Question: Does Acts 9:7 and Acts 22:9 contradict or complement each other?
The occasion, about which the questioner asks, is the conversion of the Apostle Paul. He was journeying to Damascus. Suddenly a tremendously brilliant light filled the sky. Paul fell to the earth. There were other men with Paul when this happened. “And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, HEARING A VOICE, but seeing no man” (Acts 9:7). The apparent contradiction arises when we compare another scripture with it; this other scripture records the same event. “And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but THEY HEARD NOT THE VOICE of him that spake to me” (Acts 22:9).
In one scripture, we plainly read that these men heard a voice. But then another scripture-in the same book seems to say the opposite.
First, realize that it is possible to hear a voice-and not understand the words spoken! That is a common occurrence. Sometimes a person speaks to us. We hear his voice-but we are NOT SURE of just what he said. The Bible records a similar example to the one in Acts 9.
“Then came there A VOICE from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again”-notice, this was a voice… speaking INTELLIGIBLE SPEECH-“The people therefore, that stood by and heard it”-note, they heard this voice…but these same people-“SAID THAT IT THUNDERED: others said, an angel spake to him” (John 12:28, 29). All heard the voice but weren’t sure what was said or who said it.
This is what happened in Acts 9. The people heard the voice-but they did not understand it!
Both the verses are complementary to each other-rather than contradictory. In Acts 9: 7, we find that the people heard only the sound of a voice speaking to the Apostle Paul. Later Luke further clarifies the event. He shows that even though they heard the sound of the voice-they were not able TO UNDERSTAND what this voice was saying to Paul. Acts 22:9 should more properly be translated from the original Greek: “Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand the voice of the one who was speaking to me.” (ESV; ERV; ISV; NET; TLV; WEB; WEBA; WAS)
The original Greek word akouo (Strong’s #191) has both meanings: “hear” and “understand.” In fact in 1 Corinthians 14:2 it is translated “understand”-“For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God; for no man understandeth him”-his listeners hear (akouo) him, but “understand” (akouo) him not!
So to conclude, in Acts 9:7, the people heard only the sound of a voice. Luke (the author of Acts the one who wrote Acts 9:7), further clarifies later that they were not able to understand what this voice was saying to the Apostle Paul.
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