Acts 22:9

ESV Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand the voice of the one who was speaking to me.
NIV My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me.
NASB And those who were with me saw the light, but did not understand the voice of the One who was speaking to me.
CSB Now those who were with me saw the light, but they did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me.
NLT The people with me saw the light but didn’t understand the voice speaking to me.
KJV And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.

What does Acts 22:9 mean?

Paul is on the steps of the Antonia Fortress: the Roman army barracks on the northwest corner of the temple mount. He speaks to the mob which moments before tried to beat him to death. He has been accused of bringing a Gentile into the temple. It's a false accusation, but he has spent the week with Gentile friends, including Trophimus from Ephesus, with whom he wandered around Jerusalem. Paul is trying to explain why he travels with Gentiles by recounting how Jesus gave him the responsibility to minister to Gentiles.

He starts by explaining that in his youth, he was trained as a Pharisee by the famous rabbi Gamaliel. He was so devout for the Mosaic law that he watched with approval as a similar mob murdered Stephen (Acts 7:54–60; 22:20). Stephen's death inspired Paul to hunt Jewish Jesus-followers first in Jerusalem and then abroad (Acts 8:1–3; 9:1–2). On his way to Damascus, a great light enveloped him, and Jesus asked, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" (Acts 9:3–5; 22:6–8).

Acts 9:7, which this verse recounts, reads, "The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one." This echoes John 12:29 when God the Father spoke to Jesus. Some bystanders perceived the sound as words, while others only heard thunder. God determines who will hear and understand Him based on His purposes (Daniel 10:7; John 12:37–40).

Paul continues his story, explaining that he did indeed come to follow Jesus. Eventually, he returned to Jerusalem where he faced persecution for both his conversion and his aggressive witnessing style. The disciples sent him home to Tarsus, but Jesus had already revealed Paul would bring His story to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15, 17–18, 26–30). From Tarsus, Paul joined Barnabas in Syrian Antioch and spent several years planting churches in modern-day Turkey, Macedonia, and Greece—churches of both Jewish and Gentile believers.

Some of the Gentiles wanted to bring support to the church in Jerusalem and Paul accompanied them (Acts 20:4; Romans 15:26). Therefore, Paul was in Jerusalem with a Gentile Jesus-follower; however, he did not bring him into the temple.
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