Miscellaneous Questions

Wayne Jackson
This week we answer several brief questions:     (1) Do Acts 9:7 and 22:9 contradict one another?
     (2) Did Moses err in classifying bats with birds?
     (3) How should Luke 23:43 be punctuated?

“Why does the Bible say that the men who were with Saul ‘heard’ the voice of the Lord (Acts 9:7), when a later account says they ‘heard not’ the voice (Acts 22:9)? Is this a contradiction?”

According to Acts 9:7, the men traveling with Saul, “heard” the voice. The term for “voice” in Greek is phones, in the genitive case. The genitive, used with the verb akouo (“to hear”), simply specifies that a “sound” was heard. On the other hand, Acts 22:9 states that the men did not hear the “voice” (phonen, accusative case). The accusative reflects the extent to which they heard.

Placing the two passages together, therefore, and giving proper consideration to the different cases, one is required to draw the following conclusion.The men “heard,” to the extent of hearing a “sound,” but they did not “hear” to the extent of “understanding the words.”

Kenneth Wuest’s The New Testament – An Expanded Translation thus renders Acts 22:9 as follows: “And those with me saw indeed the light but did not hear the voice of the One speaking to me so as to understand the words, but heard it merely as a sound.”

“After reading an article about the Bible’s inspiration, I have a question about two verses. Why does Leviticus 11:19 list a ‘bat’ under a list of ‘fowls’ and why is the ‘bat’ listed under ‘birds’ in Deut. 14:18? It is well known that bats are mammals, not birds or fowls.”

One must remember that classification systems are modern inventions. Furthermore, they are arbitrary and highly subjective. The biblical writers were not under obligation to make classifications that would conform to those criteria that would be chosen centuries later.

Modern classifications are generally made according to external features, and not infrequently according to evolutionary presuppositions. Since the bat has hair, mammary glands, etc., usually it is classed as a mammal.

However, in the Bible animals are classified according to very simple traits that are easily recognizable – such as, locomotion. In Genesis 1:20ff, living creatures are classed as those that creep, crawl, fly, swim, and walk. This is likely why the bat is listed with birds in Leviticus 11:19 and Deuteronomy 14:18. Bats fly. The Hebrew term for “bird” in Leviticus 11:13 is oph, which simply means “a flying creature” (Brown, Driver, Briggs, Hebrew Lexicon, p. 733). The word is used in conjunction with insects in vv. 20-21. Obviously, then, oph is generic in import.

It may be significant, however, that in both cases, the bat is mentioned at the end of the list – as if to subtly suggest that it has some dissimilarity to other flying creatures. In the final analysis, it is not fair to charge the Bible with an error in this matter. For further consideration of this matter, see: Dr. Jean Sloat Morton, Science in the Bible, Chicago: Moody, 1978, p. 154.

“In a recent Bible study, Luke 23:43 was discussed with reference to the placement of the comma. It was said that if the coma were to be placed after the word ‘today,’ instead of before the word, that the meaning of the sentence would be changed. Could you please comment on this?”

It is a favorite ploy of the “Jehovah’s Witnesses” to re-punctuate Luke 23:43, so as to try to remove the idea that there would be recognition between Christ and one of the thieves later that day, following their respective deaths, thus implying their consciousness after death.

The “Witnesses” propose, therefore, that it should read: “I say unto you today, you shall be with me in paradise.” There is no justification for this. This novel attempt at punctuation makes the Lord’s statement rather awkward. If Christ is speaking to the man, obviously is it “today.” One does not usually say, “I am telling you this today” – a circumstance that would be most superfluous. As R.C.H. Lenski quipped: “When else would he be saying it?” (Commentary on Luke, p. 1145). W.E. Vine observed that there are “no grammatical reasons” for putting the “today” with “I say unto you” (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words; see “To-day, This Day”).

Then consider the comments of Alfred Plummer. Regarding the word “today,” he says: “To take this with lego [”I say"] robs it of almost all its force. When taken with what follows it is full of meaning. Jesus knows that both he and the robber will die that day, and He grants him more than he had asked or expected. The promise implies the continuance of consciousness after death. If the dead are unconscious, the assurance to the robber that he will be with Christ after death would be empty of consolation" (The Gospel According to Luke, pp. 535-36). Norval Geldenhuys notes that to take “today” with “I say,” is “altogether unjustifiable” (Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, p. 615).

The point of emphasis, then, is clearly on the reunion of the Savior and the saved later that day – a concept clearly at variance with Watchtower dogma. Unfortunately, the Watchtower organization has little scruples in attempting to adjust the Scriptures in order to rationalize their peculiar doctrines.