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Yes, they heard the voice.
3 As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him;
4 and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
7 … The men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one.

Acts 9:3-4, 7  NASB

 

No, they didn’t hear the voice.
6 “But it happened that as I was on my way, approaching Damascus about noontime, a very bright light suddenly flashed from heaven all around me,
7 and I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’
9 … And those who were with me saw the light, to be sure, but did not understand the voice of the One who was speaking to me.
11 … But since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me and came into Damascus.”

Acts 22:6-7, 9, 11  NASB

 

Extra
12 “While so engaged as I was journeying to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests,
13 at midday, O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining all around me and those who were journeying with me.
14 And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? …”

Acts 26:12-14  NASB

 

SAB Contradictions 469

 

Different testimonies
In Acts there are three testimonies of Paul’s conversion on his way to Damascus. The criticism is that there are contradictions in them. In Acts 9 it seems that the bystanders also heard the voice that was speaking to Paul, but in Acts 22 it seems that they didn’t hear that voice. What now?

 

Simplified narratives
The idea of the critic is certainly due to the simplified Sunday school narratives about this major event in Christianity. The general message of the event seems that Paul, seeing a lightand to make it extra exciting: fell from his horseheard Jesus speaking unto him. He became blind, but Jesus healed him and from then on he was dedicated to the case of Christianity and became the apostle of the Gentiles.

 

Strange
Indeed from this perspective it would seem strange that in Acts 9 it says that the bystanders heard the voice and in Acts 22 it says that they didn’t hear the voice (KJV: they heard not the voice of him that spake to me). Even the suggestion that the voice spoke in the Hebrew tongue is an insufficient explanation to the fact that the bystanders didn’t understand the voice they heard. Only the name Saoul was in Hebrew as otherwise it is Saulos (Acts 7:58, 8:1,3).

 

Regular devotions
To get a correct understanding of this event it is necessary to take into account that it happened at noon, about twelve o’clock. That was time for rest and for religious people like Saul to do their prayers. During the period of rest the travelers stepped down of their horses and some like  Saul stepped aside the road to find a quiet place for their devotions.

 

Perspectives
There are in fact three perspectives of the occurrence: (1) Those who remained on the road near the horses and equipment (Acts 9:7 those who travelled with him). (2) Those who did their devotions on a different place than Saul, fellow believers of Saul, some Pharisees (who were with mean expression of close connection). (3) Saul’s point of view and some who remained with him to say their prayers.

(1) The fellow travelers on the road rose up and were speechless, hearing the voicenot necessary to remark that they didn’t understand the voice; if they were good Hebrews they also would have done their prayers aside the road (Acts 9:7). They didn’t see anyone that spoke.

(2) Other devote Jews who belonged to Saul were also praying and heard the voice from a distant, but didn’t understand it (Acts 22:9), certainly the distance was still too far to get a meaningful impression. The verb akouoo can be used for to hear (I) and to understand (IV)LSJ (Liddell, Scott, Jones).

(3) Saul could perfectly hear and understand what was spoken to him as in all the testimonies it is clear that the revelation was meant specifically to him. Some followers of him were with him as the light surrounded them and so they are supposed to have heard the voice and the words that were spoken (Acts 26:13).

So far we may conclude:

No Bible Contradiction.

 

Additional Remarks
It may be convenient to connect some comments to this episode which is so vital for Christian history and experience today. It is to be compared with the calling of Abraham with the future blessing for the nations of all the earth: I will appear to you; rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light …” (Acts 26:16-18)

 

Saul’s prayer
This revelation can only be understood from the point of view that Saul had great doubts going to Damascus to persecute Christians in the most terrible way he had done. The cause for his doubts were certainly the impressive good moral character of the Christians and their quoting of the Hebrew Bible to justify their faith in Christ. He saw in them a real and powerful experience of believing he was not acquainted with. From these doubts he spoke to God in his prayer that noonday to seek an answer. Which he received.

 

Recording of the Spoken Word
Who was responsible for the recording of the spoken word of the revelation?
(1) The men on the road were standing during the revelation as they stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one”. During the action of hearing they stood. Certainly they got up from their sitting (or lying) position during their rest. However they did not  reproduce the spoken word as they didn’t hear what was being said.
(2) The fellow believers of Saul who prayed at a distance did not hear enough to understand what was said.
(3) Saul heard the voice clearly and some companions who fell to the ground as the light surrounded them are to be supposed as also hearers of the spoken word (Acts 26:13). There are a few possibilities. (a) Maybe Saul’s stress proof secretary had done his prayers and was already sitting on the ground with his wax tablet ready to write down new instructions. (b) The words to Saul were so terribly impressive that he could not erase them from his mind. Three times he asked “Who are you Lord?”. Three times he got a short answer, only the last time it was some longer, but the words could not be unfamiliar or questionable to Saul. Three days he was blind and confronted with the echoes of these heavy words. After his healing from blindness he could write them down. (c) It is also possible that a writer collected impressions of what was heard by the nearest fellows of Saul and gave a compilation of what was told to him according to the rule: a matter will be established on two or three identical testimonia.

 

Decline of Christianity
May Christians come to understand that the Holy Scriptures are written on the accurate preservation of the spoken word in it. This asks a reversal in the mind, but it will be necessary for Christianity. Why should one continue to believe in vain what theology has hammered home for centuries, that an oral tradition of about 50 years would have preceded the written Gospels? If so Christianity does not possess Jesus’ ipsissima verba (very words), maybe his look-alikes. The decline of Christianity is not a new phenomenon but has been going on for decades already. Isn’t it time to ask: “Has something gone wrong?” The answer is: “Yes, a lot and very wrong!” If theology (including Evangelical) is not able to define Jesus’ Biblical words as His own words, then there is a serious problem. For listening to His words is listening to Him. It is sad that this Great Christian Creed is broken in today’s theology, and people want to hear that in Church, but remain unsatisfied. It is clear that the rule is in action: “How shall we [the Church] escape, if we [the Church] neglect so great salvation; which beginning to be spoken by the Lord, was confirmed (established) in behalf of us by those who were hearing; God also bearing witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost.” (Hebrews 2:3-4)

Compare the Book “Jesus’ Stenographers, The Story of the Red Letters”.