Question:

Can you explain the seeming contradiction in these verses from Acts?

Acts 9:7 And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man

Acts 22:9 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.

Thanks.


Answer:

What often happens is that we read in more than the text actually states and in doing so create an apparent contradiction. Two things happened: there was a bright light and a voice which spoke to Saul. The men all saw the light, but only Saul was left blinded. The men heard a voice but they did not understand what was being said. "Heard" (akouo in the Greek) is being used in Acts 9:7 in the sense of hearing a sound. It is used in other passages in a similar way, such as in Matthew 24:31 and I Thessalonians 4:16. But in Acts 22:9 it is being used in the sense of understanding the meaning of the voice.

We do the same thing. My wife calls from the kitchen and I reply, "I can't hear you!" Well, technically I did "hear" her, otherwise I would not know to answer. But what I am saying is that her words are not distinct enough for me to understand. The same thing is happening here.

This isn't the only time such a thing happened. Jesus once said, ""Father, glorify Your name." Then a voice came from heaven, saying, "I have both glorified it and will glorify it again." Therefore the people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, "An angel has spoken to Him"" (John 12:28-29). Same event, same voice, same crowd; but some people only thought it thundered and others thought an angel answered Jesus. In other words, some only heard noise, but some heard words.

The fact that men with Saul saw the light and heard the voice (though without understanding) is important. It relays to us that Saul wasn't just making up a story about a visitation from Jesus. Even though the conversation between Jesus and Saul was private, others could testify that something miraculous took place. It is also important to know that these men could not have reported what Saul heard to anyone else. This then makes Ananias' visit more significant because Ananias repeated the message of Jesus without being present. It is evidence that Ananias was a true prophet.