Acts 9:7 and Acts 22:9, Contradicion
Skeptics have been searching the Bible for almost two thousand years looking for a contradiction that would prove it’s falsehood, and some claim they have found just that between two of the accounts of Paul’s conversion given in the book of Acts. Unbelievers feel confident that a contradiction found in God’s Word would prove that the Book is not divinely inspired, but in every case they have failed to do so, including this one. The two verses in question are Acts 9:7 and Acts 22:9. They are both passages speaking of the same event, Paul’s conversion, but each account is given by a different person. In Acts chapter nine we see Luke giving a description of the conversion, where in the twenty-second chapter we have Paul describing the event in his own words. The casual reader of the two texts can quickly see there is a difference in the two accounts given, but one must fully consider all the options before stamping the incident as a proven unquestionable contradiction.
The incident in question from both of the passages is regarding whether or not the men that were with Paul heard or did not hear the voice of the person who was speaking to Paul in the vision on the road to Damascus. Luke stated, “And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one” (Acts 9:7). In Paul’s account of the incident, he said “And those who were with me indeed saw the light and were afraid, but they did not hear the voice of Him who spoke to me” (Acts 22:9). At first glance this may appear to be a contradiction, but an explanation can be reached rather easily. Before we do so, however, it would be beneficial if we have a proper understanding of what an actual contradiction is. To contradict means to be in opposition of something or the opposite of something. A statement may be labeled as a contradiction, but one must be able to prove that it is by showing that there is no other possible explanation or solution for why the statement may appear to be so. So, in our case above, can it be proven that the two statements are contradictory, or can a reasonable explanation or solution for the difference be shown as a possibility? If a possible solution can be shown, then the statement cannot be declared as a definitive contradiction.
The issue with these texts comes down to the different possible uses of the verb “hear”. We must remember we are hearing the same story being told by two different men from two different perspectives. Can someone “hear” the sound of a person’s voice without actually “hearing” the words that are being spoken. Have you ever heard someone say, “I can hear your voice, but I can’t hear what you are saying?” Have you ever heard the voice of someone talking to you, but were not actually able to hear the words they were saying? Have you ever heard a person’s voice speaking to you, but tell them “I don’t hear you” when you could not understand the actual individual words they were saying? It’s possible to hear without hearing!
It would seem that is what occurred with the men in the two accounts we are studying. In Acts 9:7 it is clear that Luke said the men were “hearing a voice”. In Acts 22:9, Paul said they “did not hear the voice”. We have to ask if it is possible that the men heard the sound of the man speaking but could not hear the actual articulated words that were spoken whereby understanding them. Since this is one possible and viable solution, the two verses cannot be proven to be a contradiction. -Ed