If you’re reading this, I’m sure you already know the value of memorizing Scripture. I am sure you have tried to memorize Scripture before, and are looking for new ways to help you. Glad you’re here!
These methods may be a little different from what you’re used to because it depends on also memorizing the numbers of the verses. While adding more information would seem to make it harder, this is actually going to make it so much easier for you. I’m not going to cite anything, because all these techniques I have developed on my own. They have helped me greatly. My brain may be quirky, but I’m pretty sure this can help you, too. However, no disclaimers offered. I’m going to use examples from Scripture I have memorized, in case you wonder why these specific selections. I will be using the 1984 NIV version in my examples, as after having gotten a B.A. in Biblical Studies, I have found it the most readable and accurate modern version available. Unfortunately out of print, because it was “offensive.” Oh well. However, you can take these tips and apply them to the version you use with no trouble whatsoever. And I’m going to break it down into nine different ways you can use. Here we go!
1. Easy links
First, look for easy links between the number of the verse and the first word in the verse. The easiest one will be 4 and “For.” For example, Ephesians 1:4: “ For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.”
You can also use verse 14 for the same purpose, e.g., “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you” (Matt.6:14). A verse 2 beginning with “To” is also an easy link.
Another tip is a bit trickier. Mentally tie together any verse number ending in 4 with “Therefore.” Matthew 6:34 is a great example because we have 3, which begins with the sound “th”, similar to “there”; and 4 links to “fore.” Delightful! I hope you can see how including the memorization of numbers will help you.
2. Find a connotative connection
Second, find a connotative connection between the number of the verse and the verse itself. You are probably familiar with the association of numbers to certain meanings in Scripture. In Genesis, of course, there are the six days of creation, signifying incompleteness, and the seventh day, signifying completeness. We also have the number of the beast (666) and the number of perfect forgiveness (70 x7). The first carries a negative connotation and the second a clearly positive one. Certain other numbers (3 for the Trinity, or 12 for the number of the elders in Revelation) carry positive connotations which can help us memorize. Here are a few examples:
Eph. 1:7, as well as Rom. 6:7, speak of redemption and forgiveness, which we can connect to the connotation of goodness in the number 7. Rom. 6:6, on the other hand, provides us with a connection between the negative connotation of the number 6 and sin.
We can use the 12 in both Eph. 1:12 and Romans 6:12 to help remind us of the fullness of grace and victory over sin. Although 13 only has a negative cultural connotation, I found it helped me to link the mention of sin in Romans 6:13 with the number of the verse.
3. Make a mathematical link
This is very fun and easy! Add the number of the verse to the amount of the letters of the first word in the verse. It sounds harder than it is. For example, Romans 6:2 begins with “By”, a two-letter word we can easily connect to 6:2. Similarly, Matthew 6:2, which begins with “So.” This usually works best with the verses ending in 2, 3, and 4. For example Ps. 33:14 begins with “from” (4 letters).
Now we can start to play with it. We can add either the numbers or the letters to match each other. Let’s take Ps. 33:13, which also begins with “from”, but, if you forget, you can remind yourself that 1+3 =4= the number of letters in “from.” Very easy.
On the reverse, you can add the letters in the first few words. For example, Romans 6:9 begins “For we know”, a combination of 9 letters. So handy.
(I keep it at basic math because math was the only class I got a B in college, even with a tutor, but feel free to do algebra and calculus if it helps you.) Here are a few more mathematical memorizing tips.
Eph. 1:22. Note the double “2’s” and the parallel (compound sentence) structure of the verse: “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church…”
Rom. 6:22 has an even clearer parallel structure: “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.”
How about Matthew 6:16, which starts with “When”? Well, “when” has four letters and 4 is the square root of 16. Link created!
Now that we have mathematical connections down, let’s talk about emotive connections.
Here is a triad of three crazy ways, but remember, the crazier the connections are, the more likely you will remember them. Use right/left brain connections, memories, emotions, etc. to help you.
4. Make emotive connections
This is necessarily going to be a bit vaguer, and I usually only use this as a last resort when other methods do not avail me. You can link the preceding verse to the following one with a reminder of which emotion follows next — whether the fear of God, thanksgiving, peace, love, joy, or awe. I notice this especially in the buildup in Ephesians 1, where Paul praises God for redeeming us.
Try creating pictorial representations of the verse in your imagination. This may be most effective in non-Pauline books, for example, such as the Psalms, Proverbs, Gospels, or Prophets, simply because theology may be more difficult to visualize. For example, Psalm 1, Psalm 8, and Proverbs 30 are full of pictures you can imagine.
-Make creative connections
I have mentally linked “4” with “f” and “t”, “p”, “3” and “5” with “th”, and “6” with “s”, “x”, or “z.” Sometimes a link has a reason, and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I just need something to ground my memory for that particular verse. You may do the same, sometimes linking 7 with s and sometimes with v. Whatever helps you create a connection is what matters.
Now on to crazy similarities. I use it most often with “1’s.” For example, Eph.1:1: “In him we were also chosen…”, the 1 and the “I” nicely complement each other, as in Romans 6:11: “In the same way…”
You can go even further, of course. It doesn’t have to always be the first word. In Ephesians 1:6, words that begin with “g” are used repeatedly. Now if we look at a “6” and a “g”, the similarity can help remind us of that.
5. Use alphabetization
This is a great tool to use within the verse itself. Often we might mix up words or phrases since Scripture often uses repetition and parallelism to make points. Once you have noticed this structure, make sure you notice the words within the structure in order to aid you in your memorization. Some tools will be more fit for certain parts of the Bible than others. For example, I have found this indispensable when memorizing verses in the Gospels or in Psalms.
“For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people…”(Eph. 1:15). “F” comes before “l”, and you can also remember that faith is expressed in love (Gal. 5:6).
Alphabetization helps you remember which word comes first since there typically is no reason for the ordering of the words (except here)!
“Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him”(Ps. 33:1). Here, there is no reason why “righteous” should come first, as the verses demonstrate a form of parallelism.
6. Make acronyms
I also make acronyms to help me remember word order in tricky verses. For example, in Romans 2:5 (“But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart”), I remember “suh” for “stubbornness” and “unrepentant heart.” Because believe me, when you try to say it, you get mixed up whether it’s “stubborn heart”, “unrepentant heart” or any other variation. The acronym helps keep things in order.
Similarly, I used it for Romans 2:19–20 (“if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of little children…”. The acronym here for me (although you can use any that work best for your brain) is “glit,” representing “guide”, “light”, “instructor”, and “teacher” respectively. The prepositional phrase after each word is easy to remember once you know the first word.
How about Matthew 6:26? Look for patterns. “…they do not sow or reap or store away in barns…” (Matt. 6:26).
Personally, I note the pattern “srs” for “sow/reap/store away.” It’s an easy pattern and helps jog the memory.
7. Notice alliteration
This is one of the reasons why poetry is so easy to memorize. Of course, you’re using a translation, but look for alliteration in there somewhere! Let’s look at Psalm 33:20–21
“We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.”
The repetition of words that start with “h” is a great pattern to help refresh your memory.
I’m sure you’ve figured this out already, but of course, we can mix and match memory tips for an even crazier result! It’s so much fun.
8. Using alphabetization and numbers
Let’s take Matthew 6:24. “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
The 2 and the 4 in 6:24 can help you remember the parallel structure of the verses, as well as the fact that they are compound sentences. Here again, we can use alphabetization. “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matt. 6:24). “Devoted” and “despise” are in reverse alphabetical order, but that’s okay.
9. Using math and connotation
Eph. 1:21 discusses the superiority of Christ — “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” The number “1” can remind us of his pre-eminence, and 21, the product of 3x7, can remind us of the absolute good it is for Christ to reign.
We can use the same idea, using math and connotative connection, for Romans 6:4: “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”
Think of “4” as a square, which will help you remember the double parallel structure of the verse. This isn’t just math and isn’t just connotation, but a bit of both.
Thanks to Aaron Burden for providing all these pictures! His work just jumped out at me when I searched for “Bible.”
Feel free to follow Prisca Bejjani for more!