Every episode of Joshua Gibbs’ podcast, “Proverbial,” begins with: “Modern men hate proverbs, but I’m not a modern man.” So begins the introduction to Joshua Gibb’s podcast, “Proverbial.” Each episode, he looks at one proverb, “one bit of ancient wisdom which describes how the world tends to work.” From Solomon to Socrates, Boethius to Burke, Tennyson to Tolstoy, he cites proverbs from some of the wisest scholars and authors of the last three millennia.
Despite the emphasis on authors, poets and playwrights, “Proverbial” is not another dry, academic podcast. It is a podcast for the common man and woman. Gibbs himself says, “Proverbs address what is common, what’s average, what’s predictable, natural.” They aren’t concerned with edge cases and coincidences, but with our typical, daily lives. “Proverbial” is about applying the “wisdom of the ages” to our modern selves.
Joshua Gibbs, the host of “Proverbial,” is a classical school teacher in Virginia. He’s the author of a few books, including “How to Be Unlucky” and “Something They Will Not Forget: A Handbook for Classical Teachers,” and a frequent writer for the Circe Institute. “Proverbial” is a collection of his reflections, stories, and lectures, condensed into 20-minute episodes revolving around a single proverb.
With episodes on virtue, money, family, time, and everything in-between, “Proverbial” is filled with lessons and stories for those immersed in the Christian tradition. In discussing the proverbs, Gibbs is certainly not afraid to say what he believes. At times comforting and funny, and at others convincing, his advice is both good and necessary–exactly what you needed to hear. He calls his podcast “part hermeneutics lesson, part personal narrative, part sermon,” and Proverbial is just that. The proverbs are engaged through scripture, esteemed authors, and sometimes even hilarious stories from his teaching experience.
In the first episode, Gibbs discusses a proverb from the Roman poet Horace: “you may drive out nature with a pitchfork, but she keeps coming back.” First, though, he says that Proverbial is “for people who are content to be common, who are content to be average, and at the same time are striving for moral excellence and piety.” “Proverbial” is for common people, but that doesn’t mean boring people. It is for those who see, as Horace says, that nature “keeps coming back”–that our natural tendencies as humans make us the subject of proverbs. Gibbs tells us that proverbs are not universally true, but they are usually true, and the common man thinks of himself not as an exception to proverbs, but as the intended audience.
To the sort of person interested in learning from the wisdom of the ancients through the lens of a modern speaker, “Proverbial” is an essential addition to the weekly podcast list. It is a podcast not for academics and podcast enthusiasts, but for Christians who wish to pursue virtue and shun vice–for those who see the beauty in listening to the wisdom of their elders.
The cover art for the wisdom-filled podcast, “Proverbial” with Joshua Gibbs.