The Use of Yala Proverbs (Paremia) in Communicating the Gospel: A Model for Communicating the Gospel in Africa

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Systematic Theology

First Advisor

John Nordling


The purpose of this research was to gather, classify and demonstrate how the existing plethora of Yala proverbs in currency can be used to communicate the gospel to the Yala speaking people in forms native to them.

The Biblical and Confessional literature portions of this research investigated how, on the one hand, Jewish native proverbs in currency at the time were used to elucidate the Word of God in the Old Testament, and on the other hand, how both Jewish and Gentile proverbs were employed to enhance the communication of God's Word in the New Testament. In the case of both Jesus and Paul, their pragmatic and contextual usage of proverbs in theological pedagogies and homiletic discourses was investigated. Further, I investigated the contextual use of German proverbs by Dr. Martin Luther in his writings included in the Book of Concord.

The second part of the literature investigation was conducted on work of some of the secular writers in the field of proverb scholarship and application, including both Western and African scholars.

This research was conducted through the use of direct gathering of proverbs by interviews and the use of questionnaires. In order to determine if Yala proverbs can be used to communicate the gospel, and, if so, how best they can be employed, the following research questions were used in the field research: 1) Can Yala Proverbs be used in communicating the gospel? 2) If yes, how best can Yala proverbs be used in teaching and preaching of the gospel of Christ? 3) Explain the socio-cultural and rhetorical functions of the use of proverbs that may facilitate and enhance the communication of the gospel; 4) What are some general rules governing the cultural usages of proverbs in the Yala nation? 5) Write or say any twelve proverbs from Yala that you can recall, and 6) Arrange under fitting Bible themes/topics appropriate Yala proverbs with relevant Bible passages that can help explain them.

The data collected and classified demonstrated that Yala proverbs can be used in communicating the gospel in so far as appropriate governing principles are followed. These guiding rules for the application of Yala proverbs for the effective communication of God's Word were delineated from the research data, which reflected, in sum, sensitivity to the credibility of the speaker, suitability and relevance to the audience, and cultural and contextual appropriateness.

The research was conducted in various phases: First was the general gathering of Yala proverbs from 12 communities. Second, questionnaires were distributed to literate Yala-speakers (Of the 36 or more questionnaires that were given to literate respondents, only twenty of them were filled and returned, owing to the short period of time in which this research was conducted.). Thirdly, data on the use of native proverbs in communicating the gospel was also gathered in a seminar training format of a lay training program in which Yala lay preachers participated.

This study has affirmed the fact that Yala proverbs can effectively be used to communicate the gospel in both pedagogical and homiletic discourses in formal, semiformal and informal settings.


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