Paul's Conversion Experience
God audibly speak or not?
HUMANIST QUESTION: As
a final example of a New Testament contradiction, the conflicting accounts of
Pauls conversion can be cited. Acts 9:7 states that when Jesus called Paul
to preach the gospel, the men who were with Paul heard a voice but saw no man.
According to Acts 22:9, however, the men saw a light but didnt hear the
voice speaking to Paul.
Let's look at what scripture says:
men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one.
- Acts 9:7 (NASB)
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. - Acts 22:9 (NASB)
There is no problem. Scripture
does not say what the humanists say it does. In Acts 9:7 the men who traveled
with Paul heard a voice. Then in Acts 22:9 we learn that although they heard the
voice, they did not understand what the voice was saying. Why would they say there
is a contradiction here?
Maybe the problem is in the translation they were
using. Let's look at Acts 22:9 in the King James Version:
they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid, but they heard not
the voice of him that spoke to me. - Acts 22:9 (KJV)
may be a translation problem. The Greek word translated as "hearing"
in Acts 9:7 is the same Greek word in Acts 22:9 translated as "understand"
in the NASB and as "heard" in the KJV. That word is "akouo"
But before we go further, is there really a problem? Is
there any difference in meaning between the NASB and KJV? No. In both cases nothing
was communicated to the men with Paul. Paul heard the voice and understood what
it said. No one else did.
Before we start looking at how translation is
done, we need to be reminded that the KJV was translated in 1611 and updated in
1769. Some of the words used in the KJV have different meanings than they have
today. An English word that was appropriate in 1769 might not convey the full
desired meaning today.
Translation of the Original Greek
if you are not familiar with translating languages, it is not always
a word-for-word process. Depending on the language, translation may have some
word-for-word aspects, or may require a thought-for-thought translation process.
The result is that no two translations use exactly the same English words, although
each translation communicates the same meaning.
Second, in translating
you also need to be familiar with the culture of the people who speak
the language being translated. The meaning of words is dependent on the culture.
I'm reminded of a friend of mine who did translations from English to Russian.
He was translating a sermon in which the preacher said, "It is like Grape
Nuts, no grapes and no nuts." Translating those words directly into Russian
made no sense. What my friend did was to translate "Grape Nuts" as "Bird's
Milk." So, my American reader, does "It is like Bird's Milk, no birds
and no milk." have any meaning for you? It does for a Russian. They have
a popular candy called "Bird's Milk" that has nothing to do with birds
Third, just as in English, individual Greek words may have
multiple meanings. What the word specifically means depends on the context.
To learn more about "akouo" (Strongs 191) I turned to my copy of one
of the most authoritative Greek dictionaries, "The Complete Word Study
Dictionary (New Testament)" by Spiros Zodhiates. It gives seven definitions
for "akouo." Here is a summary:
- To hear in general
hear with attention.
- To have the faculty of hearing
- To obey
be informed by hearing
- To hear in a forensic sense (such as a court hearing)
understand or comprehend
Zodhiates lists a synonym as: to listen attentively
So "akouo" can mean physically "hearing"
and it can also mean "understanding." If you hear, but do not
understand, it is the same as not hearing at all. In Greek thought this made sense.
If you phyically heard something, but did not understand (it was in a language
you did not know), it was just as though you didn't hear it, because there was
With seven possible meanings, along with variations of
those, what happened is that the translators of the KJV did not select the best
translation for us today. BUT, it has no effect on our understanding of what scripture
is saying. There is no contradiction here.
What did we find out
here? There is no contradiction.
Next section... cruelties in the
Bible. Here is the introduction to the next topic on the American Humanists web
site. There is a fundamental error in what they say. Can you spot it?
also reject the Bible because it approves of outrageous cruelty and injustice.
In civilized legal systems, a fundamental principle is that the suffering of the
innocent is the essence of injustice. Yet the Bible teaches that God repeatedly
violated this moral precept by harming innocent people.
to learn what is wrong with the above.