Which Version To Memorize?


Among the most common questions I receive, the answer to this one depends on which Bible you use the most.

If you grew up on the New American Standard Bible and normally use that one for your Bible reading and study, then I recommend that one. It’s a personal preference issue, but it will also be easier to go with the one you’re most familiar with, because relearning verses you already know in a different translation can be a little more challenging—though not impossible.

Any Bible that is a translation, and NOT a paraphrase, is a legitimate choice for memorizing. Paraphrases are not recommended because their purpose is to restate the passage in a more amplified form in order to clarify the text. In so doing they add opinion to the mix.

Here are just a few examples:

New American Standard Bible, NASB
King James Version, KJV
New King James Version, NKJV
English Standard Version, ESV
New Living Translation, NLT
New International Version, NIV

The Living Bible
The Message
The Amplified Bible

Many want to know which version I use. In 1992 I began memorizing from NIV (the 1984 version). I have continued with that one to this day.

However, to my great sadness, a major change took place in the publishing world in 2011.

The NIV, 1984 version, was replaced with a newer version, NIV 2011. Zondervan Publishers, who owns the NIV, then took the old version out of circulation, including all internet access, which means that I can no longer pull up the 1984 version on my I-phone, I-pad, Bible websites, or any Bible software.

That has not hampered my memory work in any way, and at this point I’m not planning to change versions. But having said that, I would not advise others to stick with NIV 1984 if you are young and have a lifetime ahead of you to memorize. The accessibility of the Bible you memorize will be increasingly important in the days ahead.

You can memorize some books in one version and other books in another—the drawback being that the Bible you carry with you is not going to contain both.

I would love for others to add their two cents. Which version do you memorize? What do you recommend for newcomers?

7 comments to Which Version To Memorize?

  • Carmen Cole

    Now I understand. You know I also memorize in the NIV, but as I had the version on my phone it didn’t match up and I couldn’t figure out why. I kept downloading different apps and still had the same problem, so now I understand why. Thank you for clearing that up.
    I have tried to memorize in different versions but find it difficult since I normally study from the NIV, although I do know a few memory verses in the King James.

  • Ethan

    While in college I began memorizing in NASB. I have been using the same Bible for many years. My Bible was literally worn out and many pages were no longer attached. So, I decided it was time to purchase a new Bible. I bought another NASB. Shortly after my purchase I began reading through Matthew. As soon as I began reading Matthew 5-7 (sermon on the mount) I was surprised to find the words were not the same. After a little research I found out that my older Bible was the 1975 version and my new Bible was the 2002 version. Of course, the new translation had not changed the meaning, but had a different selection of words. For example in Matthew 7:25 it says “and the rain descended” 1975 version – “and the rain fell” 2002 version.

  • Sue Bond

    When I memorize along with a friend, I’ll use whatever version they are most comfortable with. So, though I use ESV for my reading and memorizing, I memorized Phillipians in NIV (1984) because that was the version my friend used, and it helped to have the same version as we walked and practiced together.

  • Cherie

    I’m so excited I get to actually help? With a couple exceptions, I too have memorized all my chapters/books in the NIV84 version. When the whole NIV84 brouhaha happened, I was seriously bummed! I found an app called Just1Word which has the NIV84. It was pricey but I’m sooo glad I bought it. I’ve read and studied that version for almost 30 years. Having it on my iPhone makes memorizing that much easier. I agree wholeheartedly with Janet though, if you are just starting out—choosing a version other than the NIV84 would be wise.

    • Wow, that is so helpful. I will definitely spread the word because I have many friends who memorize from NIV84. Thank you so much.

  • Samuel S Kondeti

    Though i enjoy reading NKJV and NIV ,The verses I memorized from my childhood are from the King James, so when I try to remember Bible verses,by default they are from King James. So, I guess I would still say that I would prefer to memorize the King James version.

  • Mickey

    I would definitely find a version you like and stick with it.I use the ESV now, and I have had the same problems with updates. My ESV in print is a 2001, and the ESV on my phone have some differences. The King James is probably the only version that will not be updated