Psalm 145 (Acrostic is missing the NUN)
An acrostic is an artistic way of writing by which each line or successive section of text starts with the next letter of the alphabet. A basic acrostic would look like this example.
- A – Another
- T – Translation
- E – Error
The difference between Hebrew and modern acrostics are that the Hebrew once often included every letter of the alphabet, rather than spelling out a word.
The acrostic in 145 is complete with the entire alphabet minus one letter; the Nun. In other words, every letter in the alphabet was present, except one letter. The Hebrew acrostic sample form Psalm 145 is here to the left. Notice that each letter is represented as a single letter which makes it easy to follow.
However, in the case of the KJV and it’s underlying Hebrew text, the line begining with Nun (Hebrew “n”) is missing.
That can be seen in the actual manuscript to the right. Notice the letters circled in red and yellow. The red one is a Mem (“m”) and the yellow is a Samek (“s”). Between the two letters should be a line starting with Nun (“n”).
At first glance one might assume that perhaps the N is just placed out of order. But it does not appear anywhere else in the text as an acrostic form, only as part of a word.
How does one forget a Nun while doing an acrostic?
We must remember that many copyists did not actually know how to read and write. Not all manuscripts were copied by scribes. Scribes could read a write but a copyist sometimes only knew how to copy texts. It’s almost better that way because they are not inclined to ever make purposeful alterations to the texts. However, it also means that they won’t be able to catch a mistake either.
Thus, at one point in history the main copy source became this manuscript. Many scholars believe this happened around the 3rd century CE. Such an early mistake would almost ensure that once the error was copied a few times it would remain for centuries as the Hebrew language became less and less known. However, older Hebrew manuscripts as well as the Greek Septuagint and Latin Vulgate contain the missing verse. The Septuagint was done about 132 BCE. The Latin Vulgate was done about 382 CE. Both sources used older manuscripts that still contained that missing verse.
Other places where the missing verse was included were in the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Syriac Peshitta. One manuscript from the Dead Sea Scrolls clearly shows the verse with the Nun is retained, as in the image tot he left. The purple circle shows the Nun starting the passage.
Also note that some manuscripts are not aligned like the one above to emphasize the acrostic nature of Psalm 145. Like this manuscript from the Scrolls collection the letters are remarkably difficult to identify. This would be much more normal for older manuscripts. As time went on certain communities made alterations to the texts for readability as well as adding vowel markers which were done much later by the Masoretes. This text has no vowel markers and it even retains the older proto-Semitic alphabet letters from the Phonetician alphabet for the name YHWH.
It is clear that somewhere along the line the texts used for the KJV ended up omitting the verse with the Nun. Had the KJV had the older and uncompromised manuscripts they would have matched the other English translations that came later. To be fair, it’s not the fault of the KJV translators. It was the only manuscript available to the translators at the time. The Dead Sea Scrolls were not found yet and the Septuagint was not used very much anymore. One would think that they could have used the Latin Vulgate as a cross reference, since it had the missing verse but for some reason that did not occur to the translators.
In conclusion, the underlying manuscripts for the KJV are insufficient for Psalm 145. Thus, the claim that the manuscripts for the KJV were perfect and the others that were later discovered are corrupted is false. This will become more apparent as this series continues.