About a month ago, one of my Greek Grammar students asked me about memorizing scripture. He asked if I memorized scripture in Greek and Hebrew, or an English translation. Much to his disappointment, and mine for that matter, I answered, “I don’t memorize scripture.” What? A seminary student that doesn’t memorize scripture? As counter-intuitive as this might sound, I think this is a rather common phenomenon.
When new students are introduced to a formal bible education, a number of things happen. First, we are taught that the versification in scripture is a much later addition in order to make finding passages easier. Second, we learn that verses should not be understood apart from themselves. They must be interpreted in light of the surrounding context. Third, we are introduced to the biblical languages, and we are taught that though English translations are reliable, as faithful servants, we should do our own work in the languages to free us to make the interpretive decisions which translators have made on our behalf. The result? Students stop memorizing scripture. The task of doing it, in our minds, has become too great. Instead of memorizing one verse, we must memorize a passage, a chapter, a book. Instead of picking our favorite translation, we know, in the back of our mind, that our time would be better spent memorizing from the original languages. But most neither have the time to memorize in the original languages, or the ability to translate or understand the Greek they have memorized.
I’ve decided, enough. It’s time to memorize scripture. I have been looking for ways to further develop my knowledge of Scripture, my Greek vocabulary, and my knowledge of Greek in general. Therefore, I am putting forth the necessary effort to memorize large chucks of scripture in the original text.
[Note: This is not a task for everyone. English translations are reliable. Pick the one you are most familiar with and read from on a daily basis and use that one. Memorizing the original Greek, for me, is based on the previous reasons listed, and the fact that the GNT has become the text from which I do my daily reading (after 7 years of Greek study).]
With all this in mind, and after a week of memorization, I present you with my recitation of Philippians 1:1-18. The pronunciation is according to the Erasmian system (sorry living language guys, I’m just too far gone).
[Note: There are two mistakes in my recitation. Hopefully the next recording will be perfect.]
In a later post, I will catalog, for those interested, my goals and approaches to memorizing the book of Philippians.
What was your method for memorizing this passage? I have decided as a scholar that it is time for me to memorize large passages of the Hebrew Bible (which is my area). Would you mind sharing your approach?
My approach wasn’t too sophisticated. I would make 3×5 flashcards with manageable chucks that were of a decent size but also a logical unit within the text. Then I would go on walks to the grocery store with my newborn in the stroller. I’d read and repeat, read and repeat until a section was memorized.
I would then move on to the next section. Once I memorized a new verse in that section, I would rehearse from the beginning, including the newly memorized portion. Then I would move on to the next verse and add it to the previous one in the new section. I would rehearse that over and over and add it to the first section I had memorized ad infinitum.