Is the נ nûn missing from Psalm 145?
An argument that is often put forward against the Masoretic text is that the Masoretic text has removed a line from the text in Psalm 145.
Psalm 145 or Ashre as it is known, is the most commonly recited Psalm. It is said that anyone who recites the Psalm 3 times a day is assured a place in the world to come.
Tangential to Rabbi Yoḥanan’s statement that one who juxtaposes redemption and prayer is assured of a place in the World-to-Come, a similar statement is cited. Rabbi Elazar said that Rabbi Avina said: Anyone who recites: “A Psalm of David” (Psalms 145) three times every day is assured of a place in the World-to-Come.
Talmud (Berakhot 4b)
Psalm 145 is an acrostic text, this means that each line begins with the next letter of the (Hebrew) alphabet.
I will extol thee, my God, O king; and I will bless thy name for ever and ever.
2Every day will I bless thee; and I will praise thy name for ever and ever.
3Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable.
4One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts.
5I will speak of the glorious honour of thy majesty, and of thy wondrous works.
6And men shall speak of the might of thy terrible acts: and I will declare thy greatness.
7They shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness, and shall sing of thy righteousness.
8The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy.
9The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.
10All thy works shall praise thee, O LORD; and thy saints shall bless thee.
11They shall speak of the glory of thy kingdom, and talk of thy power;
12To make known to the sons of men his mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of his kingdom.
13Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion endureth throughout all generations.
14The LORD upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up all those that be bowed down.
15The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season.
16Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing.
17The LORD is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.
18The LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth.
19He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them.
20The LORD preserveth all them that love him: but all the wicked will he destroy.
21My mouth shall speak the praise of the LORD: and let all flesh bless his holy name for ever and ever.
However, there are only 21 letters in the Psalm although there are in fact 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. It is rather obvious to anyone that is familiar with the Hebrew Alphabet that the Psalm is missing the Hebrew letter נ nûn
While it is blatantly obvious that the letter is missing it has to be assumed that it was included in the first place for it to be asserted that it has been removed.
This is actually a rather strong assertion seeing that EVERY single masoretic manuscript reads the same. The נ nûn is not included in any manuscript.
ALL Hebrew Bibles exclude the נ nûn
However, when the dead sea scrolls were discovered, included in the scrolls was scroll 11Q5/11QPs-a, the Psalm scroll.
What was found in the scroll, to many people’s surprise, included in Psalm 145, was a line for נ nûn. It reads
The highly debated and postulated, removed nûn, had been found.
As the scroll is over 1000 years older than the oldest masoretic text it is assumed that it is the masoretic texts that are incorrect and that the נ nûn was included in the original manuscript but that it was later removed for an unknown purpose and has remained removed ever since. The scroll proves this “fact”. In the eyes of many biblical scholars this one scroll of the dead sea scrolls that includes the text has superseded all the Masoretic Hebrew texts in authority and in witness.
Some modern versions of the Bible such as the NIV now include the נ nûn, not as a separate verse but actually it is added to the end of verse 13 becoming basically 13b
Psalm 145-13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The LORD is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does. NIV
So should the nûn be included in the Psalm or not?
Well the answer is actually not. Why? Because contrary to the now asserted belief that the Psalm scroll proves the letter was included and removed the evidence, when looked at in more detail, actually shows that the letter was not removed by the Masoretic text at all, rather it has been added to the dead sea scroll.
But how can we know that it has been added and not removed? How can we make such an assertion? Well there are actually a couple of very important pieces of information that most people are not aware of and or simply do not notice.
Psalm 145 is not unique in leaving out letters. There are in fact other acrostic Psalms that omit letters.
In Psalm 37 there is no letter ‘AIN’. There are 3 letters missing from Psalm 25.
Inconsistency in application.
Verse 12 which is included in the KJV and modern versions of the Bible, including the NIV, is totally missing in the dead sea scroll.
Psalm 145-12 so that all people may know of your mighty acts and the glorious splendor of your kingdom. NIV
Yes a whole verse from this Psalm is not found in the dead sea scrolls.
How can it be argued that the nûn has been removed from the Masoretic text based on the Psalm scroll and the Psalm scroll alone and then not also be argued that verse 12 has not been added based on the evidence of the SAME manuscript. This is totally inconsistent and shows that biblical “scholars” are their own authority on what is and is not part of the scriptures.
It also can’t be ignored that the Psalm scroll also includes the words “BLESSED BE THE LORD AND BLESSED BE HIS NAME FOREVER AND EVER”, a total of 21 times. It then must be asked if the scroll has authority and is correct why verse 12 has not been removed and these words not included….baffling.
But that is not all the evidence that we have. The wording included for the letter נ nûn in the dead sea scrolls is almost EXACTLY the same wording as found in verse 17, excluding the first 2 words.
צדיק יהוה בכל־דרכיו וחסיד בכל־מעשיו׃
Psalm 145- 17
This is an anomaly that is not present in the rest of the Psalm. There simply is no repetition in the psalm of this type. It is very clear that the Hebrew of verse 17 has simply been copied by a creative scribe who likely noticed that the נ nûn was missing, thought that it should have been included and has then pasted the words into the place he thought the nûn should be and created the verse.
The verse is also included in the Septuagint but it does not read as the NIV has translated it
Psalm 145- 13 Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion endures through all generations. The Lord is faithful in his words, and holy in all his works. Brenton’s septuagint
Which is the almost EXACTLY the same wording as verse 17
Psalm 145-17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.
Which is also how the KJV renders the verse.
Psalm 145-17 The LORD is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works
The wording is the same in the Hebrew and the English.
The simple fact is verse 13b is just a replica of verse 17 and it is painfully obvious to anyone that is objective and honest enough to view the verse based on this evidence, It stands out like a sore thumb.
The Talmud gives us an explanation as to why the verse was not included in the Psalm. The נ nûn represents the word Naphal, to fall and so David did not include it which brings attention to the fall of Israel.
Rabbi Johanan Ha-Nappah
Additionally, with regard to this psalm, Rabbi Yoḥanan said: Why is there noverse beginning with the letter nun in ashrei? Because it contains an allusion to the downfall of the enemies of Israel, a euphemism for Israel itself. As it is written: “The virgin of Israel has fallen and she will rise no more;abandoned in her land, none will raise her up” (Amos 5:2), which begins with the letter nun. Due to this verse, ashrei does not include a verse beginning with the letter nun.
In order to ease the harsh meaning of this verse, in the West, in Eretz Yisrael, they interpreted it with a slight adjustment: “She has fallen but she shall fall no more; rise, virgin of Israel.” Rav Naḥman bar Yitzḥak adds: Even so, David went and provided support, through divine inspiration. Although King David did not include a verse beginning with the letter nun alluding to Israel’s downfall, he foresaw the verse that would be written by Amos through divine inspiration; and the very next verse, which begins with the letter samekh, reads: “The Lord upholds the fallen and raises up those who are bowed down” (Psalms 145:14). Therefore, through divine inspiration, David offered hope and encouragement; although the virgin of Israel may have fallen, the Lord upholds the fallen.
Talmud (Berakhot 4b)
The nûn was added not removed. There is no נ nûn in the correct reading of Psalm 145.