Memorizing the Bible


#41

Hi folks!

Here’s a radically different approach: it’s much
easier if you memorize Scripture without any mnemonics at
all
. In my experience, mnemonics actually make
memorizing Scripture harder.

This is my first post here on mnemotechnics – I am so
excited to discover this thread and listen in as you all
talk about your techniques. Here’s what’s worked for me.

"Stories" Are Easier Than Individual Verses

A few years ago, I memorized the entire Gospel of Mark. I
thought I needed mnemonics. I used the loci method, one
image per verse. I arranged the images carefully so that I
could find, say, Mark 13:2.

Then I maintained these memories with Anki flashcards, one
card per verse.

But I eventually discovered that breaking up Mark into
individual verses like this made it harder to remember them.
I lost all the context. I lost all the connections. It was
much easier when I memorized entire stories.

(I got this idea from the Network of Biblical Storytellers
(http://nbsint.org), some of whom have memorized several
books of the bible.)

Rhythms Make Memorizing Easier

Another major key for me: Biblical rhythms. Rhythm is
huge. Most, if not all, of the Bible is extremely
rhythmic. But we lose those rhythms by cramming the texts
into boxy columns. Which is easier to remember:

And it came to pass that in those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled.

or this:

And it came to pass     that in those days there went out a decree    from Caesar Augustus that the whole world     should be enrolled.

The huge chunk of paragraph is too much, and too boring, to
remember. But breaking it down into individual words, with
visual mnemonics, is, I think, also too much.

Memorizing is very personal, so if it works for you, that’s
great. For me, short, rhythmic lines are much more natural.
Think of all the song lyrics you’ve memorized without even
trying. Our minds are actually very good at remembering
texts, if we give them a chance.

Focus on the Words Themselves

After learning Mark, I’ve tried a new way of memorizing, and
it seems much more natural. I found it described in an old
book as the “cumulative method”. Basically, you start with
one verse a day, but really look at that verse. Say
it a few times throughout the day.

Tomorrow, say that verse again, and also learn one new
verse.

On the third day, say the two verses you’ve learned so far,
and learn a third verse.

This may seem slow, but you are training a new skill. You’re
training your mind to pay attention to the actual words you
see.

Perfection actually becomes easier than “almost” knowing the
verse, because with perfection, you have no hesitation. You
know what comes next.

Instead of diverting mental energy into mnemonics, you are
focusing your entire attention onto experiencing the words.

And not just your sense of sight: you say the words out
loud, you hear them, you even feel the shapes in your mouth
if you speak clearly.

And because you’re not using mnemonics, your imagination is
free to simultaneously delve into the meaning of what you’re
saying, whether that’s imagining a scene or connecting to
abstract feelings or ideas. And that’s the ultimate goal
anyway, right? We memorize this stuff so we can
think about it.

Gradually Learn Faster

At the end of a month (or so), you can learn two verses a
day. Next month, try three. And so on.

If you start now, and max out at five new verses per day,
you could learn the entire Gospel of John in about eight
months.

John has about 880 verses.

Month 1: 30
Month 2: 60
Month 3: 90
Month 4: 120
Month 5: 150
Month 6: 150
Month 7: 150
Month 8: 130 verses

Keep in mind, the entire New Testament is only about 8000
verses. You could probably learn even more verses per day if
you really wanted to – but at that point, I wouldn’t
consider it a “spare time” activity!

Do you repeat everything you’ve learned every day?
No. When I know a chapter perfectly, I give it a break, and
review it later. Ideally, I’d schedule my reviews of those
chapters using spaced repetition.

Loci to Navigate Large Chunks?

I’ve tried this cumulative system to learn John chapters 2
and 3. So far, it works great.

I’ve also found that reviewing the texts I’d already
learned, such as Mark, is much simpler when I focus on the
stories and rhythms. If my memory for a verse fails, the
most efficient response is to look at the text
again
and form a clear impression.

No mnemonics, just attention and review. It really is
amazing how well you can remember something simply by giving
it as much attention as you can, and repeating it a few
times a day over several days.

Now, I’m open to the possibility that I might ultimately use
a small “memory palace” to store navigational markers to the
stories in each chapter. For instance, John 2 would have two
mnemonics, one for the Wedding Feast at Cana and one for the
Cleansing of the Temple.

I don’t know yet whether you’d need those mnemonics to help
navigate a large amount of material. Even so, we’re talking
two or three mnemonics a chapter – quick and easy.

I do know, from experience, that this “cumulative method” of
training your attention is much simpler, more natural, and
ultimately faster than trying to use mnemonics on every word
or even every verse as you memorize Scripture.

I’ve written a whole series of articles on this technique
over at my blog. Since it’s Advent, I’m helping some people
memorize the Christmas story from Luke 2:1-20, one verse a
day. Every day, I’m posting a new verse and a new memory
article explaining more about how to memorize without
mnemonics.

You can start here, with the slideshow:

At the end of that article, you can follow the link to the
next article, and work through the series.

For a similar but different perspective, here’s a review of
and link to a great article by Dennis Dewey, a professional
storyteller who explains how he’s memorized several books of
the Bible:

And here’s a selection from that old book that talked about
the “cumulative method”:

And that’s probably enough for a first post! I’m excited to
hear what you all think.

Bill Powell


#42

billisalive… great read. Thank you for sharing.

I think for many, your method is a perfect fit. Why try and develop a tedious mnemonic system when the contextual and literary flow of the written Word makes sense.

Who can argue with that?

I can remember Bible stories and I have some understanding of difficult passages. That which you know can be remembered, though maybe not always in the same perfect detail.

One way mnemonics helps me, is when my natural memorizing process breaks down for some reason, and I need just a little help to get back on track. Most people would probably agree or at least not cringe at something like that.

Let’s say I have several chapters or a few thousand Bible verses memorized. For me, if not impossible, it would be more than difficult to give Book, Chapter, and Verse number if I didn’t use mnemonics. Though I don’t believe this is important compared to the content, it is helpful when someone needs a scripture reference.

If a person continually has a problem memorizing after seemingly trying all the processes that deal with natural memory, understanding, context, organization, ect… as I have experienced; an unorthodox use of mnemonics may be in order. It was and is for me. How weird it is to see a COW and call it 7. That is unorthodox in my opinion.

I know where I’ve been, I know where I am, and I don’t care to go back to where I was. I lean heavily on mnemonics.

My wish is for all to have wonderful minds that have no problem remembering and retrieving information, regardless of how it’s done. If it’s a natural thing, you are blessed. If it’s not so natural but works, you are blessed.


#43

Hi garylanier!

Thanks for your thoughts. I definitely agree that mnemonics
are essential for chapter and verse.

Also, I don’t mean to say that mnemonics are
cringe-worthy. :slight_smile: I used them for years, and enjoyed them,
and learned a lot about how my mind works.

What I wonder now is this: when we hit that wall where we
have trouble remembering some text (and we all do, sooner or
later, probably sooner), what is the next step? Is a
mnemonic system the best next step? Or would we better off
spending that mental energy and focus on the words
themselves: looking at them for longer, saying them slower,
louder, with rhythm, thinking about what they mean, and so
on?

In one sense, this is always a personal question. If
mnemonics work for you, great!

But here’s the paradigm I currently see:

Almost everyone in contemporary Western civilization thinks
it’s impossible to remember a text of any great length.

A small group of memory enthusiasts do believe it’s
possible, but only with a complex mnemonic system. When they
think about learning something, the first question is, how
will they build the necessary mnemonics?

I’m suggesting that normal people can remember as much text
as they want, but the solution has much more to do with
attention, focus, and interest than with mnemonics.

This is a huge paradigm shift for me. Learning texts by
heart definitely did not come naturally. I trained myself
to use mnemonics. Then I realized that I could go further,
and train myself not to need them.

I guess I just don’t want to see people starting with
mnemonics because they think they can never do without them.
I already went down that path myself.


#44

Hello billisalive… Your point is well taken and I believe we should all aspire to the joy of memorizing whatever you desire, and not the drudgery of the process.

I am not like most normal people. I experience chronic ADD symptoms. Mnemonics helps keep me on track by giving a visual path to what I want to memorize. Everyone has to find his/her own customized procedure that works best for herself/himself. I have mine and though it is an ongoing journey of tweaks and adjustments, it has helped me immensely and I’m grateful for that.

So, bottom line, whatever works for you or someone else, I’m happy for both sides and all that’s in between.

gary


#45

i appreciate the perspectives on word for word mnemnonics that i have gained from you sharing.

as an P.S.(at the tip of my tongue)
Billisalives approach reminds me of something called lectio divina…

when this has been said:

i am glad to see that you find your ways of exploring.
:slight_smile:


#46

Some very interesting techniques! Many thanks guys. I am over here taking notes.

I am with Bill Powell in ‘simplisity’ mainly because I do not think I could handle the exotic sophistication of Gary’s technique, though I think in my younger days, I certainly could.

In my journey into learning and memorizing Scripture, I use a simplified version of photo memory and mini stories. I cant say its Locci, but rather turning some words into pictures, and creating a mini story of that Scripture into something that will have fish hooks for me to remember it by, and at times, words will have pictures where I might have trouble remembering certain words. (For some reason, some words evade my memory. Oddest thing. To get around it, I can create pictures that will enable me to remember the word, then later, I can remember it after quite a few recalls).

But… By creating the mini story, I tie in the numbers (chapter/verse) into the ‘name’ of the book being studied. This enables me to then recite the Scripture and its book location. The mini story fish hooks have the meanings of the scripture, etc, and this helps with key words in the scripture.

My thing is learning the promises. I do not know if I will ever be learning entire Books in the Bible. But… If I keep going, all the Scriptures may one day all line up and fill the gaps and I will have achieved that. :wink: But until then, I am sticking with Scriptures.

That is one massive undertaking. I wish you all well with doing that. Remember, one must recite it often to keep it alive and locked in. Rust destroys hard work. :S

Bill


#47

lobra66 – that’s so interesting that you saw the connection with Lectio Divina. I was vaguely familiar with that concept many years ago, but it’s only recently that I’ve taken a deeper look. I wrote a short blog about the Lectio Divina here: http://howtoremember.biz/learn/lectio-divina It looks like the practice is more nuanced and even refreshing than I’d assumed.

lionheart, glad to hear that simplicity works for you too. And I couldn’t agree more about the need to renew memories. Rust is an excellent analogy.


#48

[post removed]


#49

Hello lionheart. Thank you for your post in reference to my memory system:

“I am with Bill Powell in ‘simplisity’ mainly because I do not think I could handle the exotic sophistication of Gary’s technique, though I think in my younger days, I certainly could.”

I will be 70 this July (2013). So, without hesitation, I can say that SIMPLICITY is also important to me in memorizing… and also in my field as a music composer, arranger and orchestrator.

Though my mnemonic approach to scripture has several components in play at all times (Book & Chapter number, Verse title & Verse number), I have convinced myself, and the proof is in the pudding, that COMPLEXITY is only SIMPLICITIES ADDED TOGETHER.

Every component in my Verbatim Memory System is SIMPLE to learn and use. But, if the price is not paid to lay a sound foundation, the system will crumble and the builder will be disappointed.

As an INTRODUCTION, I uploaded a 5 minute video demonstration awhile back on this glorious site. Soon, I’ll share a video OVERVIEW, explaining more in detail how the Book and Chapter are connected to the Verse and Title (generally the first word of the verse)…And how the Letters in the Title hold the words to the Verse.

I do not recommend my system to anyone but to MYSELF. It was designed for me by me. Sounds selfish.lol

But I’m willing to share my concepts with the desperate, for that is precisely who I was.

gary lanier


#50

Hey Gary,

Roger that and many thanks again for sharing these techniques. I could possibly be using them in the near future. I am so totally new to all of this. I do love my simple system, but I am sure that I will be growing into this and increasing my ‘air speed’ in learning what all is possible, in order to learn as much as possible. :wink:

I would love to learn Japanese, more German, Italian, the constellations, stars names… So far with my system, I am getting my feet wet. Feels good…

Bill


(Brian McFadden) #51

I’ve been enjoying the discussion. Here’s another interesting concept for memorizing some of the more common Bible verses - gamification (did I spell that right??).

Cheers

Brian


#52

Okay, so I’ve been interested in this for a while. I’m not so sure that you’d actually need a giant palace/journey though. I haven’t memorized anything crazily long yet, so I’m not sure how well this would work for that, but I memorized Psalm 23 using mnemonic images, but not in a palace. It’s not so much that they just exist in the empty blackness, but it’s not really like an artificial palace either. Here’s what it is:
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
3 He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You annoint my head with oil. My cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

I just compared to an actual text, and it’s darn close - close enough for my purposes. I interchanged “shall” and “will” a few times, and the punctuation isn’t perfect (periods and semicolons switched a couple times).

But onto the actual memorization. As I go through detailing my method, I’m going to add comments about what will need to be changed for large® volumes of text.
I don’t link the chapter and the first verse at all. These will need to be linked if I memorize really anything more than a few chapters.
The journey starts in a garden. There is a shepherd standing by me, and when I turn to look up at him, it appears to be the Lord. Probably need better association to the words.
A platter of dessert-type food and iced drinks and stuff are in front of me, but I don’t want them, so I decline the food.
The shepherd tells me (well, motions) to lie down in the grass.
At this point I kind of turn into a sheep, I guess, because the next thing that happens is I’m following the shepherd to a still pond, but I’m not walking behind him, if that makes sense.
The shepherd bends down and touches my head and I feel restored. Kind of like knowing that the shepherd is supposed to be the Lord, this is really just a “feeling” that my soul has been restored
Then I stand up and follow the Lord into a forest. There are many blackened and non-“righteous” paths, but we follow a clear, clean, “righteous” one. I realized a few weeks ago that I didn’t have anything for the “for his name’s sake” bit, so I just made a note to remember that. No images.
We come out of the forest and into a dusty, sandy, valley. In the shadow of the cliff wall I can see skeletons and dead animals and the like. I feel frightened for a minute, but then the Shepherd puts his arm around me, like a parent would do with a child. The Shepherd takes his rod and staff and- actually, he doesn’t do anything. They just comfort me that they are there. Again, kind of just a “feeling” thing going on
Near the end of the valley there is a table, but it doesn’t have anything on it. I can see a large, glass, structure just a little ways past the table. I sit down at the one chair at the table and wait. The Shepherd prepares the table with food, drink, plates, silverware, etc. Standing behind him and watching are my “enemies” - kind of just two dark blob-y monsters, but clearly evil.
The Shepherd pours oil over my head and it drips everywhere. He pours a drink (wine?) into my cup, but gives me so much that the cup overflows.
I stand up and walk towards the glass building. I look over my shoulder and see that my “enemies” are gone, but I’m being followed by two things - Goodness and Mercy. probably needs more linking that the two blobs following me are goodness and mercy.
The Shepherd motions for me to enter the glass building. I enter the glass building and it’s just pretty awesome. Again, just a “feeling” thing that I’m going to dwell here forever.

So yeah. This works pretty well for this. I’m wondering how well it will work for a larger body of text (i.e., a longer chapter or multiple chapters). But it seems to solve the problem of not having enough loci, I just need a way to link the Chapter and the first image.


#53

I will admit that it took me a bit time to start using the Method of Loci. I required some clarification on how the Method of Loci can be applied so as to overcome some obstacles I perceived in doing so. However, now I am in the early stages of using it.

That said, all my loci are based on actual people or places. My account number at the utility company is attached to one of my electric outlets – and their phone number is attached to it. I placed the phone number for Trader Joe’s right at the entrance to the store – and so on and so forth. What do all these places have in common? They are actual places.

How does it work then, to build a house for the purpose of memorizing something? I would think that any benefit of using the loci to attach images to would be off-set by the sheer effort of having to mentally construct (and remember) the fictional loci to begin with. But then again — my experience on this board has also led me to suspect, whenever there is some trick that seems impossible for me, that there is something I am missing – some trick to it that I am not getting. But I would need someone to clarify it — to spell it out for me what exactly I’m missing. So — I’m all ears.


(Joseph Redgate) #54

I am elated to have found this thread! I am a typical neophyte that has discovered mnemonics and has big plans for verbatim memorization. Before I die, I want to have the entire KJV memorized (I’m 42 now).

Larry said: “I think your first clue is in the Bible, ’In my father's house, there are many rooms’ ;)”
That made me smile quite a bit. What is even more interesting for me (since I use the KJV) is that it says, "In my Father's house are many mansions: ” (John 14:2) :)

The techniques that Scratch and Mr. Lanier use sound very exciting; I would like to know more about both.

Scratch said: “Christ Jesus, well, I haven't come up with that one yet
How about an image of Jesus as an adult looking up His own Name in the phonebook? (Christ, Jesus)

I’m just trying to take as much in as I can before getting my feet wet. What I am most afraid of is starting off by learning techniques that don’t work for me, or using techniques in the wrong way only to get frustrated and having to unlearn bad habits.

Thank you all for posting so much information. I hope to learn from you all and get to know you all.


(Joseph Redgate) #55

In his book, “The Glorious Heritage of the King James Bible,” David Cloud writes about the team of men who translated the texts of the Textus Receptus, from which, in part, we get the King James Bible.

One of those men was named John Rainolds. Read this excerpt from Brother Cloud’s entry on him:

John Rainolds (or Reynolds) (1549-1607), the leader of the Puritan party at Hampton Court, was president of Corpus Christi College, Oxford. He had become a Fellow of Corpus Christi at age 17 and a Greek lecturer at age 23. McClure observes:
“It is stated that ‘his memory was little less than miraculous.’ He could readily turn to any material passage, in every leaf, page, column and paragraph of the numerous and voluminous works he had read. He came to be styled ‘the very treasury of erudition;’ and was spoken of as ‘a living library, and a third university.’”
It is obvious that Mr. Rainolds was a master of mnemonics. Such a level is one which I highly admire. Somehow, this makes my goal of memorizing only one book, the King James Bible, seem much more attainable.

#56

I like the idea of complexity being simplicity added to more simplicity. For me, the critical idea is organization vs. chaos. If it’s logical and organized then complexity is just logical organized stuff taken to depth. YAY! Think: spaceship to the moon, wow. Hubble, hello!

It all starts with the simple, secure, and irrefutable 2+2=4

So, for me, what needs to happen is ORGANIZATION and then let 'er rip. Still, I love flexibility and it’s my fine-line to walk. It affords creative freedom. I need the flexibility if I am to make exceptions, short-cuts, expansions and the like, BUT if I have too much flexibility then I get overburdened and lost. What you say about “foundation” is so true.

I thought I had Psalm 91 down pat forwards and backwards but time washes away my memories. In reciting it recently I found I had to think of my verse picture to insure that I wasn’t getting one verse ahead of the next. So plain ol’ “rote” works for me, yes, but it just doesn’t last the way the number / loci / person system does. I hadn’t said that Psalm verbatim in a while so I did have to think in pictures to get it right.

If it were ONLY about the system and the ability to quote chapter and verse numbers then I’d be missing out on the whole point, sure. I “get” the story concept and yes, billisalive has good points. I clicked on to the Bible story telling link in the post above and listened to a Cain and Abel story - it was great.

What works for one might not work for someone else but I very much appreciate all the input here. I’d been figuring out my own system and reinventing the wheel is time consuming and difficult. It’s terrific to hear other’s ideas.

Only after going over Psalm 91 MANY times did I come to feel it in a way that I never would have without the attempt to memorize it verbatim KJV. I wish I’d have thought of simple ways to differentiate between “will” and “shall” for example. I could have simply thought: shall = shawl. DUH. Easy-peasy but I wasn’t smart enough to even try to solve my problem. Instead I just plodded along getting it wrong for a while. I’d have preferred the one-time, badda-bing, throw a shawl on the “shall.” WHY didn’t I address the problem rather than just accept it? Rhetorical question.

I’ve imagined myself reciting the 91st psalm the way Dennis told the Cain and Abel story. That’s nice stuff. It’s all good. It’s nice how polite and accepting most everyone is here on the “artofmemory” site.

I’m going to adopt and incorporate a top-right-bottom-left organizational pattern to placing things. I’m such a newbie and I’m super eager to build a strong foundation. I’ve spent a LONG time getting solid on the major system, then getting 100 people as well. I have an object for each person too.

The latest and greatest in my toolbox is a 100 building journey. Now the 66 Bible books each have two homes. I have people, items, fruits, veggies, and words from the major system (toe, noah, ma, etc.) So color me this way: “Have tools ready to build - need blueprints!”

What do you think of this: The building is the book, the chapter is a person, the verse is a story or image incorporating an item from either my fruit/veggie lists, or a person’s associated item (Napoleon’s hat), or the major system (nap). Is all that “either or” flexibility just too sloppy? Am I headed for trouble by allowing the verse number to be either/or (fruit, person’s item, or major-system-word)? I’d be thrilled to use ALL my tools in every verse if I only had a logical system that would enhance clarity without becoming cumbersome.

It’s lame not to know what to do with the tools I already have: I have 66 unique fruit variations - each one is associated with a Bible book. I have 66 distinct locations within a house all assigned to a Bible book. I have 100 people and 100 associated items. I have 100 buildings on a journey, 66 of them are assigned to Bible books. That’s a LOT of tools (for me) and I’m a bit skittish about how to pull it all together so I can use it to my best advantage. I don’t want a lot of false starts and revisions if it’s possible to get a clean start.

For example: My 91st Psalm uses as verses, the same people that represent chapters. It’s fine THIS time because the action happens on a boat in a sink. BUT, will using the same people for verses as I use for chapters become a problem later? I don’t want to experience a system collapse if the more experienced people here can see ahead and offer a way to avoid trouble.

Any creative ideas about how to pull it all together or what I might want to add? The goal is to remember Scripture along with the book-chapter-verse reference.

Thanks in advance to ANYONE who is willing to offer suggestions.