GoTell.org: A Biblical Storyteller Treasure Trove
Memorizing an entire text, like a book of the Bible, is a big deal. For me, a few key insights have made this feat possible.
One is finding the rhythms in the text. Another is finding the stories in the text.
Stories are a much more natural division than the chapters. Stories are short, chapters are long. Stories are meaningful, while chapters are often fairly arbitrary chunks. Stories have a beginning, middle, and end. We have a deep, almost biological hunger for stories.
Result: stories are much easier to remember than either chapters or individual verses.
Who got me seeing the Bible as stories? The Network of Biblical Storytellers, of course. This international group of scholars, ministers, and performers have ditched the “reverential monotone” – they want to tell the Bible as actual, living stories.
And on their sister website, GoTell.org, they have divided most of the Gospels into individual stories.
For most of the stories, you can listen to a storyteller’s rendition.
You can also read the “Story in Episodes”, where they break up the text out of paragraphs into a more natural, spoken pattern. These patterns are very similar to how I’ve broken up the text in my new book, Christmas by Heart.
The difference is that they seem to take more of a “free verse” approach, with longer lines and bigger chunks. I focus more on rhythm, on trying to find that actual back-and-forth movement in the lines.
But both are quite different from the usual “Bible as interminable column” approach. Clearly, if you want to remember the Bible, you need to break it up into natural chunks!
You might also enjoy some of their articles in the “Scripture by Heart” section. They have memory tips, and also discussions of why it’s worthwhile to learn these stories by heart.
I’m looking forward to getting to know these people better. They’ve devoted plenty of time and energy into memory work – some members have learned entire books of the Bible.
But they’ve avoided the trap of focusing on the memory work itself. They learn these texts so that they can tell them as stories, perform them, and make them live. They don’t just memorize, they memorize so that they can create.