How to memorize

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Use this unique method to learn a book of the Bible

by Tim Geddert

Looking for a way to memorize an entire book of the Bible? Consider the system I offer to MB Biblical Seminary students who opt to memorize the gospel of Mark. Rote memory puts the brain in neutral and wastes time. So this method at first uses no rote memory.

It is very strenuous and requires lots of discipline and concentration, so I suggest you take short breaks after the brain seems fried. But don’t worry if the method makes you feel as though you are not learning anything for the first 50 hours. It is a tried and tested method designed to help someone memorize the book of Mark in about 100 hours. “Trust me,” those famous last words! Give this method a try. You won’t be sorry.

Part 1

Look at Mark 1:1. Try to say it correctly one time. Yes, only one time! This takes about 15 seconds since it is only about 10 words. Now you are done with this verse for now. No review. You won’t see it again for weeks.

Now go to Mark 1:2 and say it correctly for memory one time. It takes a few minutes because the second verse is longer than the first. Use whatever method works for you to learn the verse as fast as possible and to correctly say it one time. When you have it, you are done—for now.

Work your way through the entire book of Mark. This will take about eight to 10 hours if you work hard.

Now start again. This time quote Mark 1:1-2 together, but do only as much work as it takes to get it completely correct one time. Then do the same for 1:3-4 then 1:5-6, etc., working your way through the whole book.

It will seem like you don’t remember anything from the first time around, but amazingly you will get through the whole book in about the same amount of time, eight to 10 hours, proving it must have helped the first time around.

Now start again, doing three verses at a time. Guess how long it will take you? About eight to 10 hours. Then four verses at a time; takes about eight to 10 hours. Then five verses at a time. It takes virtually the same amount of time to work through the book each time.

But by the time you are doing eight verses at a time (after about 60-70 hours of work) you will find that you don’t necessarily stop at the end of eight verses. Though you still make lots of mistakes, you can often simply keep going through 10 to 15 verses before you are stuck. When you find you are at this stage (i.e. after about eight rounds), abandon the first method.

Part 2

Now work through the whole book, brushing up each hard spot as you reach it but not aiming to get nine consecutive verses perfect. This will take only a few hours each time you work through the book. When you get things “fairly good,” start jotting down the reference of each verse where you make a mistake or get stuck.

There might be 400 of them the first time you do this. Then review these verses start to finish and mark off the list all those you get right. Now you might have 200 mistakes. Review these and get rid of those you get correct. Do this over and over until you get the most troubling ones correct.

Now start over again, seeing how many mistakes you make. Last time it was 400, this time probably only half as many. Work on the problem stuff as before.

Then start again. Now you are likely down to 100 mistakes. At this point you are only taking about two to three hours to get through the book each time, so you can do this 10 times and stay within the 100 hours. At this point you should pretty much know the book from memory, virtually perfectly!

Too much?

If it seems too big a chunk to work at the entire book all at once, exactly the same method can be used to learn just chapter 1. Then use it on chapter 2, etc. When you reach the end of chapter 16, of course the first ones will be a bit more rusty, but then you can still use the second part of the method over and over until all of the book is memorized.

Tim Geddert is professor of New Testament at MB Biblical Seminary campus in Fresno, Calif. Geddert introduced CL readers to this way of memorizing Scripture in his July article, "Memorizing Mark." 

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