Three Memorization Questions

By Dan Vis
February 19, 2018

This week, I want to do something different. Rather than posting an article on some specific topic, I decided to answer a few questions I'm frequently asked. Three of them, in fact, all related to memorization as part of our Back to the Bible focus for the month of February.

I tackle these questions with a bit of trepidation, knowing that no matter what I write, some of you are not going to like my answers! :) But they are important questions, and I think they are worth the discussion!

Question #1. Individual Verses or Whole Chapters?

If you have been a member of FAST for a while, or done any of our advanced memory courses, you probably know my thoughts on this. I'm a huge proponent of memorizing key verses as God gives them to you. Here's why:

1) I believe this is how God instructs us to study. Verses like Isaiah 28:9-109 Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. 10 For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: and I Corinthians 2:13Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. suggest God teaches us bit by bit, and then connects those insights together in our mind by the Holy Spirit. Memorizing verses as God gives them, allows Him to guide you in that process and will accelerate your learning. Yes, we should study our verses in context, but we do not need to memorize the context, to lay up some truth.

2) Practically, I have been in full-time ministry for nearly 30 years, preaching, teaching, giving Bible studies, writing, and all the rest, and I have never once been in a situation where I needed to quote an entire chapter to answer a person's question. But I've had plenty of experiences where some verse God gave me a few weeks earlier was just the verse I needed.

3) Long Passage Disease (as I refer to it) is one of the most common causes of a crashed memory program. Once people learn a few tools and discover how easy it really is to memorize, they set some giant goal and start plowing through a long passage. They increase their intake which bogs down their daily review. And they let their meditation on individual verses lapse, causing their review to become mechanical and dry. Before long, their memorization sputters out and dies. Literally, I've seen this repeatedly. Don't take a chance!

4) Last but not least, memorizing key verses keeps your memorization personal and real. This was the experience God commanded in Deuteronomy 6:6And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:. Every time we review a verse through which God spoke to us, we can review the principles and applications He gave us. This helps us follow the counsel in Hebrews 2:1Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip., and avoid being like the man in James 1:24For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.. Verses like Deuteronomy 4:9Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons' sons; further suggests it is important to review the lessons God gives us, so we can share them.

Admittedly, it can be a real treat to throw in some slightly longer passage or even a chapter now and then, but the foundation of your memorization should be built on the day to day experience of taking verses straight from God's hand to your heart.

Question #2. What version should I memorize from?

Talk about a hot potato topic! This is a live one, if there ever was one. Given that everything on our site and in our study guides defaults to the KJV, my answer to this question may surprise you: Use the version that works best for you.

This is not to say all versions are created equal. I prefer Bibles that can be used freely without burdensome copyright restrictions (II Thessalonians 3:1Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you:). I believe translations are better when they employ multiple translators, rather than an individual or a small team. I prefer a more literal translation to a paraphrase, or a translation with a specific agenda. The manuscripts used to create a translation should also be carefully considered. And I personally like the rich protestant history of the KJV Bible.

But I'm not in the camp who argue we should use the KJV Bible, because that's the version Paul used! :) I recognize the language is archaic and can be difficult to understand--especially for those whose first language is not English. There are numerous times, I have sensed the Holy Spirit impress me to look up some word in the Greek or Hebrew to discover a better word could be used. And I'm well familiar with various "problem texts" that have to be explained away because they were translated poorly in the KJV. Of course, these last two issues are true of all translations. None are perfect.

So the KJV is a good translation. I've used it for years and grown accustomed to the language. But it may not be best for everyone. I encourage each person to study the issues out for themselves and make an intelligent, informed decision.

The fact is, the natural man can't understand Scripture anyway, apart from the guiding influence of the Holy Spirit. And He can teach any person with an honest heart whatever lessons He needs to through whatever version is available. Choose the best translation you can, compare it with the original languages as best you can, and put your trust in the Author, not the version.

Question #3. Random or book order back review?

Here's a question I've been chewing on for awhile, especially since our last Breakout Memory Challenge, where we added some new features to the Engine allowing you to review your verses in book order. That is, from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22.

When I first began memorizing, I kept all my back review verses in book order, and reviewed my verses in that order--moving a little marker back through the box as I completed a different section each day. My goal was simply to get to the end of the box by the end of the month.

It worked well. And I suspect it helped cement the location of those verses in my mind. It also made it easier for me to do "Bible Trains". When out and about, I could try and run through all my verses in a specific book or section of the Bible from memory without having any cards in hand. I just went through it chapter by chapter and tried to recite every verse I knew.

Years later, when creating the Memory Engine, we settled on an algorithm to randomly pick back review verses, and shuffle their order. It kept the daily review challenging as you never knew what verse you would get and had to recall the verse with nothing to help you but that one reference. It also allowed you to review verses by topic as needed.

This approach helped keep references sharp, and the review interesting. In fact, I often ask God to intervene in the randomization process and give me just the verses I need to review for that day--and I believe He answers those prayers. This kind of review was not easy when limited to physical cards. I was hesitant to shuffle my cards for a more random review, or sort them into topics, knowing how long it would take to put them all back in book order.

So my conclusion after stewing on this question for awhile? Do both! We're currently in the process of revamping all the tools in our tool box and plan to give you an easy option to switch back and forth between random and book order back reviews any time you want. Alternate every other day, or do a bit of both each day. The option is (will be) completely yours!


So there you have it--my personal opinions on three common, but important, questions related to memorization! Focus on key verses, tied to your devotional life and the personal applications God gives you each day. Carefully assess the best Bible version for your needs, and trust the Holy Spirit to be your interpreter and guide. And last, mix up your review with both random and book order back reviews. Whatever you do, keep memorizing!

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