Questions From Readers
After his resurrection and ascension to heaven, Jesus Christ appeared to Saul of Tarsus (later the apostle Paul) and spoke to him audibly. But “Saul’s fellow-travelers stood speechless, for they heard the voice but could not see anyone.” (Acts 9:7, An American Translation) Quoting Paul in the first person regarding the same event, Acts 22:9 says: “The men who were with me saw the light, but they did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me.”—AT.
A consideration of the significance of the Greek word for “hear” is helpful in resolving this seeming discrepancy. It can denote hearing something without understanding what is stated. Those traveling with Paul evidently heard a voice but, because of its being muffled or distorted, did not understand the message being conveyed to Paul.—Compare 1 Corinthians 14:2, where the Greek word for “hear” is translated “listens.”
That Paul’s companions did not comprehend what was said is also verified by the way the Greek word for “voice” is used in connection with the verb “hear” at Acts 9:7 and Ac 22:9. Observes Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words: “In Acts 9:7, ‘hearing the voice,’ the noun ‘voice’ is in the partitive genitive case [i.e., hearing (something) of], whereas in Ac 22:9, ‘they heard not the voice,’ the construction is with the accusative. This removes the idea of any contradiction. The former indicates a hearing of the sound, the latter indicates the meaning or message of the voice (this they did not hear).”
The renderings of a number of modern Bible translations also show this difference. The New American Standard Bible renders the texts in question as follows: “The men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice, but seeing no one.” “Those who were with me beheld the light, to be sure, but did not understand [margin: Or, hear (with comprehension)] the voice of the One who was speaking to me.” The German translation by Leander van Ess says: “For they indeed heard the sound, but saw no one.” “But the voice of the one who was speaking to me they did not understand.” Richard Francis Weymouth uses renderings that show that the men heard the voice but did not hear the “words of Him” who spoke to Paul. Similarly, the New World Translation says that the men heard “the sound of a voice,” but did not “hear [“hear understandingly,” margin] the voice of the one speaking” to Paul.—Acts 9:7; 22:9.