Basics of Scripture memorization

How to memorize Scripture: An introduction

Loeb, a mnemonic character for memorizing scriptureWhen you memorize Scripture, as opposed to other passages, you have the advantage that it’s chunked into chapters and verses. Here’s a detailed guide on how to commit those verses and chapters to memory.

With the right tactics, you can not only memorize passages really quickly, you can also learn all the references as you go.

1. Start with verse keywords

As with most passages, you’ll want to focus on key words, not every single word in the text.

Let’s say we want to memorize James 1:12:

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”

That just looks like a bunch of text. Let’s make it easier:

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”

Key words: blessed steadfast trial, test crown, promised love

So once you’re fairly familiar with the verse, all you have to do is quiz on those seven words, and they’ll prompt you to remember the text that comes between them.

But how do you remember those key words?

Let’s use a mnemonic story.

Den 3

A pig is sitting comfortably on a nice green chair in his den, feeling blessed that he gets to be in the most comfortable chair in the house. Unfortunately, he happens to be sitting on a hat, which isn’t all that comfortable and completely ruins his experience. But for some reason he still thinks that if he stays seated without moving, steadfastly remaining as he is, someone will reward him for this strange sort of trial.

(This pig is a very eccentric character in the way he applies his principles.)

Den 5

This pig has talked with his sister about this hat-sitting experiment. He calls it a trial, but she thinks he is just testing the hat to see whether it will be ruined. She doesn’t like to see hats ruined this way, so she decides that she should replace the smashed hat with a crown, which would be less easily smashed and ruined.

Why does she care? Because she has promised to him that she would always give him new hats when he loses his old ones… because she loves the way he looks in a hat.

To recap: She thinks that his sitting on it is a test, but she thinks they should use a crown because she promised to keep him always in new hats, because of how much she loves hats.

Den 9

Admittedly, that’s a bit of an awkward and cumbersome mnemonic story, but a little review and recitation makes it stick.

But why exactly did I decide to use a pig, sitting on a hat, in a green den for this verse?

There’s a solid method to my rampant madness…


2. Memory palaces for chapters

To memorize a whole chapter, do a story like this for every single verse, but use a memory palace with each verse in a different room.

Take a look at this fabricated memory palace:

Memory palace for Scripture memory

Memory palace for Scripture memory

There are 20 locations in this memory palace, traveling from the balcony around the house to the conservatory. These locations are numbered by verse.

The den, which you’ll see at the bottom right of the image, is location #12. That’s why I put James 1:12 there; the verse number corresponds to the location number.

This gives me an easily indexed memory palace for James 1.

So I can recite James 1 in order just by thinking through the memory palace and recalling the mnemonic stories…

…But not only that, I can also remember any individual verse based on its reference because I can remember which location is associated with any number, which makes me recall the mnemonic, which leads me to recite the verse.


3. Objects to go even further

Of course, that only applies to one individual chapter. Hence the hat.

For separate chapters, I use different objects. The pig takes a hat around the house for James 1. He takes a snowball around the house for James 2.

So here’s my thought process. When someone says “James 1:12”, I think about what the pig would be doing with the hat in the den. When someone says “James 2:14”, I think about what the pig would be doing with the snowball in the bathroom, etc.

This means I can remember any reference for any verse for the whole book of James.


4. Multiple books: Multiple characters

Is there a way to expand this to memorize even more books of the Bible?

Of course!

I recommend creating an entirely new palace, dividing it into sublocations (like Loeb’s house). Create your own memory system for the book you’re memorizing, following these general rules:

  • Book corresponds to character (and palace).
  • Chapter corresponds to object.
  • Verse corresponds to memory palace location.

How you can try it yourself

I’m not the only person who can do this. Several others have had great success using this exact technique, with the same mnemonic stories, to memorize the book of James.

If you’re interested in learning the details of how this works, and being able to memorize the whole book of James in 1 month, for free, check it out here:

Master of Memory James course