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:
The men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing
the voice but seeing no one. - Acts 9:7 (NASB)
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)
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?
problem is in the translation they were using. Let's look at Acts 22:9 in the
King James Version:
And 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. In the NASB (the translation used above) the Greek
word translated as "hearing" in Acts 9:7 is the same Greek word in Acts
22:9 that is translated as "understand." In the KJV it is translated
as"heard" in both verses. That word is "akouo" (Strong's 191).
Why does the NASB use two different words for the same Greek word?
is so as to make the meaning clear in English the way it is spoken today.
what's with the KJV? Is there a 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. To understand this we need
to understand a little about how books are translated.
BUT... before we
start looking at translation, 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
First, translation 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.
in translating you also need to be familiar with the culture of the people
who spoke 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 nor milk.
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" (Strong's 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
- To hear with attention.
- To have the faculty
- To obey
- To be informed by hearing
- To hear in
a forensic sense (such as a court hearing)
- To understand or comprehend
lists a synonym as: "to listen attentively to"
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 the
Hebrew way of thinking this made sense. If you physically heard something, but
did not understand (it was in a language you did not know, for example), it was
just as though you didn't hear it, because there was no understanding.
seven possible meanings, along with variations of those, what happened is that
the translators of the KJV did not use the best translation for us today. BUT,
it has no effect on our understanding of what scripture is saying. There is no
What did we find out here? There is
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.