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Students tell why they memorize scripture

These testimonials from MB Biblical Seminary students suggest many benefits that come from memorizing an entire book of the Bible. —Tim Geddert, MB Biblical Seminary professor

“Priests in the Ethiopian Orthodox church are expected to learn the Book of Psalms from memory, just as Rabbis did in Israel. I was privileged to be encouraged to memorize a gospel. Each morning, when my mind was not yet distracted by the day’s activities, I spent between one and two hours memorizing about 30 verses, usually in blocks of about six to eight verses. During the day I reviewed the chapters I had already memorized.

As the word entered deeper and deeper into my mind and spirit, I sometimes found myself crying or shouting or praying. The Holy Spirit used the book of Mark to strengthen, comfort and challenge me. Since memorizing Mark, I have preached mostly from this gospel. Now I plan to continue memorizing books of the Bible, for the rest of my life!”

—Bekele Tulu, Ethiopian church planter and theological educator

“I learned about the memorizing option several weeks before the class started and got started right way. Unfortunately I started with a hard-to-memorize translation, and so I slowly converted over to my own translation, melding my Greek studies with other English translations.

One of the reasons I chose the memorizing option was because I figured this unique assignment would prompt more personal growth than just another traditional research paper. This turned out to be the case.

Another benefit has been the opportunity to perform parts of the gospel to various groups. For example, I am the junior high pastor at a local church, and I have been blessed with the opportunity not only to perform Mark, but also to lead some great theological discussions. And the high school pastor has already planned on me coming in and performing for that group.”

—Tye Ferdinandson, high school teacher and lay preacher

“We almost always experience the Gospels broken up into little pieces. We read the Christmas story; we read the story of Jesus healing the paralytic who was let down through the roof; we read the Parable of the Sower; we read the crucifixion story. These are all great stories, of course, even when we read them on their own. But we lose something when we never get a chance to see how the Gospel writers wove these little stories into Gospels.

Something wonderful happened when I got to the point in my memorization where I began to recite the Gospel of Mark from beginning to end. Suddenly I started to experience it as a single story. I began to feel the rhythm and the cadence of Mark’s story: I experienced the initial excitement and wonder in Galilee, the growing conflict with the religious establishment, the doubt and confusion of the disciples as Jesus started talking about his death.

I felt the disciples’ failure and shame and sorrow when they abandoned Jesus, and I felt the tinge of new hope when the angel at the empty tomb spoke of meeting the risen Lord back in Galilee. The story came alive, and with repetition it took root in me in a new way. And I suspect that speaking the story aloud had something do to with this new experience.”

—Ryan Schellenberg, a student now working on his doctorate in New Testament

“I purchased a digital voice recorded and memorized while driving. Shortly after I got started, the pastor of our church began a sermon series on Mark. He invited me to dramatize the book of Mark for the scripture reading each Sunday morning.

Thus the next few months, I began to rememorize the book with dramatization in mind. This greatly improved the retention rate because to be presented, it must be memorized well enough to be recalled in front of 200 people, and the images needed for dramatization created pictures that my mind used to associate with each phrase, verse and situation.

There are lots of benefits. During times of depression, I immediately begin reviewing the Mark passage that I am working on for the day. It is a way of controlling or disciplining my mind to “set my mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” I found joy in imagining the human actions and emotions of Jesus.

And my dramatizations were a blessing to many people. One person wrote me, this: ‘Thank you for the wonderful experience of your dramatization of Mark chapters one through eight. It was so much more than what I expected, a simple recitation. The way you acted it out made the expressions of Jesus more real. Your dramatic presentation of the stories of Jesus made them come alive. The words of Jesus made a great impact on me.’”

—Grant Jones-Wiebe, computer technician and committed evangelist

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