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Ken Berding - Lessons in Memorization

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Ken Berding, author of Sing and Learn New Testament Greek and editor of Three Views on the New Testament use of the Old Testament, recently wrote about memorizing Scripture for Talbot’s The Good Book Blog.

Ken and a few other Z authors post frequently for the blog, so take some time and check it out! Below is an excerpt from his latest post.


“One of my professors in college was really old.  I can hear everyone asking:  “How old was he?”  (No, his social security number wasn’t 7…).  Let’s put it this way:  he was the founder of the college at which I was studying (Multnomah in Portland, Oregon), and the school was celebrating the half century mark of its founding while I was there!  In fact, Dr. John Mitchell was over the age of 90 when he taught the two classes I took from him.  He continued to teach well into his mid-90s.  Not surprisingly, he was getting forgetful about some things by the time I had him as a teacher, but what he definitely was not forgetting were the Bible verses he had memorized.  His ability to recall Bible verses was astounding.  I do not know this for a fact, but I would guess that he had all of the New Testament and large sections of the Old Testament committed to memory.  All of his students were profoundly impacted by his immersion in the Scriptures. 

I only had one opportunity to sit and talk with him while I was a student.  I had a single question to ask him that day:  “How did you come to memorize so much of the Bible?” 

He answered, “Well, I never really tried to memorize.  (Oh no, I thought, this isn’t going to be very helpful…)  “But before I prepare to preach a series of sermons on a book of the Bible, I first read it out loud 50 times before preaching it. (OK, this might be helpful)  “Since I preached a lot in my younger years (…now that is an understatement; read his biography!) I had lots of opportunities to read passages over and over again.”

Dr. Mitchell’s comments that day were a helpful turning point for me in my own commitment to memorize the Scriptures.  I had already tackled some large chunks of the Bible and committed them to memory, but the process of getting there had been rather painful.  Rote memory (“look at the verse, cover it with your hand, look into the air and try to quote it by memory, uncover the verse with your hand to see what you missed, fix whatever mistakes you made, try again) was hard work, and the results were not always satisfying from a long-term, remember-what-you-memorized standpoint.

After that single conversation with Dr. Mitchell, I changed tactics.” 

You can read the rest of his post, including his four-step process for memorization, here.


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