Contradiction In Acts

I tried to post this question in the “ask an apologist” forum, but my post never showed up, so I’ll try it here…

How is the contradiction between Acts 9 & 22 (the Damascus road experience) to be worked out?

In Acts 9, it says that those travelling with Paul “…heard the voice but could see no one…” but in Acts 22 it says those travelling with Paul “…did not hear the voice…”

So which is it? Did those travelling with Paul hear Christ or not hear Christ? Such an obvious contradiction in the 2 recounts is troubling to me.

Thanks,

Steve

It’s not a contradiction, to hear and to see can be the same thing. Basically the verses serve to show the disciples ignorance and awareness of the real Christ being absorbed in thier own pondering.
I am no Theologian but I hope this helps.
Dont let things like this bother you, If there had of been a problem the Church would have dealt with it when it compiled the Holy Scriptures some 1800 years ago and has had 2000 years to answer any seemingly contradictions.
God bless and it is good to see an inquiring mind
Br CreosMary :slight_smile:

In the 1859 Haydock Commentary on Acts 9:7, it says, in part:
Hearing, &c. This may be reconciled with what is said in the 22d chap. by supposing they heard only S. Paul speak, or heard only a confused noise, which they could not understand. (Calmet)

[quote=ascent_to_truth]I tried to post this question in the “ask an apologist” forum, but my post never showed up, so I’ll try it here…

How is the contradiction between Acts 9 & 22 (the Damascus road experience) to be worked out?

In Acts 9, it says that those travelling with Paul “…heard the voice but could see no one…” but in Acts 22 it says those travelling with Paul “…did not hear the voice…”

So which is it? Did those travelling with Paul hear Christ or not hear Christ? Such an obvious contradiction in the 2 recounts is troubling to me.

Thanks,

Steve
[/quote]

Steve,

Acts 22 quotes Paul retelling the story of the event while Acts 9 recounts the event itself. There are many different ways to reconcile the supposed contradiction, but probably the simplest is to say that Luke in Acts 22 was infallibly and correctly reporting an error on Paul’s part, that Paul said incorrectly that those with him did not hear the voice.

Another possibility is that the word “hear” is used in the sense of “impinging on the ears” in Acts 9 (they heard a sound) and in the sense of understanding in Acts 22 (they did not hear any recognizable words). The same Greek word is used in both places, so I wouldn’t swear to this.

  • Liberian

You have to keep in mind this was a supernatural event. It cant really be explianed in human terms. Also as Lib said if you look carefully one account is the actual account and the other is a recap in Pauls own words.

Here is what I see:
5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting; 6 but rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. CH9

8 And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting.’ 9 Now those who were with me saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me.CH22
Notice that v6 is not mentioned in CH22. We dont fully know what happened, but I assure you its the same account with no contradictions.

Also in Acts9 if you keep reading it says:
10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Anani’as. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Anani’as.” And he said, "Here I am, Lord."
Now if you take this at face value without trying to understand what it is saying it wont make sense. A vision is something you see not hear so why does it say “said” instead of “showed”. There isnt a contradiction its just the way those things are explained.

[quote=ascent_to_truth]I tried to post this question in the “ask an apologist” forum, but my post never showed up, so I’ll try it here…

How is the contradiction between Acts 9 & 22 (the Damascus road experience) to be worked out?

In Acts 9, it says that those travelling with Paul “…heard the voice but could see no one…” but in Acts 22 it says those travelling with Paul “…did not hear the voice…”

So which is it? Did those travelling with Paul hear Christ or not hear Christ? Such an obvious contradiction in the 2 recounts is troubling to me.

Thanks,

Steve
[/quote]

Steve,

Go to www.newadvent.org and in the search box enter “The Acts of the Apostles.” Scroll down to the sub-heading “Objections against the Authenticity.” The third paragraph under this sub-lheading begins, “It is urged that the three accounts of the conversion of St. Paul…” etc. I think you will find what you are looking for in this paragraph.

Here’s a definitive response from Fr. Echert in “Experts” EWTN.

Paul’s conversion in Acts
Question from daniel on 05-18-2004: How is it that the same writer (Luke) in the same book (Acts) writing about the same event (Paul’s Damascus experience) tells it differently each of the three times it is told? Was Luke accurately telling what Paul was relating, or was the reporting inaccurate?

Answer by Fr. John Echert on 05-20-2004: The Book of Acts recounts St. Paul’s mystical experience of Christ on the road to Damascus three times: once as described by the narrator and twice according to St. Paul’s own description (Chapters 9, 22, 26). We read in the first account:

9:1 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 9:2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 9:3 Now as he journeyed he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed about him. 9:4 And he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” 9:5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting; 9:6 but rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 9:7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one.

In a subsequent account, we are told that those who were with Saul did not hear the voice:

22:7 And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, —Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ 22:8 And I answered, —Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, —I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting.’ 22:9 Now those who were with me saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me.

The question naturally arises as to whether those who were with Paul heard the voice from heaven or not. Since both accounts are written by Luke, who was systematic and skilled in writing, this seeming contradiction is all the more striking. First of all, let us admit that the distinction as to who is relating the episode–the narrator or as spoken by St. Paul–can account for minor differences due to perspective, while of course we recognize that Luke as author of Acts has recorded and written all three. But obviously it was not a true contradiction from Luke’s perspective, since he wrote it as he did. It would seem that the solution may lie in what is meant by “hearing." In the Greek, the word for hearing can mean to physically hear and it can also mean, by extension, to perceive or understand what is heard. As such, both accounts can be accurate but from two perspectives: those with Paul heard some sound from the heavens but it was only intelligible to Paul, for whom the message was intended. A similar situation can be found in Jn 12:27-30, in which the voice of God is perceived as thunder by some and the voice of an angel by others, but is clearly intelligible to Jesus and perhaps to the apostles as well – at least to St. John the Evangelist.

Some further examples of this two-fold way of hearing or understanding this Greek word (akouo) are the following:

St. Paul writes the following in his first letter to the Corinthians: “14:2 For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands (akouo) him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit.

As recorded by St. Matthew our Lord used this Greek verb interchangeably: “13:13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing (akouo) they do not hear (akouo), nor do they understand (suniami).

This reminds me of a modern idiom I heard years ago out in Washington D.C. One radio station used to run an ad in which the speaker said, “I hear what you are saying but I do not hear what you are saying.” The translation: I hear words from your mouth by they make no sense to me. A simple analogy but accurate, I think.

Beyond the issue of the Greek meaning of the word for “hearing” there is the additional consideration of the Greek word for “voice,” (phona) which appears grammatically different in Acts 9 and Acts 22. Sometimes “voice” is rendered as “sound” or “noise” which in not intelligible and other times it is a voice which is understood. So we see that the Greek text of the Word of God is ambivalent enough to account for any apparent discrepancies as we may perceive them within the limits of an English translation. © Thanks, Daniel Father Echert

[quote=ascent_to_truth]I tried to post this question in the “ask an apologist” forum, but my post never showed up, so I’ll try it here…

How is the contradiction between Acts 9 & 22 (the Damascus road experience) to be worked out?

In Acts 9, it says that those travelling with Paul “…heard the voice but could see no one…” but in Acts 22 it says those travelling with Paul “…did not hear the voice…”

So which is it? Did those travelling with Paul hear Christ or not hear Christ? Such an obvious contradiction in the 2 recounts is troubling to me.

Thanks,

Steve
[/quote]

A good answer I found in a Protestant book :slight_smile: pointed out that the word for “voice” in the the Greek in the two passages is phone* -* and that that word can also mean “sound”. Behind the Greek of this passage there is probably also the notion of the bat kol in Hebrew - which is also present in the accounts of the Baptism and the Transfiguration. So this incident, the Baptism, the Transfiguration, the “mystery of the kingdom”, the identity of Jesus, and the mystery of Divine election, are all linked.

AFAIK this solution - of the two-fold meaning of phon***e*** - has the virtue of being the simplest, and of raising no problems.

IMO, we are also meant to see a link to the Baptism of Jesus - something similar happened there. And there is also probably a link with Isaiah 6:

**Isa 6:10 **Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.

IOW, perhaps there is a bit of theology here: some hear a sound but not a voice - still less the Voice of Christ or His Father. In fact, ISTM there is a ton of theology here :slight_smile:
Especially if Isaiah 6 was considered by St. Paul to be an OT appearance of Christ.

Why do some hear a sound, and not a Voice ? Perhaps we are meant to be thinking of Mark 4.11-12, and the preaching of “the mystery of the Kingdom”: those to whom the secret of the Kingdom is revealed, and those whom it is not, hear a sound - but that sound is a Voice only for those to whom the Kingdom is revealed. This contrast in perception by different groups of people, is for ever cropping up in the NT.

There is also probably a backward glance at Genesis 11 and Pentecost and Joel 2; and a forward glance at the ministry of St. Paul himself ##

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