Are Acts 9:7 and 22:9 A Contradiction?

William Arnold III


Hi. I have a question for you. Well, I was reading about Saul's conversion (or actually it was just a course correction I guess) and I came across what seems to be a contradiction. Being Apostolic I know there isn't any in the Bible and when I asked my sunday school teacher it left her stumped. Any way Ii will get on with my question.... Acts 9:7 says "And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless hearing a voice, but seeing no man." Then Acts 22:9, when Saul is testifying about his conversion, says "And they that were with me saw indeed the light, but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me." I looked for the Hebrew word for voice in each scripture to see if there was an error in translation, but they were the same words. The only possible expaination I can fathom is that Acts 26:14, once again Paul is in a similar situation as 22:9, which says, "And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks." After reading this I was wondering if maybe the men with him could not speak Hebrew, but I thought it was basically a universal language back then. I was wondering if you could find any information on who the men were who were traveling with him? Thanks for your time. I think we should find an expaination to this so the Devil cannot use it against us.


Actually, this is a well-known difficulty which has puzzled many. What appears to be a contradiction to us would be too obvious for Luke the author, who has ably demonstrated his eye for detail and accuracy in both his gospel and this book of Acts. My point here is not that his writings are more truthful than the rest of scripture, but that he would not even leave something which appears to be an obvious contradiction. In other words, I do not think that his original audience would have thought he was contradicting himself. I believe that something is going on in the original language which alludes us and does not come through in our translation (BTW, the New Testment was written in Greek, not Hebrew). The best explanation I have found is in the Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties by Gleason L. Archer. An excerpt from his discussion is as follows:

. . . In the original Greek, however, there is no real contradiction between these two statements. Greek makes a distinction between hearing a sound as a noise (in which case the verb "to hear" takes the genitive case) and hearing a voice as a thought-conveying message (in which case it takes the accusative). Therefore, as we put the two statements together, we find that Paul's companions heard the Voice as a sound (somewhat like the crowd who heard the sound of the Father talking to the Son in John 12:28, but perceived it only as thunder); but they did not (like Paul) hear the message that it articulated. Paul alone heard it inteligibly (Acts 9:4 says Paul ekousen phonen--accusative case); though he, of course, perceived it also as a startling sound at first (Acts 22:7: "I fell to the ground and heard a voice [ekousa phones] saying to me," NASB). But in neither account is it stated that his companions ever heard that Voice in the accusative case.
-- Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, by Gleason L. Archer, p. 382.

Archer goes on to cite sources indicating that this distinction does indeed exist in the Greek language.

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