No death: Immortality in Prov. 12:28

Most translations have “no death”,

    In the path of righteousness is life,
    and in its pathway there is no death. ESV

for Proverbs 12:28. However, the (T)NIV translates the last word as “immortality”,

    In the way of righteousness there is life;
    along that path is immortality.

Dr. Waltke argued in class today that the construction אַל-מָוֶת is best translated as one word “immortality” rather than “no death”. He spoke at greater length of the presence of the concept of immortality in the Hebrew scriptures.

Update: I am adding the full verse in Hebrew so the parallelism can be viewed more easily.

בְּאֹרַח-צְדָקָה חַיִּים
וְדֶרֶךְ נְתִיבָה אַל-מָוֶת

(Unfortunately I am getting a gap in the first word and can’t resolve it.)

This verse has a very diverse translation history.

In the way of righteousness is life;
and in the pathway thereof there is no death. KJV JPS

In the path of righteousness is life,
but the way of error leads to death. RSV

In the path of righteousness there is life,
in walking its path there is no death. NRSV

2 thoughts on “No death: Immortality in Prov. 12:28

  1. Peter Kirk says:

    The translation problem is that the first two words of the second line are more or less synonyms, so literally we have “in the path of the path”. RSV (as noted in a footnote) is based on a conjectural emendation of the text, probably from the LXX reading μνησικάκων; also on reading, with many manuscripts and versions, ‘el “to” rather than ‘al “not” before “death”. Surprisingly NRSV does not follow RSV with this emendation, which from a brief look seems much more plausible than many NRSV flights of textual fancy.

    The Hebrew display problem is an ongoing bug in the Hebrew of the Microsoft default fonts, which display “defective” holam as a spacing character; note also the incorrectly positioned sheva with final kaf. The only way round these issues is to specify another font, but this would be dependent on what fonts readers have installed; or else to use an image. By the way, it doesn’t work to increase the font size without increasing the line spacing, you end up with collisions between lines, just barely avoided here.

  2. ElShaddai Edwards says:

    A couple of other takes along the lines of the RSV:

    HCSB: “There is life in the path of righteousness, but another path leads to death.”

    REB: “The way of righteousness leads to life, but there is a well-worn path to death.”

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