3.3 • Memorizing Bible References
I’ve been memorizing whole chapters of the Bible, but it’s also very helpful to memorize assorted key verses, such as John 3:16. The sound techniques will work great for memorizing the words, but not for the reference. More cryptic numbers!! But if you have read “How to Improve Your Memory,” then you will have learned a great technique for memorizing numbers. All you need to do, then, is to expand the system a little bit so you can keep the chapter number and verse number straight and also memorize the correct book with it.
There are many ways to do this, and people have apparently written books about it, but I would encourage you to invent a system on your own… something that works best for you. There is no right or wrong way! Some may work better than others, though. I’ll now describe my own method. Feel free to use it, adapt it, or whatever. Currently, my method only covers the New Testament.
The most obvious approach is to come up with a picture for each book of the New Testament. Then you can link the book picture with a picture for the chapter and then a picture for the verse. The only disadvantage with this is that you’re re-using pictures over and over again, and soon you might be saying to yourself, “was that sword-ham-tissue or sword-hen-tire?” The mnemonic alphabet is nice because you can use different words for the same number (e.g., rake, rock, Rick, rag, rook for 47). You can deliberately choose different words to avoid confusion. So my approach attempts to use this same productivity with the books.
I’ve assigned a different letter of the alphabet for each book. There are only 26 letters in the English alphabet and there are 27 books, so it’s a little bit tricky. But I noticed that Philemon, 2 John, 3 John and Jude only have one chapter each. So I created a new book from each of these in which each chapter is one book (Chapter 1 is Philemon, Chapter 2 is 2 John, Chapter 3 is 3 John and Chapter 4 is Jude). In the list below this book is marked with a star (*). I’ve also included a memory aid for each letter, but you don’t have to use the aid I’ve provided… you can use the aid that works best for you, and you can even re-assign the letters if you find something more comfortable for you.
Letter Book Memory Aid —— ——- —————————————————— A Acts (A)cts B 2 Thess “Beta” character in German represents “SS” C Col (C)olossians D 2 Peter “Deux Peter” (deux is 2 in French) E Eph (E)phesians F * The (F)unny Book G Gal (G)alatians H Heb (H)ebrews I Phil Phil(I)ppians J John (J)ohn K Mark Mar(K) L Luke (L)uke M Matthew (M)atthew N 2 Tim “Hen Timothy” (hen = N = 2 in mnemonic alphabet) O — (not used) P 1 Peter 1 (P)eter Q — (not used) R Romans (R)omans S 1 Thes 1 The(S)salonians T 1 Tim 1 (T)imothy U Titus Tit(U)s V Rev Re(V)elation W 1 John 1 John sounds like “(W)un jon” X 1 Cor X in Greek is chi (pron. KI), so think “chi-rinthians” Y 2 Cor Y comes after X Z James James sounds like “jam(Z)”
With a single letter for each book, you can now write references in a very compact format. It’s not as easy to read, but it’s much easier to memorize, as you’ll soon see. Just write the letter for the book, then the chapter, then the verse, but always use two digits for the verse. If you want an entire chapter, omit the verse. (So 1-2 digits represents a chapter and 3-4 digits represents a chapter and a verse.) Examples:
Traditional Compact -------------- ------- John 3:16 J316 1 Cor 10:13 X1013 Mark 2:5 K205 Titus 2:1 U201 2 John 6 F206 Jude 25 F425 Matthew 6:9-13 M609-13 Acts 4 A4
To memorize the compact notation, use the same method as for memorizing numbers except make sure the first letter of the first word you use is the same as the first letter of the compact notation. In the case of X, you can find a word that begins with “ox” because the letter O is not used. Examples:
Reference Memory Pictures --------- --------------------------------------------- J316 jam + dish X1013 oxide + Saddam (Hussein) K205 Ken + soul U201 unseat F206 fan + sash F425 fur + nail M609-13 match + speedometer (ignore extra consonants) A4 air
Now all you have to do is link the pictures with the verse. That’s a little tricky because the verse is by sound and the reference is by picture. But you can think of some image in your mind to go with the verse. Also, you ought to decide whether the verse picture should come first and then the reference pictures or the other way around. For most people, you’d want the verse picture first because you want to know where to find a verse when it comes to mind. But if you like to think of the words when you see only the reference, you may want to memorize the verse pictures first. Of course, you can always go backwards in your memory when necessary, but it’s more difficult.
Anyway, here’s some examples:
“For God so loved the world…” –> Think of God loving the world by taking the earth in his arms and squeezing it to give it a big hug. Then he takes some red JAM (perhaps representing Christ’s blood?) and rubs it on the top of the earth. Then he puts the DISH on top of that and it sticks in place as sort of a hat. Strange way to love the world! But it’s only a picture to help you remember the verse. Later on, you can think of JAM-DISH to come up with J316 which means John 3:16!
“… but will with the temptation also make a way to escape …” –> Think of being alone in a room wherein there is nothing except you, a table and a huge dessert (the temptation). God opens the room door so you can escape. You walk out the door, then close it, and you find that it’s rusty so you got some iron OXIDE on your hand. Then you walk forward but find that SADDAM Hussein is blocking you in the hallway! Perhaps you can escape by turning around and running down the hallway in the opposite direction. There’s a lot of details! How do you know which ones are the key words? Well, usually they’re the ones that are the most unusual (the table and hallway are normal, the iron oxide and Saddam Hussein are unusual).
I hope this document has been helpful to you. Happy remembering!