Should I study or memorize?

Which is more beneficial, to study the Bible or to memorize the Bible? Good question. I would say that it shouldn’t be an either/or proposition. Both reveal God and draw us close to Him.

Many of you already know my story, that I didn’t grow up in church and had no Bible background. When I became a Christian at age 21, I began a daily Bible-reading ritual. But at that time I didn’t feel the need for intense Bible study. I went to Bible studies and even taught Bible studies myself (Yikes!). My philosophy back then was, “Let the experts study and they can give us the highlights.” I wasn’t convinced that the extra effort required to study the Bible would be worth it.

It’s sad to admit, but I felt comfortable fitting in with the ignorant majority.

When I began to memorize, at age 35, my convictions about the importance of God’s Word transformed my desire to study the Bible. I reached the point where it wasn’t enough just to know the words of 2 Timothy; I wanted to know what they meant, and that could only come from studying. Memorizing Scripture gave me the motivation to study at a more in-depth level. It gave me a hunger to understand what was written.

Studying the Bible opened up so much more than I could get from just memorizing.

I believe wholeheartedly in studying the Bible. At age 51, I dedicated myself to a 4-year seminary degree, which ended up taking 5 ½ years. God granted me this great privilege and the desire of my heart.

Both memorizing and studying will produce fruit. One difference is that studying requires a block of time—and for me—solitude and quiet. For that reason, I strongly advocate memorizing because it can be done every day, while you’re busy with menial tasks, and it keeps you communing with God throughout the day. I don’t have a slot on my daily schedule for Bible study, but there’s always time to memorize.

The disciplines of memorizing and studying work in tandem in my life, so that I can know the heart of the passage, not just know the passage by heart.

What would you like to add about studying the Bible VS memorizing it?

7 comments to Should I study or memorize?

  • Oh, Janet, I totally agree with you that studying the Bible and memorizing passages unite to swell our heart with a deeper love for our Lord. When I read a passage that speaks to me and then delve deep to understand its meaning, then the overflow is to memorize the words forever hidden in my heart.
    And, yes, the daily tasks of life become open slots of Bible memory moments, like yard work with 3×5 cards in pocket, post-it notes on mirror or beside sink,enjoying a walk toting His passages, moment by daily moment drawing us closer to the One who is the Word.
    Thank you, Janet, for inspiring me on this journey of memorizing Scripture.

  • Holly Steadman

    Janet, I love your thrust that both the study of the Bible and memorization reveal God and draw us close to Him.
    In these, the study and the memorization, we need the Power and Presence of the Holy Spirit. Without Him it’s just words on a page or words rolling off a babbling tongue. For me, the strongest impact upon whether the Text actually opens up, is my surrender and obedience to what is written as I am traveling the highways and byways of genuine and gritty life. In this aspect too, I am desperate for the governance of Holy Spirit.
    It is during the menial tasks, such as cleaning toilets and tubs, washing floors, making meals, doing laundry, teaching Math, opening the front door to an unexpected guest, listening long when I’m tired, persevering with chosen joy through difficult physical training and pain, doing something small when I want to do something big—–
    It is during these unskilled, lowly, inferior, routine, boring and possibly dull activities, as I weave my heart and mind with the Word, and decide to obey, that I most understand what is written. And this is when I hunger and thirst for more.
    To be less.
    To count everything loss.
    To go to the back of the room or the end of the line.
    And know the ultimate greatness of knowing Christ.
    Among His disciples that saw His hands tremble, touched His skin and smelled His sweat was a tax collector and some fisherman.

    “‘If you love Me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you–the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you… Whoever has My commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves Me. He who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I too will love him and show Myself to him.’”
    “Jesus replied, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will obey My teaching. My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make our home with him… All this I have spoken while still here with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My Name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.’”
    John 14:15-18, 21, 23, 25-26

    “But you have an Anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth…”
    “As for you, the Anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as His Anointing teaches you about all things and as that Anointing is real, not counterfeit–just as It has taught you, remain in Him.” 1 John 2: 20, 27

    And I’m just still in awe that Jesus is El-Shaddai, and more than this–HE LOVES me.
    The supreme LOVE of Jesus IS something WONDERFUL.

    • Richie Malone

      Holly, I think you are onto something! Thanks for pointing out that your choosing to obey the Word is the key that opens it up and gives the Holy Spirit free reign to impart understanding and create in you a desire for more. Valuable insight!

  • Richie Malone

    Janet, I loved your conclusion above…”know the heart of the passage, not just know the passage by heart.” That is the whole point, after all, isn’t it? I struggle with this sometimes. My legalistic accounting mind wants to get the task done, but my heart is left wanting with this approach. I see how study and understanding of a passage creates a heart connection causing the desire to hide those particular precious words in our storehouse. I think I may have it backwards sometimes. Thanks for sharing your own experience.

  • Rosie Handley

    You hit my hot button, Janet! I struggle daily with wanting to spend more time in His word and rarely getting there. However, I have managed to put over 40 passages into my heart, (consisting of approximately 6 verses each) which I review regularly. They are the passages that I want to be “mine”. Often the core verse is a familiar one, such as John 3:16, plus the verses before or after it help me to understand the meaning better. Each passage is placed on a sheet of paper in a large enough font to be able to read it from a distance, if necessary. I look up the passage in a study Bible, to understand it more accurately and deeply, and put the notes on the back of the sheet.

    I call the passages my “Spiritual Friends” as they are not only there when I need them, but I retain them better. My motto is: ‘You do not know a verse until you memorize it.’ I’m “hooked” on memorizing as spending time with my new friends is a delight!

  • Chérie

    What a fantastic question. The discussion that could take place amongst a group of believers would be so interesting.
    If you are memorizing, you are mulling a verse over and over, culminating in inevitable, methodical study of each word of the verse in its Holy Spirit breathed order.
    When you are “studying” in the traditional sense, you might be led by the Bible study leader to a point regarding a certain passage, and that point is tied in with the entire message or lesson. I would NEVER attempt to say one method or another trumps the Holy Spirit leading you along in a study. 
    However, when memorizing— Every.Single.Word. —
    is a lesson because of reviewing Every.Single.Word. 
    over and over and over and over. While working to finish the book of Ephesians, I got to Ephesians 5:26, and I struggled a bit because of so many prepositions, “TO make her holy, cleansing her BY the washing WITH water THROUGH the Word. While saying this verse a ga-jillion times, each of the words brought new meaning. (Especially those prepositions….) 
    If you are in a Bible Study and come to this verse, you’d take away the message of God washing you by the Scriptures, His Word. When memorizing, each word is a concept, rather than one specific concept for the whole verse? Hope that makes sense. 

  • Holly Steadman

    Cherie– Yes!!! Amen!!! In fact, my own grammar and composition have been transformed by learning the, as you say, “Every.Single.Word.”
    Such things as these Texts which I have memorized:
    “In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in another direction.”
    “By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.”
    “Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab…”
    In. The same way. Was not even. Rahab the prostitute. Considered. Righteous. For. What she did.
    By faith. The prostitute Rahab. Because. She welcomed.
    Boaz. Whose mother. Was Rahab.

    Wow-wow-wow. Boaz’s mother was Rahab. The prostitute.

    Sometimes those “Every.Single.Words.” can theologically blow your brain in a good, good way and give reason to give thanks to the Holy Spirit!!!