Another King James Bible Believer

Acts 9 and 22 - Did they hear the voice or not?

Acts 9:7 with Acts 22:9

Heard the voice or didn't hear the voice?

 

The Bible Agnostics post: 



Amazingly, some Christians bring up these two Scriptures and think there is an error. At a Bible club I belong to, one member says:

For those of you who think there are no errors or contradictions in the KJV please explain this one. This is a small matter but makes the point.

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

KJV 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.

This most certainly appears to me to be a contradiction, did they "hear a voice" or did they "hear not a voice".

Then another Christian answers with this: "Your example is well known as a contradiction in the Scriptures, not only in the KJV, but in other translations as well. The question is whether or not Luke wrote down two different accounts of this same story. Luke is giving testimony to Saul's conversion in both accounts, one time as initial telling of this conversion from what Luke knows of it, and the next as an account or transcript of Paul's testimony before the Jews. Only two conclusions can be drawn. Either Luke made an error and the original Scriptures are incorrect, or there has been a mistake by some scribe in the copying of Luke's book of Acts. I tend to say the latter."

In a similar manner, James White, in his book The KJV Only Controversy, brings up this same example on page 229. Mr White overstates his case by saying: "The alleged contradiction exists ONLY IN THE KJV, not in modern translations such as the NASB or NIV....Such ambiguity is, unfortunately, a common problem in the KJV."

Remember, James White recommends the NKJV in his book as being one of three "reliable versions".

Comments like these make me wonder if people are capable of thinking anymore. Instead of thinking about what it says and trying to work through it to solve the apparent contradiction, they would rather assume Luke made an error, or "some scribe" goofed in copying the book of Acts. Or else the 47 learned men God used to give to the world the greatest Bible ever printed somehow "dropped the ball", "goofed rather badly" or had some kind of a collective "senior moment" and totally mistranslated the passage. How utterly silly.

By the way, James White shows by this ridiculous statement that "This alleged contradiction EXISTS ONLY IN THE KJV, NOT IN MODERN VERSIONS" that his "scholarship" is often about as deep as a parking lot puddle, as we shall soon see.

The fact is, ALL Greek texts read the same in both accounts. Some modern versions paraphrase what is actually written, in an effort to reconcile the apparent contradiction. Remember, in both cases the verb is the same - akouo - to hear. We get the word acoustics from this Greek word. And the word for voice is phonee which means either voice or sound and from which we get the English word Phonetics.

Dan Wallace in his NET version translated Acts 22:9 as: “Those who were with me saw the light, but did not UNDERSTAND35 the voice of the one who was speaking to me.”

But then he footnotes (35) Greek “did not hear”

 

Versions like the NASB, NIV, NET and ESV tell us in Acts 9:7 that the men traveling with Paul stood speechless HEARING A VOICE, but seeing no man. But then in Acts 22:9 these three modern versions then tell us that the men did not UNDERSTAND the voice of the one who was speaking to Paul. The verb in both verses is akouo which means to hear.

It does not literally mean "to understand". This would be the verb sunieemi which is found in Acts 7:25 and 28:26 - "but they understood not", "ye shall hear, and shall not understand" or as in Luke 8:10 and many other passages "hearing they might not understand". It's possible to translate akouo as "to hear" but this is not at all the usual meaning of the word.  

I am not saying the modern versions are wrong by translating the word as "understand", but I AM saying that the KJB is by no means in error or "a contradiction". It is absolutely correct.  All you have to do is THINK a little bit to see the truth of it.

Those Bible versions that have correctly translated BOTH Acts 9:7 as "hearing a voice", AND Acts 22:9 as "but they heard not the voice" are: Tyndale 1525, Coverdale 1535, the Great Bible 1540, Matthew's Bible 1549, the Bishops' Bible 1568,  the Geneva Bible 1587, The Beza N.T. 1599, The Bill Bible 1671, Wesley's translation 1755, Whiston's Primitive N.T. 1745, Worsley Version 1770, The Revised Translation 1815, The Pickering N.T. 1840, the Hussey N.T. 1845, The Morgan N.T. 1848, The Hewett N.T. 1850, Murdock's translation 1851, The Boothroyd Bible 1853, Sawyer N.T. 1858, The Revised N.T. 1862,  Noyes Translation 1869, Alford's N.T. 1870, The Smith Bible 1876, The Revised English Bible 1877, The Sharpe Bible 1883, the Revised Version 1885, Young's 1898, Darby 1890, the Twentieth Century New Testament 1904,  Douay 1950,  American Standard Version 1901,  Godbey N.T. 1902, Rotherham's Emphasized Bible 1902, The Clarke N.T. 1913, Weymouth 1912, The Moffatt N.T. 1913,  Goodspeed N.T. 1923, Lamsa's 1933 translation of the Syriac Peshitta,  Williams New Testament 1937 "they heard the voice" - "the did not hear the voice", J.B. Phillip's translation 1962, the New Life Version 1969, the Berkeley Modern Language Bible 1969, the Revised English Bible 1989, the New English Bible 1970, Today's English Version 1992, Good News Translation 1992, the RSV 1952, NRSV 1989, the NKJV 1982, The Word of Yah 1993, Contemporary English Version 1995 "they had heard the voice" (Acts 9:7) - "but did not hear the voice" (Acts 22:9), the Amplified Versions 1987, The Complete Jewish Bible 1998, The Koster Scriptures 1998, The Common N.T. 1999, The Tomson N.T. 2002, The Message 2002, The Apostolic Polyglot Bible 2003, The Concordant Version 2006, Biblos Interlinear Bible 2011, Common Edition N.T. 1999, Conservative Bible 2011, Context Group Version 2007, Easy English Bible 2010, The Apostolic Bible 2009, English Majority Text 2009, Faithful N.T. 2009, Interlinear Greek New Testament 1997 by Larry Pierce, Lawrie Translation 1998, the Lexham English Bible 2012, the Third Millennium Bible 1998, the Jubilee Bible 2010, The Hebraic Transliteration Scripture 2010, The Conservative Bible 2010, the Common English Bible of 2011 - "they heard the voice but saw no one." (Acts 9:7) -  "but they didn’t hear the voice of the one who spoke to me." (Acts 22:9), Orthodox Jewish Bible 2011, the Natural Israelite Bible 2012 - "And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, HEARING A VOICE but seeing no one." (Acts 9:7) "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) , The Far Above All Translation 2014 and The Pioneer's New Testment 2014.  

So much for James White's statement "This alleged contradiction EXISTS ONLY IN THE KJV, NOT IN MODERN VERSIONS" (page 229 King James Only Controversy)

Many foreign language Bibles do the same thing. The Italian Diodati 1649, Nuovo Diodati 1991 and Riveduta  1927 all have Acts 9:7 as -"udendo ben la voce" and Acts 22:9 as "ma non udiron la voce".  The Modern Greek Bible has Acts 9:7 as "ακουοντες μεν την φωνην", And Acts 22:9 as - "την φωνην ομως του λαλουντος προς εμε δεν ηκουσαν."  The Spanish Sagradas Escrituras 1569, Reina Valera 1909, Dios Habla Hoy 1996 (UBS) and the 2000 Traducción En Lenguage Actual (United Bible Society)  have Acts 9:7 as - "oyendo la voz" and Acts 22:9 as - " no oyeron la voz", and the 2011 Reina Valera Contemporánea (UBS) has "no escucharon la voz del que me hablaba." in Acts 22:9 and the Portuguese Almeida Corrigida E Fiel and the Portuguese A Biblia Sagrada em Portugués - Acts 9:7 - "ouvindo a voz, mas não vendo ninguém." and Acts 22:9 - "mas não ouviram a voz daquele que falava comigo."

It is very simple to explain this apparent contradiction. We have all experienced being in an auditorium and the speaker will say: "Can you hear me back there?" And the people in the back reply: "No, we can't hear you. Speak up." They could "hear" his voice, but they couldn't make out what he was saying.

Several other Bible commentators have had no difficulty explaining this "on the surface" apparent contradiction. 

Barnes Notes on the New Testament affirms: "In Acts 22:9, it is said, "They which were with me (Paul) saw indeed the light, and were afraid, but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me." In this place the words "heard not the voice" must be understood in the sense of understanding the words, of hearing the address, the distinct articulation, which Paul heard. They heard a noise, they were amazed and alarmed, but they did not hear the distinct words addressed to Saul."

The Geneva Bible study notes - "the men with Saul heard the sound of a voice, but did not hear it clearly."

John Gill - "if they heard the voice of Christ, it was only the sound of his voice, but did not understand what he said."

Jamieson, Fausset and Brown's Commentary on the Whole Bible - "But just as "the people that stood by heard" the voice that saluted our Lord with recorded words of consolation and assurance, and yet heard not the articulate words, but thought "it thundered" or that some "angel spake to Him" (Joh 12:28, 29) --so these men heard the voice that spake to Saul, but heard not the articulate words. Apparent discrepancies like these, in the different narratives of the same scene in one and the same book of Acts, furnish the strongest confirmation both of the facts themselves and of the book which records them."

John Calvin's Commentary on Acts  - "Yet it seemeth that this narration doth not in all points agree with that of Paul, which we shall see in the 22nd chapter, (Acts 22:9.) For he will say there, that his companions were terrified with the light, but they heard no voice. Some there be who think that it was a fault,  and that through ignorance of the writer the negation is placed out of its right place. I think that it is no hard matter to answer it; because it may be that they heard the sound of the voice, yet did they not discern either who it was that spake, or what was spoken. “They heard not,” saith he, “the voice of him that spake with me.” Surely this is the meaning of these words, that he alone knew the speech of Christ. It followeth not thereupon, but that the rest might have heard a dark and doubtful voice. Whereas Luke saith in this place that there was a voice heard, and no man seen, his meaning is, that the voice proceeded from no man, but that it was uttered by God. Therefore, to the end the miracle may carry the greater credit, Paul’s companions see a light like to lightning; they see Paul lie prostrate; a voice they hear (though not distinctly ) sounding from heaven; and yet, nevertheless, Paul alone is taught what he must do.

J.W. Mc Garvey's Original Commentary on Acts - "Luke says they heard the voice; Paul says "they heard not the voice of him that spoke to me." The discrepancy arises from the ambiguous use of the verb hear. There is nothing more common, among all nations, than for one who is listening to a speaker, but, either from his own confusion or the indistinctness of the speaker's articulation, can only catch an occasional word, to exclaim "I don't hear you;" although the sound of the voice reaches him continually. It is in this sense of the word hear, that the companions of Saul, in the confusion of their effort to escape from the scene, failed to hear the voice. They heard the sound, but did not understand the words."

Even in Scripture itself we have a clear example of "hearing a voice" but not "hearing" it. In John 12:28-30 we read: "Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. The people therefore, that stood by, and HEARD IT, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him. Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes."

The people "heard" the voice. They knew there was an audible sound, but some thought it had thundered, and others couldn't understand what was said, but they did hear something.

Many portions of Scripture use the word “hear” in two different ways.  One is to hear audibly and the other is to hear, not only audibly, but with understanding.  Here are just a few of them.


When the Lord is relating his parables of the kingdom of heaven He says: “Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and HEARING THEY HEAR NOT, neither do they understand.  And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By HEARING YE SHALL HEAR, AND SHALL NOT UNDERSTAND; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive.”  Matthew 13:13-14


Luke 16:31 Abraham spoke to the wicked rich man in hell telling him: “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”  This “hearing” involved far more than just hearing the words of Moses.  It involved hearing with understanding.


And in John 8:43 the Lord Jesus turns to the Pharisees and asks: “Why do ye not understand my speech? even because YE CANNOT HEAR my word.”  Obviously they heard the words of Christ, but they did not “hear” them.


In John 8:47 He says again: “He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.”


This double sense of “hearing” is found in the oft repeated saying of our Lord - “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”


In a similar fashion the men around Paul at the moment of his conversion heard the voice but they didn’t “hear” it with understanding.


There is no contradiction when the two texts are properly put together and understood. The men did hear a voice (Acts 9:7), but they didn't "hear" it well enough to distinguish what was being said and could not understand the words. (Acts 22:9). Luke did not make a mistake and there was no scribal error in ALL the manuscripts. The only error is assuming there is an error or contradiction, when none exists.

Will Kinney

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