Although there is apparently no uncertainty as to what Saul (who subsequently became known as Paul) heard while travelling on the road to Damascus, there is some uncertainty regarding what those who were travelling with Saul heard.  What is certain is that Jesus Christ “spoke” to Paul sometime during this journey and that this incident was the beginning of Paul’s subsequent conversion from being a persecutor of Christians to becoming a dedicated apostle of Jesus Christ.  Therefore, we will focus primarily on what those who were with Paul heard, as recorded in Acts 9:3-7 and Acts 22:6-9.

[Note:  When we quote Scripture in this article, we use the wording in the New King James Version of the Bible.]

Acts 9:3-7: As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”  And he said, “Who are You, Lord?”  Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.  It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”   So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?”  Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”  And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one.

Acts 22:6-9: [Paul states] “Now it happened, as I journeyed and came near Damascus at about noon, suddenly a great light from heaven shone around me.  And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’  So I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’  “And 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.”

Verse 7 in Acts 9 indicates that the men who were with Paul (whose name at that time was still Saul) heard a voice but did not see anyone when Jesus Christ spoke to him on his journey to Damascus.  In contrast, in verse 9 of Acts 22, when Paul tells what happened on his trip to Damascus, he says that those who were with him did not hear a voice when Jesus spoke to him.  How can this apparent discrepancy be resolved?

John W. Haley, M.A., on page 359 of his book entitled Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible, explains that the Greek word translated as hear has “two distinct meanings: to perceive sound, and to understand.  The men who were with Saul of Tarsus heard the sound, but did not understand what was said to him.”

This perspective is supported by Gleason L. Archer, who on page 382 of his book entitled Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, says,

In the original Greek . . ., there is no real contradiction between these two statements [in Acts 9:7 and Acts 22:9].  Greek makes a distinction between hearing a sound as a noise . . . and hearing a voice as a thought-conveying message. . . . Therefore, as we put the two statements together, we find that Paul’s companions heard the Voice as a sound . . .; but they did not . . . hear the message that it articulated.   Paul alone heard it intelligibly. . . .

Similarly, Allen Bowman, Ph.D., on page 135 of his book entitled Is the Bible True?, states, “In Acts 9:7 the meaning of the word “hear” is merely to perceive a sound.  In Acts 22:9, on the other hand, the meaning is to perceive the message which the sound conveyed.”


The sources that we have quoted in this article provide plausible explanations regarding the difference between the two accounts in the book of Acts as to what the men who were travelling with Paul on the road to Damascus heard when Jesus Christ spoke to Paul.  Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that Acts 9:7 indicates that the men with Saul were aware that something was being said, but they did not understand what was being said, and Acts 22:9 likewise indicates that the men were not able to understand what was being said.