are 23,145 verses in the Old Testament and 7,957 verses in the New Testament. This gives a total of 31,102 verses, which is an average of a little more than 26 verses per chapter. About 1,189 chapters.

I would think you would need 23,145 loci, but perhaps not? Any thoughts on organizing this?



Sorry, I meant in my first post that I would think you would need 31,102 verses (for the entire Bible).



I think the your first clue is in the Bible, “In my father’s house, there are many rooms” :wink:

I was thinking of building two houses (before we begin, realize that people have remembered word-for-word far more material than the bible). An older house for the Old Testament, which would have 39 rooms. And a newer house for the New Testament, which would have 27 room. A chapter for each room, and I since this is my imagination, I could make the rooms as big as I wish, furnish them as I see fit. Paul wrote 14 books of the New Testament, so he gets his own wing.

Heh, I guess Genesis would start in the Garden. Then Exodus would have to move into the main house.

I think one of the key’s would be staggered review. You’d have to figure out what schedule works best for you. Study in the morning, review that afternoon, then the next evening, three days after that, a week later, a month later. Then you’d have to review every so many months to keep it there.

Shew. That would be a long term project. A couple of years, maybe? Back in the 80s, there was a fella on That’s Incredible or some show who had memorized Stephen King’s “It” I was in high school then, and we had a substitute teacher who was a walking biblical encyclopedia. He would appear on a local public access television show where they a round table, people discussing religion, etc. No matter what topic they were discussing, he would quote chapter and verse to back up his arguments. He was quick, too. I’m not religious, but digesting that amount of information was still quite impressive.

Good luck with that. I look forward to seeing you on TV. :slight_smile:


I like using the garden for Genesis!

I don’t have a goal of memorizing the Bible, but I would like to memorize parts of it and I might as well put the rooms and journey in the context of something larger.

I like the two houses idea, also. Where I falter is imagining a wing for a biblical book, rooms for each chapter in that book, and enough loci in each room (there are sometimes around 50 verses in a chapter), and how you peg each loci with the number for the book/chapter/verse.

So, let’s say you want to memorize Psalm 23 (King James Version):

1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Psalms is the 19th book of the Old Testament (again, KJV). This is the 23rd chapter, and we have 6 verses. So, it would be 19-23-[1-6]. I could use a PAO system and have the person as the book, the action as the chapter, and each verse as the object. BUT, it seems I would have the same objects pegged to verses over and over again in each room (even though they would be associated with different actions and people), and it would get confusing.

Is there another way to peg numbers to objects in a system with so many loci numbered 1-50 (approximately) over and over again? Or is this the best way?


(Josh Cohen) #5

You could reduce the repeats by making a separate journey for the names of the books of the Bible. Psalms would be at the 19th locus of that journey.

Then you could memorize verses with number pegs. In this case, 23:1-6 (PAO: 23:01-06).


i just found this, could be useful for you, chanced upon it while browsing through the GMS forums though it is unrelated to the GMS , which is a relief


It might be worth knowing that the chapter and verse divisions were created precisely in order to allow memorization.

Prior to the middle ages, the Bible wasn’t divided up this way at all. To some extent the books were divided, of course, because they were separate documents. But the division into chapters is, if memory (!!) serves, an 11th century development. The versification wasn’t finalized until the 16th century, and there are still significant differences between Jewish, Catholic, Orthodox, and various Protestant Bibles as to verses.

Mary Carruthers talks about this in a couple of her books.

Basically the idea was to break up the mass of text into chunks that could be memorized. So if you’re going to cue your memory to remember pieces of the text by chapter and verse, you’re in good company.


As to this being a “long-term project,” bear in mind that pretty much everyone who was considered to have a serious education was, in the medieval and early modern periods, able to “quote chapter and verse” throughout the text. It’s long-term, but the question is whether you want to know it. If you do, you just plunk away at it.

Now, if you want a SERIOUS long-term project, memorize the whole text in Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Latin, and some good English translation at the same time. You’d sure learn a lot!


I would structure it in an imaginary memory palace with a room for each chapter (flowing in a logical order for you, every room will need to have a distinct character that you associate to the book. Then from their you will have to create loci around the room for each chapter. The chapter can then be deconstructed into a list of verses. Most verses can be captured in 3 words, so you will link the 3 words to the verse image. This will give you easy access to the different books of the bible. You simply need to count the chapters as you move around the room until you get to the chapter you want, the same for verses. It will definitely be helpful if you have certain delimiters to help you quickly go to the next group of 10 verses.

I have experimented with a pure link system where you have an image for the book name and then us something like PAO or the major system to encode chapter and verse, but that system gets cumbersome very quickly and it becomes confusing after the tenth time you have book so and so chapter one verse one. The memory palace approach does not have this problem.


I have been thinking about a way to Memorize the New Testament. To me, the tough part is connecting the chapter and verse reference. If I try and include it in my picture for the verse it becomes to cumbersome.

After a lot of reading about methods I’ve come up with an idea that might work. So far it goes like this:

For each Bible book Create a building:

  1. Have a theme for the building
  2. Each building will have as many floors/storeys as there are chapters in the book.
  3. For each floor design enough rooms to contain all the verses. Each floor could also have a theme. (Maybe even work in the theme for the chapter?)
  4. Each room will have 10 loci
  5. The 5th loci in each room will have a specific characteristic (eg, something made of gold, or a plant or fruit, etc)

For example, Ephesians.
Ephesus is famous for it’s Celsus library so a Library would be the theme of my building.

It has 6 chapters. so there will be 6 floors in my Library. Each floor will be a place I created with my imagination. I could also use rooms I already know and pretend they are at the library. eg, My parents house could be the first floor, and my oldest brother’s house the second floor and so on in order of siblings so there is a natural progression

Each room will have the same construct of 10 spots: corner, wall, corner, wall, corner, wall, corner, door, floor, ceiling
So, when I walk into the room the first thing I remember is what is in the corner to my left, then what is on the wall (or against the wall), then what is in the next corner and so on around the room.

The 5th item is always going to be in the far right corner. It will always have something in it made of or relating to my theme which we’ll say is “gold”

Because the rooms are of a fixed size and the 5th loci in the room has a recurring theme I can instantly calculate or figure out the chapter and verse for all of the Book. If I am on the 1st Floor in the second room I know that those verses are 11-20. If asked what the verse is for Ephesians 5:26 I will go in my mind to the 5th floor in the second room on the wall next to the gold thingy


After trying this method it is obvious that it is not necessary to have a special theme for loci 5 as the location itself indicates the value of the verse. The far right corner will always be a number ending in 5 just as the left hand wall will always be a number ending in 2.


I started memorizing the Gospel of John at the beginning of the year with my goal of memorizing in one year. I started off fairly good, I got through the first 4 chapters then stopped. Since I am fairly new to this memorizing stuff I may not be using my terms correctly but I started out using the loci system with the master system (numbers to pictures). Anyway, The first chapter of John e.g., 1 was a huge TIE, in the first room of my loci e.g., the dining room. I would then use a smaller tie for 1.1 then Noah 1.2, Ma 1.3 using the various images. I wasn’t too concerned about having the name John attached to anything since I hadn’t planned on memorizing more than the book of John.

Anyway, I think the problem was that I was cramming an entire chapter into one room because I was worried about running out of loci things were getting boggled. I figured since all the verses were tied to a number image, I really didn’t need to be concerned over the loci part since the numbers were the sequence (if that makes sense). But it seemed to be too confusing.

So I am starting again, this time using larger palaces for each chapter. e.g., the town I live in). The town has a bridge at the entrance to it. I decided to start with chapter 8 “ivy” and the Ivy is all over the bridge. 8.1 is “But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives”. So I see a mountain on the bridge with a huge tie on it and an olive on top. Verse 8.2 “At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them.” I see Noah’s ark on a huge basketball court (still on the bridge), the sun (i.e., the dawn) is coming up and people are all over the court. Jesus is sitting on a big chair in the middle of the court. Although I would like to get every word memorized, I am not overly concerned about getting all the little words down. Anyway, I made it through the first 11 verses fairly well and I think using this system e.g., loci and master should suit me. The main thing I lack is the accountability from someone to keep me doing it. I am a pastor and I am preaching through the book of John so having the passage memorized really helps.


I used the major system + memory palace for Ephesians 5 but it took a long time to try and “tie” in the peg word to each verse.

Not having to include the major system has made it way simpler.

The hardest part now is dealing with really long verses as the story becomes too involved. I’m testing a new idea that may solve that issue. I break down the longer verses into smaller phrases and create a mini story for each phrase and attach them to the location.

eg. 1 Peter 1:7
Location: Corner of livingroom where the tv is.

Location a: left side of TV -So that the proof of your faith

Location b: to the TV - being more precious than gold which is perishable

Location c: right side of TV - even though tested by fire

Location d: the tube and a movie is playing - may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ

My daughter and I are memorizing 1Peter chapter 1 together and that has made it more enjoyable and easier as we can bounce ideas of off each other for some of the more difficult word pictures.


I have a question. How do you learn the text itself? I know you put the contents in locations on your journey but what exactly do you use to recall a verse? Can you recite it verbatim? I’m terrible at remembering verbal information, so I’m interested to hear any tips & tricks regarding memorizing text.


Tying the verse to the peg word is important for me as I want to be able to name any verse in John by the reference. It makes the memorization slower but I am finding the ability to quote verses off the top of my head even after the initial image is gone. That is great that your daughter and you are learning together. I wish I had taught my kids the memory techniques at a young age.


I initially pull out the major words / ideas of the passage and attach to the image on the journey which contains the peg word (usually the largest image on my mind). Then I continue to practice the verse until all the little additional words become second nature. I am not shooting for 100% verbatim but more or less a close paraphrase of the passage and the more I go over it the closer I get to the actual words.


I try to always get it verbatim.

It somewhat random order, here is an answer to your questions:

It helps me to break up longer verses into smaller sections to create more, but smaller stories as I wrote about above. This helps get it into my memory so I can review it from there rather than just reviewing by reading it from the Bible.

But some verses I find hard to do that with so I just take the time and do it by rote. After a bit of time I find that I can usually come up with an oddball story for even the tough verses.

A couple of keys for me were:
1. Come up with a word picture for the first 2 or 3 words of the verse if possible. That helps me get going on the verse and the rest follows along quite nicely.

2. Think about the passage so your oddball stories connect from verse to verse. I used to get stuck on just finding word pictures to fit into an oddball story but that backfired because then I lost the context of what I was remembering.
eg. Verse 11 starts out with " seeking the…" and I had this great word picture of Titan, the “sea king = seeking” but that didn’t fit with verse 10 which was talking about Prophets so I changed my word picture to prophets seeking something at location 11 in my memory palace.

  1. I try and do 3 verses as stories quite quickly then I go back and review. Once I have them down fairly good I move on to a new verse if I feel like it. For me, I usually don’t remember it very well the next day, but when I do a review then it comes back quickly and I am good for the rest of the day. Then it’s just a matter of saying it out loud everyday so that I can do it without stopping to think about the stories. That is the hard part for me as I usually like to memorize new stuff and not spend much time on review.

Here’s my story for 1 Peter 1:7

Location: Corner of livingroom where the tv is.

Location a: left side of TV -So that the proof of your faith. I am nailing a proof of purchase label to the left side of my tv. I am using my friend Faith as the hammer.

Location b: top of the TV - being more precious than gold which is perishable. I see a bee packing a Precious moments ornament made of gold, a witch steals it and turns it into a cloud of dust. ( I had trouble with remembering if a verse contained “that” or “which” until I started using the witch in my stories)

Location c: right side of TV - even though tested by fire
Eve is taking a blowtorch to the right side of the tv but it’s not melting. Here is a case where the story captures the concept of the verse and that was all it took for me to get a strong memory of the verse.

Location d: the tube and a movie is playing - may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. I really struggled with this one and learned it by rote initially. Then I created this story as the movie that was playing on the tube: I work with a girl named May and she is on the street being conned by a crook into playing the shell game. She correctly guesses that the bee is under the 2nd shell " may bee found two".
He gets mad and kicks the shells and they all turn over. Each shell contains something:

  1. praise = two praying mantises.
  2. glory = my sister Lori
  3. Honor = a big “on air” fluorescent light.
    My friend (whose initials are J.C. comes along just then to protect her from the con artist.

I don’t usually do a complete story for the whole verse but that last paragraph was a tough one so I felt I needed to make it more involved.

One of the things I started to do early was come up with certain word pictures to help me when I couldn’t remember the correct word and made the error of substituting a similar word.

which = Witch, so I know not to use “that”
Jesus Christ, Lord Jesus Christ, Christ Jesus, Jesus = For me, my friend with the initials JC is always used for Jesus Christ. For Lord Jesus Christ I just add a big crown on his head. Christ Jesus, well, I haven’t come up with that one yet (o:
Jesus to me always pictured as a baby in swaddling clothes


Very thorough explanation, thanks a lot. It’s been nice to find that there are some very creative and insightful people on this forum. It feels similar in feeling to when I learned programming, you need the concepts and syntax internalized first. When your imagination is the variables and associations the operators, it’s easy to get into, yet powerful.


I’m memorizing the book of Mark (the only book in the bible worth memorizing or knowing, but that’s a discussion for a completely different forum).

My approach and why:

Verse numbers are so arbritray and capricious that knowing them shouldn’t be important, and normally I wouldn’t worry about them; however, I know that if anyone finds out that I have the entire book memorized, they will throw out something random like: “What is Mark 3:14?” For them, that is the ultimate test of my knowledge: random recall. Therefore, memorizing the verse numbers is important even though it shouldn’t be.

My approach must match my goal. My goal is to be able to answer the random verse questions.

1)Location doesn’t help much. Placing verses into locations is a waste of time and highly inefficient for my goal. If I’m asked Mark 3:14 and I use a location method, I’ll have to locate chapter three, then locate verse fourteen. In order to do that with any speed, I’d need to make each chapter it’s own location grouping (16 location groupings), then further group the verses within the location group. So, chapter three could be my current house. Chapter 3 has thirty-five verses. I need to further group those into an order that is easily catalogable. That might be four rooms with ten separate locations. So, my bathroom is for verses 11-20. Then, I have to count up four, down seven or create another category that handles the midway points of each room (which would have to have some type of organization across rooms). Good Lord, the work involved to do all of that is outrageous!

2)If I didn’t need to know the verses, the location method would work. I would create my own divisions (disregarding the verses completely) and place these chunks into locations. But that isn’t my goal. So my approach is to use key words and object recognition. First, I turned the 16 chapters into objects. I used the number rhyme system for the most part: 1-sun, 2-shoe, 3-tree, etc. Then, I found that the longest chapter had 72 verses. Then, using the Major System, I turned the verse numbers (1-72) into objects. Now each verse will have its own set of objects attached to it. Mark 1:1 is a sun hat. So, I visualize a sun hat with the words “The beginning” stitched across the bill. That is a key to me that Mark 1:1 is: The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Mark 1:6 for me is a Jew (with the payot hanging down) with his hair on fire. That particular Jewish male is John the Baptist. This person also has a camel hump on his back. That gives me Mark 1:6: John was clothed with camel’s hair, and wore a leather belt around his waist, and his diet was locust and wild honey.

With this approach I dont’ have to search houses and rooms for my verses. If you give me a chapter/verse, I know immediately what my objects are, and that grouping of objects gives me what I need to know to recall the specific wording. For me, anything less than verbatim is a waste of time. I don’t need some fundamentalist arguing with me because I said “in” instead of “with.”


Good insights. I say do whatever works. The Loci method with the peg works for me. I don’t cram into one house I just make it a long journey that I am very familar with. The 21 chapters of John are easily identified up front and the peg words with the verse as I move along. Anyway I agree that verbatium is ideal but disagree that “anything less than it is a waste of time” I am a pastor (but by no means fundamentalist) and have found just meditating on the Bible and having verses available (even paraphrased without the “thees and the thous”) have made me a better preacher and have ingrained it in me. One of my favorite verses is Psalm 1 which speaks of the value of meditating on God’s Word.

     1      Blessed is the man 
     who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked 
     or stand in the way of sinners 
     or sit in the seat of mockers. 
     2      But his delight is in the law of the LORD, 
     and on his law he meditates day and night. 
     3      He is like a tree planted by streams of water, 
     which yields its fruit in season 
     and whose leaf does not wither. 
     Whatever he does prospers. 

Anyway my view is that as long as you know which words are essential to the passage many of the other words such as “asked” vs “questioned” will not make a major difference. That is way Christianity can use paraphrases. Anyway you do it your way and I’ll do it mine I only wish I had more people like you in my church you take the Bible seriously enough to memorize even a verse or two. Press on!