What is the purpose of memorizing Bible verses?


For a long time, I have struggled to understand why Christians memorize Bible verses.

To go to another level of abstraction, I’ve also struggled to understand why it doesn’t make sense to me.

Straightforwardly, memorizing Bible verses seems to be a good and honorable activity. If we have memorized the Scriptures, then we can meditate on them, remember them in times of trial or temptation, encourage others with what we have stored in our heart, and so on.

At the same time, it seems to me that, in my educational development, I picked up the sense that memorization is a kind of rote learning that is not valuable. Apart from subjects which require memorizing formulas, for instance the hard sciences or mathematics, the higher value was given to other kinds of learning: creativity, innovation, and application of existing knowledge.

As Ference Marton, Gloria Dall’Alba, and Tse Lai Kun observe, “In Western countries memorization and rote learning are generally equated and it is commonly believed that they do not lead to understanding.”

However, as they studied how some Chinese learners approached memorization, they found a different attitude towards memorization: “memorization to deepen understanding.” As one student explained,

In the process of repeating and memorizing in this way, the meaning of a text is grasped more fully: “In the process of repetition, it is not a simple repetition. Because each time I repeat, I would have some new idea of understanding, that is to say I can understand better.”

I gain clarity by adapting this insight to memorizing Biblical passages.

For one, it clarifies that the purpose is not to achieve a certain goal. E.g., “I’ve memorized 100 verses” or “I’ve memorized this book of the Bible.” I often hear people who are passionate about Bible memory talking about the measurable quantity of verses they’ve learned.

But I struggle to see how having memorized a large quantity of verses is, in itself, advantageous. Rather, the question is qualitative: has this particular verse shaped my identity, decisions, mindset, and so on?

As a means to this end, I see the purpose of Bible memory as a means of repeatedly seeking to understand a verse.

That is, each review of the verse is an opportunity to understand it from a different perspective, see a new nuance, understand how to apply it, or otherwise internalize the significance of the verse beyond regurgitating the bare order of words.

Perhaps this is obvious to most other people!

What barriers have you faced in memorizing Bible verses?

What advantages can you see to memorizing Bible verses in order to deepen understanding?


Thank you for sharing this insight. I have found this to be especially true when I have memorized larger portions of scripture. It helps to understand the context better and develop a greater appreciation for God’s heart behind the words. Though I may forget some words after many years, the message of the verses memorized has continued to stay with me for a very long time.

I have been reading Deuteronomy recently. In Deut 11:18, God instructs the Israelites to hide his word in their hearts so that they are not deceived to follow after other false gods when they reach the promised land. I think this applies to our modern times as well. Most of the time we are operating in a reflexive mode, based on our habits and the culture that surrounds us. Its very easy to wander away from God once we get comfortable. How wonderful it would be if our reflexive mode is always to please God! Perhaps we can get there as we meditate on his word more and more.


That’s all well and good but for those of us who have memory problems it’s impossible…what I have done was take some key phrases write them on big brown paper bags, burnt the edges to make them look old then sealed them with clear contact paper! I do go beyond the words written by His followers. Each having their own understanding of the same experiences. I’ve read the religious and political society that taught them totally different thus the need for parables!