Thursday, 28 February 2013
Contradictions In The Bible 8 :
Did Paul's companions hear the Voice on the Damascus Road?
An apparent contradiction arises between the first account of Paul's conversion on the
Damascus Road (Acts 9:7) and the second account (Acts 22:9) in regard to Paul's
companions. Did they hear the Voice from heaven or did they not? Acts 9:7 states: "But
the men who were journeying with Paul were standing speechless, hearing the Voice
(akouontes men tes phones), but beholding no one." In Acts 22:9, on the other hand, we
are told, "And those who were with me beheld the light, but they did not hear the Voice
[ten de phonen ouk ekousan] of the one who was talking to me."
In the original Greek, however, there is no real contradiction between these two
statements. Greek makes a distinction between hearing a sound as a noise (in which case
the verb "to hear" takes the genitive case) and hearing a voice as a thought-conveying
message (in which case it takes the accusative). Therefore, as we put the two statements together, we find that Paul's companions heard the Voice as a sound (somewhat like the crowd who heard the sound of the Father talking to the Son in John 12:28, but perceived it only as thunder); but they did not (like Paul) hear the message that it articulated. Paul alone heard it intelligibly (Acts 9:4 says Paul ekousen phonen--accusative case); though he, of course, perceived it also as a startling sound at first (Acts 22:7: "I fell to the ground and heard a voice [ekousa phones] saying to me," NASB). But in neither account is it stated that his companions ever heard that Voice in the accusative case.
There is an instructive parallel here between the inability to hear the voice as an
articulated message and their inability to see the glory of the risen Lord as anything but a
blaze of light. Acts 22:9 says that they saw the light, but Acts 9:7 makes it clear that they
did not see the Person who displayed Himself in that light. There is a clear analogy
between these differing levels of perception in each case.
(For the technical case-distinction in Greek, cf. W. W. Goodwin and C. B. Gulick,
Greek Grammar [Boston: Ginn & Co., 1930], #1103: "The partitive genitive is used with
verbs signifying to taste, to smell, to hear, to perceive, etc."--with the example from
Aristophanes' Pax: phones akouein moi doko--`Methinks I hear a voice." See also #1104:
"Verbs of hearing, learning, etc. may take an accusative of the thing heard etc., and a
genitive of the person heard from." This comes very close to the distinction made above,
that the accusative indicates the voice as a communicated message or thought, rather than
as simply a sound vibrating against the eardrum.)
Gleason L Archer