Is there a contradiction between Acts 9:7 and 22:9? These passages record the apostle Paul’s conversion. As he and a group of men were making their way to Damascus, Paul was suddenly surrounded by a light from heaven. He fell to the ground, blinded. Jesus Christ then spoke to Paul and told him what he must do. The others were dumbfounded: “The men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one” (Acts 9:7, RAV).
The same event is mentioned a second time. Paul said, “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, RAV).
In the original Greek language, the word “akouo” is used in these passages. This word, like many others, has several meanings depending on how it is used in a sentence. It can mean to HEAR or to UNDERSTAND. In the following passage, for example, the latter meaning is obviously intended: “For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one UNDERSTANDS him” (I Cor. 14:2, RAV). His listeners hear him, but don’t understand.
This is what happened with Paul and those with him on the road to Damascus. Paul both heard and understood. The men with him heard the voice but did not understand it. So, the problem is only one of language. God’s Word does not contradict itself (John 10:35). Acts 22:9 really should be translated this way: “Now those who were with me indeed saw the light and were afraid, but they did not understand the voice of Him who spoke to me.”