Monday, August 16, 2021

How to use Symbols to Recall a Bible story

Watch video here:
How do you use Symbols to Recall Bible Stories?

I was recently asked, “How do you use symbols to recall a Bible story?” Some Bible stories are more difficult to recall than others because of abstract ideas, lists, or repetitive dialogue and non-narrative passages are not as easy to internalize because they do not follow the natural narrative flow. This is when it is a good idea to use symbols to help with recall. 

We will use John 3 as our practice story. Did you notice that I chose to divide it into five storylines? 

Notice how I kept the symbols simple and consistent because this helps with recall. Symbols are not meant to be masterpieces that draw the masses to your art, but simple story prompts to help you internalize the passage. It is not intended to be what you will use when you go and tell your story. It is personal to you. Your symbols will not carry the same meaning for someone else. 

For example, in order to remember that Nicodemus is a pharisee I put him in a triangle pointing downward to illustrate that he was a religious leader focused on man’s rules. 

I put a moon over his symbol to remind me that Nicodemus approached Jesus late at night. 

On top of the triangle, you will notice that I have person bowing before another to show that Nicodemus saw Jesus as his teacher and was seeking to learn from Him. 

I kept Jesus’ symbol simple. A stick figure with a halo. 

In order to depict being born again took a lot of thought. I chose to use the theta, the symbol for God because it looked like an egg which is a symbol for birth. The incomplete line on the inside represented that unless someone is born of the Spirit they are not born again. And then I used the cloud to represent the kingdom of God. 

The question mark inside the born-again symbol represented Nicodemus asking, “How can someone be born again?” 

The use of the born-again symbol and a water droplet remind me that we must be born of water and spirit. I drew the wind bigger because there was more information about the Spirit and that it is like the wind that blows wherever it pleases. 

The question mark over the wind/spirit symbol is Nicodemus asking, “How can this be?” 

While the question mark over the symbol of Nicodemus represented Jesus asking, “How is it possible that you as a religious leader do not already know this?” 

The next division in the storyline I noticed it is only Jesus speaking, so I put each of the symbols in a speech bubble. The one with the eyes represents that the Jews speak from what they have seen and know.

For me using the no symbol with the quotations and ellipses was the perfect way to represent that the religious leaders did not accept their testimony. 

And then to show that people were not believing what Jesus said about earthly things, I used a tree. For me a tree is one of God’s beautiful examples of earthly things He created. 

The cloud symbol represented that they would not believe Jesus if He spoke of heavenly things. 

The little man running up the stairs with the no symbol over him represented that no person has ever gone to heaven except the Son of Man. Jesus standing at the top of the stairs with a cloud represented that He is the only one who has been in heaven. 

Some symbols are easy to chose because they are widely used already like the snake on the shepherd staff for Moses, the figure on the cross for Jesus, or the ichthus for believe. 

Jesus on the cross with the trinity symbol signifies that anyone who believes in Jesus will have eternal life. I had a harder time picking this one. I really like how the trinity symbol is created with three believe symbols. 

Creating the John 3:16 verse was fun for me. I layered the images. The world filled with a heart shows that God loves the world. I added Jesus on the cross to symbolize the One and only Son. Again, the trinity symbol represents eternal life provided for all who believe in Jesus. 

The theta symbol with the arrow pointing at Jesus on the cross illustrates that God sent Jesus to the world. The no symbol over the world is the reminder that God did not send Jesus to condemn the world. 

On the next image adding the trinity symbol and removing the no symbol over the world illustrates that God sent Jesus to provide eternal life. 

By now you can see why I chose to use divisions and symbols to help me with the recall. 

Did you notice all the different ways eternal life is repeated? The ichthus symbol and trinity symbol remind us again that the one who believes in Jesus will have eternal life. 

Likewise, the ichthus and trinity symbol covered with the no symbol illustrate that those who do not believe in God’s one and only Son are already condemned by their unbelief. 

In the last storyline, I used a light bulb to convey light. The light bulb over the world shows us that the Light of the world came to earth. I like it when a symbol is easy to choose like a light bulb. It is always best to keep your symbols simple. 

While man’s love for evil is represented by a heart surrounding an evil face. This shows that man chose darkness instead of the light. 

While the choice to not love the light is a light bulb scratched out. I use this to help me remember that those that hate the light fear their evil deeds will be exposed. 

While those that love the truth go into the light so what they do can be seen. Their good deeds are represented by a heart inside a light bulb. 

And you can find the story of John 3 in a link below. 

Let me know if you use symbols to help you with Bible story recall! 

Using symbols to recall Bible stories is a great way to help you be in the Word, be with Jesus and be transformed.

Shalom ya’ll.


  1. This opens up a totally new way to help internalize the stories of the Bible.

    1. It definitely helps us recall when the narrative isn't as easy to follow. I love that it is a simple chunking technique.