Thursday, February 26, 2009

Memorizing Philippians

With some of the challenges presented by other bibliobloggers with regard to memorizing Scripture in its original languages, I have decided to memorize Paul's epistle to the Philippians. What makes this convenient is, one, the length-- only four chapters, or 104 verses to be exact, and the fact that I have been using Jerry Sumney's Philippians: A Greek Student's Intermediate Grammar. This grammar has many strengths, one worth noting is that many grammatical constructions are covered with lucid explanations given along with other examples from the NT. I would highly recommend this grammar to anyone wanting to sharpen their reading and translation of the Greek NT.

So far I have worked through and memorized the first eight verses. I only have 96 more to go!

A couple of observations are in order. Memorizing has helped facilitate recognition of different grammatical forms (i.e. verbal forms and vocabulary to name but a couple.), and enables ease of translation into English. One trick I have learned is to bite off small chunks. For example in Phil 1.3 the phrase εὐχαριστῶ τῷ θεῷ μου ἐπὶ πάσῃ τῇ μνείᾳ ὑμῶν may be broken up into εὐχαριστῶ τῷ θεῷ μου and then ἐπὶ πάσῃ τῇ μνείᾳ ὑμῶν. These smaller chunks seem to ease the trouble of memorizing wholesale phrases which can be in fact, quite daunting. Another thing I have noticed is how much work and repetition is involved in just going over the verses you have already committed to memory. I'd like to say that once you have memorized it, that is that, but that is far from the truth. Only constant repetition will ingrain the particular passages into your mind. I find it helpful to start at the top at times, or pick up a particular verse and see if I can go from there.

Despite the amount of time and work involved, this has become quite a fruitful exercise. I love the fact that I am getting to know Paul's letter to the Philippians much more intimately than I did before.

Spiritually this has become a routine I do during my devotional times at night and in the morning with a nice, hot, cup of coffee. I encourage those of you who have considered doing something along these lines to go for it! It will be well worth your time and effort.


Michael said...

Good luck in this current endeavor, Matt. I'm curious to find out how long (or short, depending on how you look at it) it takes to memorize the remaining 96 verses.
Take care.

Steven Carr said...

Out of (my) curiosity, could you try memorising the last chapter without having a text to work from?

IE Somebody reads it to you and you memorise what they said.

It would be interesting, if only to me, to see if that sort of oral memory is much harder or easier than learning from a text.

Actually, I struggle to remember how many 'l's and 'p's there are in Philippians, so I admire your memory.

Byron said...


I give you credit. This is a great way to make Greek a part of you

Sam Marsh said...

I'm full of admiration for this endeavor! I'd be interesting to see whether this helps you critique English translations...

Anonymous said...

This is a worthy endeaovor Michael. Keep it going.

Caleb & Sol ( said...

How much of the NT do you have memorized in English?

My buddy and I are trying to find people who have done it and can give us some instruction.