I had never seen this one before, though it is obvious and apparently well known. Even Pope Benedict mentions this prima facie contradiction in the second volume of Jesus of Nazareth. Compare these two accounts of St. Paul’s conversion in Acts:
Acts 9:7: The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one.
Acts 22:9: Now those who were with me saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me.
Yet, as we all know, Acts had widespread acceptance early on in the Church. Surely Luke (and Paul) and all the early Christians who read and accepted this book, were not so dull as to not detect this apparent contradiction. Yet it was written as it was written and preserved by scribes without alteration.
Are there explanations? Sure. My Ignatius Bible gives one: that the “voice” in the first passage was more like a rumbling “sound” while the second passage is using “hear” to mean “could not understand” what the voice said.
This site appeared first in my google search and lists several possible explanations, including the one above as well as a completely different one by none other than N.T. Wright himself(!) and his fellow New Perspective on Paul colleague, E.P. Sanders: “Luke’s following a hellenistic convention of style according to which variation in a narrative lends interest.”
The point is that we as Christians believe that God inspired the Scriptures and so what the authors wrote was breathed by God. God cannot lie, so the Bible is inerrant. This means that we seek to find ways to reconcile these passages, to harmonize them in spite of their apparent contradictory statements. The truth is that we accept the book of Acts based on the authority of God’s Church, whom He protected from error in her discernment of the canon, and we then use our intellect and heart to seek understanding for our faith.
You may remember this popular post from a while back that pointed out other “contradictions” in books that both Protestants and Catholics accept as inspired. This is another example to add to those. And this comment from Bradley Cochran was spot on about the problem then that Protestant apologists run into by pointing out “contradictions” in the deuterocanonicals.