"Somewhere between adolescence and adulthood we stop the emphasis on Scripture memorization"

"Apparently, this discipline was good enough for us as children, but not important enough for us as adults." BPNews

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TylerR's picture

Editor

I've never memorized Scripture.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Ron Bean's picture

I grew up in a church where, as a child, the requirements to be a "member" of the Sunday School I was required to memorize the books of Bible (I was a champ at sword drills!), the Romans Road, the 12 Tribes, and the 12 Apostles (52 MAB ST). 60 years later they're still there. There were weekly verses as well. A girl I knew in college had memorized the book of Proverbs and could recall specific verses for topics. Just a few weeks ago one out men at church did a dramatization of the Gospel of Mark which he had memorized.

Today we adults have excuses for not availing ourselves of a valuable tool.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

G. N. Barkman's picture

I've memorized hundreds of verses from grade school through college.  All of them in the KJV.  I am thankful for this discipline, mostly imposed by others.  I have benefited immensely.  

I believe the introduction of modern language versions has dampened enthusiasm for Scripture memorization.  It's confusing to memorize verses from a new translation that I previously memorized from the KJV.  Furthermore, there is a sense with some that if I memorize it today in the (fill in the blank) version, what happens when another version becomes the new standard?

I am not a KJVO advocate!  I support and use many other translations.  In truth, I seldom use the KJV today.  But whenever I quote a text in my sermons, it is always from the KJV.  That's the one I memorized, and that's what is forever fastened in my mind.  

G. N. Barkman

TylerR's picture

Editor

If you grew up as a Christian, you're more likely to have memorized Scripture (see Ron's post, above). If you come to faith as an adult, you may not ever do so (i.e. me).

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Bert Perry's picture

The thing that comes to mind for me is thick books vs. thin books.  Today's church does thin books, often without much Scripture in them, and then we're surprised to find huge amounts of theological immaturity among the flock and even among the shepherds.  Well, duh.  

A very interesting, and sad, point of reference is to look at writings from the past--Lincoln's addresses, the Canterbury Tales, and the like, and see if you can "get" the Scripture references in them.  There is a certain shame in being less Biblically literate than illiterate people from the late Middle Ages!

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

josh p's picture

Like Tyler I didn’t grow up in a Christian home and didn’t memorize verses. After going through a serious trial I started memorizing related scriptures. One of the best things I’ve done for spiritual growth. 

pvawter's picture

I couldn't really find any support in scripture for memorization, not that it's bad or anything, but I tell the folks at EBC that even if they fail to achieve total recall in the attempt, they will certainly be meditating on scripture which is commanded. 

For myself, I have found it helpful to memorize passages in context rather than isolated verses. To that end in the past few years I've memorized several psalms including 1, 8, 13, 24, 100, and 121. I think one other man in the church memorized them too.

Bert Perry's picture

If we are--Psalm 119:9, 11--going to hide God's words in our hearts, and if (2 Tim. 3:16-17) going to have God's word available in us for everything related to Godliness and life in Christ--I am at a loss as to how this can be accomplished without some level of memorization.  No?  Search algorithms are good, yes, but it's still really a glorified concordance.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Ed Vasicek's picture

For a lot of believers, if it doesn't get done Sunday mornings, it doesn't get done.  Shouldn't be that way, but it is.

I view a church service's purpose as edification, only part of which is worship.  It is also a discipleship time. The heart of discipleship in New Testament times was memorization. Disciples would memorize their rabbi's teachings. Before this, though, by age 13, they were expected to have memorized the entire Torah!

We started a much less ambitious routine three years ago, suggested and led by one of our elders.  He did it for a year, and then I continued it.  We do one verse a month (we skip December).  We give out different colored cards each month (I make a lot of puns when we give out green cards) with the verse (or passage) of the month.  We also provide rings so the cards can be kept together.  We are working on our 26th verse.  We take about three minutes a Sunday, working on a clause at time.

If you want most of your folks to memorize, you've got to do it in church, IMO.

Even if they later forget the reference or cannot repeat the verse (or passage) word perfect, folks do retain either the just of the verse or some of its phrases.  If they review, they obviously do better.  And the Holy Spirit works, I believe, even as we memorize.

 

"The Midrash Detective"

pvawter's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

If we are--Psalm 119:9, 11--going to hide God's words in our hearts, and if (2 Tim. 3:16-17) going to have God's word available in us for everything related to Godliness and life in Christ--I am at a loss as to how this can be accomplished without some level of memorization.  No?  Search algorithms are good, yes, but it's still really a glorified concordance.  

I considered the meaning of that verb (hide) from Ps. 119:11 both in other places in the OT as well as other translations and concluded that it is a stretch to press it to mean "memorize." Treasure? Sure. Esteem? Sure. Memorization may be involved, but isn't necessarily a mandate.

TylerR's picture

Editor

But ... but ... AWANA kids all over this nation have understood Ps 119:11 to mean "memorize Scripture." We can't let them down! 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Bert Perry's picture

Agreed 100% that Psalm 119:11 does not explicitly say to memorize Scripture.  That said, I'm at a loss as to how to put it in my heart if it's not in my mind.  Maybe Ben Carson could do it for me surgically?  :^)  We might infer that the implicit (not explicit) command in Ps. 119:11 actually goes far beyond mere memorization.  No?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Hi guys.  I can say this: when the Torah says what it does in Deuteronomy 6:6-9, this was understood by the Jews (at least in NT times) to include (but certainly not limited to) memorization.

 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Even today, modern Orthodox Jews have memorized the entire Torah, usually in Hebrew.

I am not saying we have to do this, but I am saying that Scripture memory of some sort is a good idea!

From my first book, The Midrash Key:

  • Midrashim Were to Be Memorized, Negating the Need for a “Q” Document

When we first read the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), it was probably not long before we noticed their similarities. It seems obvious that someone "copied" from somebody else. Theologians have postulated a "Q" document –- a missing source of Gospel information from which Matthew, Mark, and Luke drew. [12]

 

Since there is no proof that the “Q” document exists or ever existed, how can we disprove its existence? I believe we can propose a better explanation for the synoptic similarities, one consistent with reality and not imagined.

If we understand the Jewish concept of discipleship, we can better explain the similarities between Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In first century Judaism, a disciple's primary job was to memorize his sage's words, most of which were midrashim. Day and night, disciples would rehearse what the master said, practicing to attain perfection.

If we embrace that a disciple's main task was to memorize the teachings of his sage, then Jesus' disciples would have passed on memorized tractates, complete with descriptions and event details. Since Yeshua repeated similar sermons to differing crowds, the Gospel "quotations" are really summaries, either edited quotations or loose quotations. We should remember that the use of quotation marks is a relatively modern concept. In the Gospels, the difference between summary and exact quotation is unclear. Thus some differences can be explained by how much was summarized.

If you became a Hebrew Christian in 50 AD, you would be expected to invest much time and energy toward memorizing Jesus' words and works. These words would have been handed down to you from those who were disciples before you (cf. Hebrews 2:3-4). Being a disciple meant being a learner and memorizer.

 

[12] Ibid., pp.5-7, 33-38

 

 

"The Midrash Detective"

pvawter's picture

My argument is not that memorization is a bad idea or that believers in Old and New Testament times did not memorize scripture. Obviously, the only way that most believers in history had access to God's word on a daily basis was by committing it to memory. We live in a vastly different era where it is entirely possible to meditate on scripture which you do not have memorized. In making this distinction, I am simply trying to help people love God's word without the performance anxiety that comes with the demand for memorization and, often, public recitation. I would much rather they study it, think about it, and act on it, than worry about whether the Ps. 119:11 ends with "You" or "Thee."

Ed Vasicek's picture

Thank you for your thoughts, and I agree with the idea that memorization is not the crucial discipline that it once was.  I agree that we can meditate on the Word without memorizing it.  

At the same time (and I think you agree with me), to relegate memorization to childhood or AWANA is not good.  Memorization has much value as fortifying some of the meditation process.  Sometimes we memorize simply by deeply meditating on a Scripture.

When I was a student at Moody, my favorite prof (Renald Showers) had us read through the Pastoral Epistles 40 times, a very good foundation for studying those books.  I found that I had many verses somewhat memorized just from that repeated reading.

Just as repeated readings of the Pastorals laid a good foundation for studying them, so memorizing a verse lays a good foundation for meditating on a verse.  Many students, however, have a meaningful time studying the Pastorals without that repeated reading.  In like manner, many Christians (myself included) have had great times meditating on a verse without first memorizing it.

Memorization, however, is the example of the godly men and women in the Bible and should never be thought of as quaint, infantile, legalistic,simplistic, or unfrutiful.

"The Midrash Detective"

pvawter's picture

Ed,

I do agree with you that memorization is valuable and will often be the outcome of consistent meditation on God's word. It is a joy to be able to learn God's word and the effort is never wasted.