Recently, after encouraging our youth group to memorize scripture, I received the following question:
I was [wondering] whether any translation is, as far as you know, particularly memorable, or otherwise good for memorization. That would be good to know, particularly as it would seem inconsistent, as well as confusing and difficult to remember to memorize and make use of a hodgepodge of translations.
Great questions! To be honest, I am of two minds on this.
One the one hand, my experience suggests the King James is most memorable. This owes to the translators having gone out of their way to use metered speech and punchy, one-syllable words whenever possible. For instance, "thou shalt not kill," rather than, "you shall not murder" (although the latter is more accurate). However, today we use many words quite differently than they did back in the 1600s. This can lead to confusion. For instance, 1 Thess 5:22 in the KJV says, "abstain from all appearance of evil." I believe a more accurate translation is, "abstain from every form of evil" (ESV). Also, the KJV has some real shortcomings compared to faithful modern translations like the ESV. This is because many ancient biblical texts have been discovered in the past four centuries, as well as details about the Hebrew and Greek languages, which enable scholars to be even more precise in their translations.
For these reasons, I would suggest memorizing from the English Standard Version. It is a little less memorable, but is very accurate and has a wealth of resources to go with it.
The Key to Memorization
As important as translations are, remember that most essential aspect of memorization has nothing to do with which (faithful) version of the Bible you use. The key is simply to work on memorization daily. I would suggest aiming to memorize one verse each day. If you miss a few days, don’t give up. Start again!
An Effective Method for Memorizing Scripture
Write your memory verse(s) by hand on a note card (handwriting is proven to aid memory). Keep the card in your pocket and review throughout the day. At the end of the day, add that card to a review pile.
Once a day, go through the review pile, using tally marks to note how many days in a row you get each card correct. Then, once you’ve gotten a card correct for seven days straight, move that card into another pile to review once a week. Then once a month. Then once a year!
Pro Tip: Instead of putting the verse reference on one side of the card and the text on the other, try putting the topic or keyword on one side instead. That way, you learn to quote verses based on topic.
Front: "no condemnation"
Back: "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 8:1)
So, there you have it. My two cents. God bless your studies.