Learn Bible Verses as Stories

If you want to learn the Bible by heart, focus on stories, not the chapter and verse. Stories are so much more easy, natural, and interesting.

Solitary verses are disconnected. A story connects several verses into a single, memorable unit.

Gospels as Stories

We’re used to dividing the Bible into chapters and verses. But nobody applied this system to the Gospels until centuries after they were written. When people first heard the Gospels, they heard a series of stories.

Today, biblical storytellers have brought back this focus on the Gospels as stories. Scholars such as David Rhoads and Tom Boomershine have written books with titles like Mark As Story and Story Journey. There’s even a Network of Biblical Storytellers. When they meet, the festivities include tellings of whole books of the Bible.

The French priest Marcel Jousse taught me to find the Bible rhythms. The biblical storytellers taught me to find the Bible stories. When I first started memorizing Scripture, I still focused on chapters and verses. Now I understand that the earlier unit of story is far more natural, memorable, and enjoyable.

The word “story” here is broader than what we usually mean (a tale with a protagonist and a beginning, middle, and end). In this context, a “story” is basically a series of verses that hang naturally together. It could be the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus in John chapter 3, or the first section of the Sermon on the Mount.

Remembering Stories

How do you divide verses into stories? There are no hard and fast rules. For example, if you’re learning the Christmas verses from Luke and Matthew, you could simply have two stories:

  • The Christmas story from Luke, where Jesus is born in a stable, and the angels appear to the shepherds.

  • The Christmas story from Matthew, where the Magi come, Herod kills the Holy Innocents, and the Holy Family flees to Egypt, then returns after Herod’s death.

You could also break these into smaller “stories”, if you liked.

At the beginning, the story divisions don’t really matter, because you repeat the whole thing each day.

Later, when you use spaced repetition to manage large amounts of material, you can recite particular stories each day. You don’t have to keep reciting everything you’ve ever learned.

You can also recite entire chapters. Most chapter breaks seem to come at the end of a story. The question hinges on how much you prefer to recite at one time.

You might think that single verses are easier to remember than whole stories. Verses are so much shorter! If you only wanted to remember one verse, this would be true. But since you’re learning many verses, you’ll find that they naturally snap together into stories.