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Psalm 145 is an acrostic of the Hebrew alphabet, except that in most of the MT manuscripts verse 13b is missing along with therefore the letter nûn. The ESV renders it like this:

  Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, 
      and your dominion endures throughout all generations. 

  [The LORD is faithful in all his words 
      and kind in all his works.]
  The LORD upholds all who are falling 
      and raises up all who are bowed down. 

I understand the textual evidence somewhat for 13b in the Syriac, LXX and Qumran, but I find it a bit incredulous that a scribe would accidentally make such an obvious deletion and that it would continue to be copied that way thereafter.

Is 13b (i.e. the line beginning with nûn) a deletion from the MT or an insertion in other families? And if it is an insertion, what is the significance of leaving out the one letter?

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I checked the Vulgate because Jerome preferred to work from the Hebrew. He is no help here because the Psalm stops with verse 10 in the Vulgate. –  Frank Luke Dec 24 '13 at 15:48
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2 Answers

This verse is quoted in the Apostolic Constitutions,1 but is referenced as Ps. 145:17 in the scripture index. Although the writer is specifically speaking of the faithfulness of the words of Jesus and not the faithfulness of all his works as in v. 17. By quoting this verse, the unknown author of the Constitutions shows that the verse was known in at least the manuscript family they were using.

Apostolic Constitutions, Book V, Section 1, paragraph VII (emphasis added):2

'All we of the faithful, therefore, who are the disciples of Christ, believe His promises. For He that has promised it cannot lie; as says the blessed prophet David: “The Lord is faithful in all His words, and holy in all His works.


1A fourth-century pseudo-Apostolic collection, in eight books, of independent, though closely related, treatises on Christian discipline, worship, and doctrine, intended to serve as a manual of guidance for the clergy, and to some extent for the laity. [The Catholic Encyclopedia, sv Apostolic Constitutions]

2Perhaps it was an early Messianic Psalm/verse known by the Jewish disciples of Jesus. The 14th letter of the Hebrew alphabet is considered to represent the humility of Moses, David, and the Messiah. Joshua was the son of Nun (נ noon, the 14th letter of the Hebrew alphabet).

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It is true that all Jewish prayerbooks and scriptural resources exclude a "nun" line in Psalm 145. It is also true that the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Bible read by Greek-speaking Jews and Christians, the Peshitta – the translation used by the Syrian church, and one of the Dead Sea Scrolls’ Psalms texts, presumably used by members of the Jewish sect of Essenes, all incljude a line that reads, "Trustworthy (neeman) is the Lord in all his words, and righteous is he in all his ways." But it is not clear whether those versions retain a line that had been dropped, or whether the verse is an interpolation. It is speculated that, at one point, some scribe was bothered by the "imperfection" of this psalm and composed this line in order to fill in the glaring gap in the text.

The Mishna-era sage, Rabbi Yochanan (died about 279 CE), is quoted in the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate B'rachot 4b, stated that King David's original version had a verse beginning with a nun, stands for the word "nefilah," which means "falling." This word root has a negative connotation, since it is used regarding the fall of the Jewish people, as it is written, "She [the Jewish people] has fallen (nuf'lah), no longer will the maiden of Israel stand again" (Amos 5:2). Therefore King David did not include this letter when writing Psalm 145.

Nevertheless, King David did include a positive-connotation "nun" in the following verse, which reads: "The Almighty supports all the fallen ones (ha-noflim)..."

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Support for the interpolation approach is based on the fact that the Nun line is nearly identical to verse 17 (צ). See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psalm_145#The_.22Missing_Verse.22 for details. –  Tiberia May 24 '13 at 19:43
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