From my observations and interactions with many around me, a lot of us read our bibles in a slightly different manner.
Some of us like to read from front to back (i.e. starting from Genesis to Revelations), others like sticking to a reading plan (e.g. a yearly bible reading plan), whilst others like to jump from one place to another.
I myself tend to read a little bit of both the Old Testament and New Testament from cover to cover because I find reading through the bible page by page to be a simple way to engage myself.
Also by reading both Old and New testaments simultaneously, I can get more variety in my reading and get exposed to the wider counsel of God.
Memory loss problem
I never thought too much about my reading method and I rarely felt any problems or complaints with my method because I am relatively a simple guy and the cart was rolling somewhat fine, so why change the wheel?
Then one day, I realized that in spite of my moderately consistent reading of the bible, I never really retained much content of the bible as much as I wanted to.
I couldn’t remember on the top of my head where exactly to find those prominent verses that I myself often quote time to time in my conversations with others. Or for example if somebody asks me what the book of Zephaniah is about, I couldn’t give a satisfying answer even though I probably have read the book at least 3-4 times in total before.
So, what is wrong with me? Do I have memory problems already at this age?
Of course not! Well I thought about how I was reading my bible, and soon enough realized why I was not retaining much of what I was reading.
On bad days when I read the bible (especially when I just can’t be bothered or am just too lazy to read), rather than actively reading the bible I would passively read the bible by playing the audio bible and just casually follow along.
This obviously would lead to less retention as I am not “active” in my reading and therefore inevitably engage less of my brain.
On better days, I would properly read the bible actively without any audio assistance, but I would just simply read too fast without giving much thought to the flow and meaning of the reading and I would brush over verses that I found intriguing or peculiar – not giving myself an opportunity to ponder upon them and study it in depths.
On good or best days, I would slowly read the bible at a reasonable pace, so that I will give myself sufficient time to fully capture and meditate the meaning of the verses and even read it alongside commentaries to enable myself a deeper understanding of theses verses.
There are few factors that contribute to long-term memory retention, and the level of engagement is definitely one of them. I have been somewhat consistent in reading the bible daily, but I have compromised my engagement a lot of the times because I was “just not feeling up to it”.
No wonder why I couldn’t remember much, I didn’t pay much attention to what I was reading in the first place!
So, the solution is simply increase engagement?
Increasing engagement by itself would help improve memory dramatically but there is a better solution: repetition!
Your memory retention is amplified if you add repetition on top of your engagement. Instead of reading the bible from cover to cover 10 times, if you read a book repetitively 10 times over, and then move on to the next book and do the same, you are much more likely to remember the bible.
So, technically both person A and B would have read the bible 10 times, but the one who read book by book repetitively would remember much more, simply because he would have allowed more time for his memory to transfer from short-term to long-term compartment and give more chance for it to sink in and be engraved more vividly in his or her brain.
There is no one right answer as to how you ought to read your bible. But remembering these two simple principles (engagement and repetition) would certainly increase the benefit that you yield out of your bible reading sessions.
Richard Kwon is from Auckland, a regular lay person who just loves the Lord.