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Making the Bible even harder to read

If you find the Bible difficult to read, that might be a good thing! Or so suggests a recent study that found that making something hard to read makes it more likely to be remembered. In the study, participants were given one of two sets of the same information, one set written in an easy-to-read Arial font and the other set written in difficult fonts and colors. Those participants who suffered through the latter remembered what they read better than their Arial-reading counterparts.

These findings might seem at first glance to contradict common sense, but on reflection it’s not so difficult to grasp: when we have to work harder to understand a piece of writing, what we read is more likely to stick with us.

John 3:16, Papyrus style

Easier to read... or your worst nightmare come to life?

Now, Bible Gateway isn’t going to start displaying all its Scripture in an unholy smorgasbord of Comic Sans, Papyrus and Helvetica, but here’s a challenge for you: play around with some of the text color and font settings in your web browser next time you’re at Bible Gateway and see if you can make the text a bit tougher to scan. Does it help you retain what you read, or is it just annoying?

Perhaps a more productive question to ask is whether there are other, more practical ways to increase your reading comprehension and memory while you read Scripture. One way to do that is to simply slow your reading down, forcing yourself to spend a bit of extra time processing each verse before you move on to the next. I like blogger Henry Neufeld’s ideas for making the Bible a bit harder to read:

[One way to read Scripture] can involve simply sitting back, closing your eyes, and trying to remember key points of the material you just read. I often ask myself what the key points of each chapter were after reading scripture from one of the reading plans.

Another technique I use is to read in one or another foreign language. I’m not talking about the original languages, which I also like to read, but I can slow my reading down progressively by moving from English to Spanish to French and finally to German. I’m slowest at the last. It’s hardest for me to read German, but having struggled through the text I’ll remember the key points of the chapter(s).

Reading the Bible in a different language would certainly add to the challenge! But if you’re not quite up for that, you might get a similar result by occasionally reading from a different Bible version than you’re used to—say, periodically reading from the KJV if your preferred Bible is the ESV. Different English Bible versions are written for different “grade levels,” so simply trying out a higher grade level Bible might be useful.

I’m sure some of you have developed some useful tricks for reading the Bible effectively. What are your ideas?

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Filed under Bible Study