African proverbs project proverbs for preaching and teaching series

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Abba Karnga

Asempa Publishers

Christian Council of Ghana

Box 919, Accra.


Series Editor


Bassa Author


Ga Author


Tonga Author


With grants from Pew Charitable Trusts, Philadelphia, USA.

First Published by Asempa Publishers

Christian Council of Ghana

Box 919, Accra

Copyright @ Abba Karnga 1996


Except as otherwise stated, all Bible quotations are from

Today's English Version Popularly called

The Good News Bible

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying or recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers.

Printed in Ghana


Foreword ... ...

Acknowledgements ... ...
Introduction ... ...


Chapter 1 Emphases of Bassa Proverbs ... ...
2 Emphases of Biblical Proverbs ... ...
3 The Gospel And Bassa Proverbs ... ...
4 Suggestions for Further Study and Reflection ...

5 Examples of Annotated Bassa Proverbs ... ...

for Preaching and Teaching
Additional Bassa Proverbs not annotated ... ... ... ...
Index by Theological Topic ... ... ... ...
Index by Purpose/ Occasion of Use ... ... ... ...
Index by Biblical Texts Cited ... ... ... ... ...
Short Bibliography ... ... ... ...

The Proverbs for Preaching and Teaching Series is one facet of the many-sided African Proverbs Project (see note following this Foreword), an international, interdisciplinary effort to promote the collection, study and publication of proverbs. Proverbs are an endangered heritage of African peoples, under increasing threat from Western influences including Western education.
The Project was organized to find and encourage the people who already working to preserve and promote African proverbs as well as to recruit additional people to blaze some new trails in proverb study and use. The Proverbs for Preaching and Teaching Series is one of these new trails, perhaps the most promising one. Rev. Joshua Kudadjie of Ghana, Rev. Abba Karnga of Liberia and Rev. David Mphande, all with long experience in preaching and religious education, were recruited to pioneer the way by producing annotated proverb collections in their own languages. As Series Editor, Rev. Kudadjie wrote the model book and coached his two colleagues through the writing process. All three repeatedly went above and beyond the call of duty. We commend them for their devotion to the task and congratulate them on the quality of their work.
Many other African proverb collections have been written and a few of these, such as William Lane's 50 Proverbs: Traditional and Christian Wisdom, used an approach similar to our Series. They showed how the heritage of traditional proverbs can be adapted for Christian use. However, as far as we know these three books are the first proverb books specifically designed both as textbooks for pastoral training centers and as resource books for pastors and other church educators.
Though the grant-funded period of our Project is soon to come to a close, the ripple effects of these books may spread out in many ways in years to come. For example, faculty who use the textbooks in their local language could supplement them with proverbs and notes of their own, or they could require each graduating student to submit five or ten more proverbs with notes and explanations. These additional proverbs could be published in booklet form as a gift of the graduating class to the entire church or serially in a church paper or be adapted for use on radio.
For examination purposes, faculty could set ten proverbs and require students to write short essays on two or three of them, showing how they would use these proverbs in preaching. Conversely, faculty could set a Scripture passage and ask students to write down and explain proverbs which could be used when preaching on it. By such methods they would be training a new generation to draw on their own cultural resources instead of merely on Western theological textbooks.
Another possibility is that the English translations of these three books may serve as an inspiration and model for many other African writers working in other languages. Whether they follow the pattern precisely or adapt it to fit better in their own situations, they would be doing a great service to the Church. They are helping Christians work out a Christ-pleasing way of relating the new gospel to the old traditions.
Still another great possibility for the books is for use by black pastors in the Caribbean, North America and Europe. The books enable these pastors to tap ancient African wisdom and profit from the devotional reflections of current African writers as they prepare sermons for people interested in the soil from which they were uprooted.
The books might even enlighten a few whites in the West. As a white American who lived in Africa long enough to learn an African language (Sesotho), let me say that African wisdom has never got the respect it deserves in the West. If we ask where Africa has influenced current American culture, the common answer would be in the areas of popular music and professional sports, not in the area of thought and wisdom.
It is not that Africa has no intellectual contribution to make to the world - for from it. The problem is that the West has not yet learned to recognize deep wisdom in the form of concrete proverbs rather than abstract philosophical treatises. Will whites begin to recognize brilliant, deep wisdom in proverbs by reading these books? One hopes so, but even if they do not, it is not a criticism of the books or the writers. The books will rightly be judged by their impact on Africans and people of African heritage.
Much of God's wisdom and guidance for Africans has been given to them in the form of proverbs, and those who are interested in passing on God's word to the next generation should not despise or neglect these gifts. As the Akan proverb says, "You do not point to the ruins of your father's village with the left hand (that is, the hand the Akan associate with uncleanness and contempt).
Stan Nussbaum


Colorado, 1996

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