A Bible being read

Taking notes when we read and study the Bible

Jonathan Edwards pinned pieces of paper to his clothes when he took a break from his desk to ride his horse. He needed a system for remembering his thoughts. Thomas Jefferson carried a piece of polished marble and slips of paper to write down thoughts he needed to remembered.

Over fifteen hundred years ago Augustine wrestled with the limitations of his memory to retain the results of his study and reflection.

The internal dialogue is recorded in his Soliloquies, Books 1

R= the internal voice or other source dialoging with him

A= Augustine

For many days I had been debating within myself many and diverse things, seeking constantly, and with anxiety, to find out my real self, my best good, and the evil to be avoided, when suddenly one — I know not, but eagerly strive to know, whether it were myself or another, within me or without — said to me:

R. Now consider: suppose you had discovered something concerning that which you are so constantly and anxiously seeking to know; to what would you entrust it, in order that you might give your attention to things following?

A. To memory, of course.

R. Is the memory an adequate custodian of all things which the mind discovers?

A. Hardly; in fact it cannot be.

R. Such things must, then, be written down. But how will you do this, when your health does not admit of the labor of writing them? They cannot be dictated, for they demand absolute solitude.

A. What you say is true, and so I do not see how I am to proceed without embarrassment.

R. Pray for health and help in accomplishing your desires, and write this prayer down also, that by these first fruits you may become more courageous. Then summarize briefly the conclusions at which you have arrived. Do not make any effort to attract a crowd of readers; a few of your own townsmen will suffice.

A. I will do as you advise

In a letter (Epistle 143, 2) Augustine wrote that, “I am the sort of man who writes because he has made progress, and who makes progress by writing.”

The Bible app on my phone has a note taking option as does the Bible study software I usually use.

An insight came to me one day when I looked up the distance from Beersheba to Mount Moriah knowing I had done it more than once.  Again, I could not find where I had written down the distance. That day I began a note taking system that I have used for the twenty years.

We all need a system to record what we learn for future ministry.

The sooner we start the more valuable our notes will become.

2 thoughts on “Taking notes when we read and study the Bible”

  1. Note keeping started when I was in elementary school and I have no memory of why it was so important and universal to me, but I carried it into Bible Study when I became a Christian. It’s only in recent years it has dawned on me that it’s why I am able to retain lectures and things I read, but have great difficulty remembering events, names, and such. I have come to believe it’s the act of writing that helps commit things to memory.

    Thank you for sharing

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