William M. Branham

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William Marrion Branham
Wmbbible.jpg
Born (1909-04-06)April 6, 1909
Cumberland County, Kentucky
Died December 24, 1965(1965-12-24) (aged 56)
Amarillo, Texas
Cause of death
Car accident
Resting place
Jeffersonville, Indiana
Religion Christianity
Spouse(s)

Amelia Hope Brumbach m. 1934 (b. 16 July 1913 - d. 22 July 1937)

Meda Marie Broy m.1941 (b. 26 April 1919 - d. 1981)
Children

William 'Billy' Paul Branham (b. 13 September 1935)

Sharon Rose Branham (b. 27 October 1936 - d. 26 July 1937)

Rebekah Branham Smith (b. 21 march 1946 - d. 28 November 2006)

Sarah Branham De Corado (b.1950)

Joseph Branham (b. May 1955)
Parents

Charles C. E. Branham (b. 02 January 1887 - d. 30 November 1936)

Ella Rhee Harvey (b. 24 June 1887 - d. 27 October 1961)

William Marrion Branham (April 6, 1909 – December 24, 1965) was an American Christian minister, usually credited with initiating the post World War II healing revival.[1][2]

Branham's most controversial revelation was his claim to be the end-time "Elijah" prophet of the Laodicean church age.[3][4] His theology seemed complicated and bizarre to many people who admired him personally.[5] In his last days, Branham's followers had placed him at the center of a Pentecostal personality cult. Other than those that still follow him as their prophet, Branham has faded into obscurity. Robert Price (as quoted by Douglas Weaver) summarized Branham's legacy as follows:

In the days of his prominence, the 1950's, what Spirit-filled believer did not know his name? Yet today, we may wonder, what believer does?"[6]

Biography[edit]

The reliability of William Branham's biographical material should be viewed with caution. This is because Branham's autobiographical stories were often embellished, and sometimes contradictory. Other sources, written by his associates or followers, are apologetic and hagiographical in nature.[7][8]

Early life[edit]

William Branham was born in 1909 in a log cabin in Cumberland County, Kentucky, near Burkesville.[1] The first of ten children of Charles and Ella Branham, he was raised near Jeffersonville, Indiana. His father was an alcoholic, and William Branham often talked about how his upbringing was difficult and impoverished,[2] although his claims of poverty have been called into question.[9]

Branham claimed that from his early childhood he had supernatural experiences including prophetic visions. He said that in his early childhood, while assisting his father at a still, he heard a "Voice" that told him, "Don't you never drink, smoke or defile your body in any way. There'll be a work a work for you to do when you get older".[10] [11][12]

Leaving home at nineteen, William Branham worked on a ranch in Arizona.[13] He returned home when his brother died and Branham began a search for God.[2] He began attending the First Pentecostal Baptist Church in Jeffersonville[14] and was eventually ordained as an Independent Baptist minister.[15][16] While Branham claimed that his first exposure to Pentecostalism was in 1936; however, the First Pentecostal Baptist Church which he attended prior to 1933 was "a Holy Ghost church" that believed in prayer for healing and the baptism of the Holy Spirit.[17]

Public ministry[edit]

Branham's first major tent revivals took place in Jeffersonville in 1933. The same year, he constructed a church which was originally named the "Pentecostal Tabernacle"[18] but was later changed to "Branham Tabernacle". He was the bivocational minister of this church until 1946.[19]

William Branham was baptising converts on June 11, 1933 in the Ohio River near Jeffersonville when he claimed that people along the bank saw a bright light descend over where he was standing, and that he heard a voice say, "As John the Baptist was sent to forerun the first coming of Jesus Christ, so your message will forerun His second coming."[20] The only available newspaper report on the event was the Jeffersonville Evening News on June 2, 1933 which indicated that the Branham campaign reported 14 converts.[21] Given the lack of corroborating evidence for this supposed supernatural event, Weaver indicates that it is possible that Branham later embellished the incident by "remembering" the forerunner message when he was achieving success in the healing revival.[22]

Branham's first meetings as a faith healer started in 1946. Branham's sensational healing services are well documented and he is regarded as the pacesetter for those who followed.[23] Historians generally mark the 1946 meetings as inaugurating the modern healing revival.[24] William Branham claimed to have received an angelic visitation on May 7, 1946 commissioning his worldwide ministry.

During the mid-1940s William Branham was conducting healing campaigns almost exclusively with Oneness Pentecostal groups. The broadening of Branham's ministry to the wider Pentecostal community came as a result of his introduction to Gordon Lindsay in 1947, who soon became his primary promoter.[25] In the same year, Ern Baxter joined the campaign team.[26][25] Gordon Lindsay proved to be an able publicist for Branham, founding The Voice of Healing magazine in 1948, which was originally aimed at reporting solely Branham's healing campaigns.[26][27] According to a Pentecostal historian, "Branham filled the largest stadiums and meeting halls in the world."[28]

Controversy surrounded Branham from the early stages of his ministry. In 1947, a minister in Saskatchewan, Canada, stated that many who Branham pronounced as healed later died. A year later, W.J. Taylor, a district superintendent with the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, raised the same concern and asked for a thorough investigation, presenting evidence that claims of the number of people healed were vastly overestimated. He stated that "there is a possibility that this whole thing is wrong".[29]

By 1950, the Branham campaign team now included F. F. Bosworth. On the night of January 24, 1950, a photograph was taken of Branham during a debate between F. F. Bosworth and a Baptist minister regarding the biblical justification for healing.[30] The photograph showed a light appearing above Branham's head.[30][31] Arrangements were made to have the photograph scientifically examined to ensure that the photograph was authentic. Branham believed that the light was supernatural and was a divine vindication of his ministry.[30] The photograph became "perhaps the most famous relic in the history of the revival."[32]

In 1951, U.S. Congressman William Upshaw, crippled for fifty-nine of his sixty-six years, was miraculously healed in a Branham meeting and sent a letter describing his experience to each member of Congress.[33][32] Branham claimed that King George VI of England was healed through his prayers,[34] although there is significant doubt in this regard given that the King died less than two years after Branham claimed to have prayed for him.[35] Branham also claimed to have witnessed a young boy raised from the dead in Finland in April 1950, although again the actual facts surrounding the event must be discounted.[36]

Church ministers working with William Branham in his meetings, testified that he was able to reveal the thoughts, experiences, and needs of individuals who came to the platform for prayer, and in the audience.[37][38] Walter Hollenweger, a noted Pentecostal historian who worked as translator for Branham in one of his campaigns in Switzerland, wrote of Branham:

He possessed an extraordinary diagnostic gift and could identify the illnesses (sometimes even the names) of persons he had never seen. Unfortunately his healing prognosis was accurate only in rare cases. The excuse of healing evangelists in such cases has always been: The patient did not really believe; for they were convinced that faith leads automatically to health. [39]

In 1955, Branham's career suddenly began to falter.[40][41] Jim Jones, the founder and the leader of the Peoples Temple, best known for the mass suicide in November 1978, used Branham to springboard his own ministry. He organized a mammoth religious convention that took place June 11 through June 15, 1956, at Cadle Tabernacle in Indianapolis. To draw the crowds, Jones needed a religious headliner, and so he arranged to share the pulpit with Branham.[42]

Financial difficulties came to a head in 1956 when the Internal Revenue Service charged Branham with tax evasion.[40][43] Where he once had received "a thousand letters a day, his mail dropped down to 75" but Branham thought the decline was only temporary.[44]

By the 1960s, he had become an extremely controversial teacher.[45] In 1963, Branham taught that the "End Time Messenger who was the Angel of the Seventh Church Age in these final closing days of time had come in the spirit of Elijah".[45] But an analysis of his teaching on the identity of the Laodicean prophet-messenger reveals an array of conflicting and confusing assertions and disclaimers. Branham clearly believed that he was (and desired to be) the eschatological prophet but also had doubts about his role.[46]

The result of his controversial teaching was that many Pentecostals judged that Branham had "stepped out of his anointing" and had become a "bad teacher of heretical doctrine."[47]

Death[edit]

On December 18, 1965, William Branham and his family (all except his daughter Rebekah) were returning to Jeffersonville, Indiana from Tucson, Arizona for the Christmas holiday. About three miles east of Friona, Texas (about 70 miles south-west of Amarillo on U.S. Highway 60), just after dark, a car travelling west in the eastbound lane hit Branham's car head-on by accident.[48] He was rushed to the hospital in Amarillo, Texas but succumbed to his injuries on Christmas Eve.[49]

The initial reaction of Branham's followers to his death was one of shocking disbelief. In the confusion immediately following his death, expectations developed that he would rise from the dead. His funeral was held on December 29, 1965 but his burial was delayed indefinitely. The press surmised that this was a result of Branham's expected resurrection. He was finally buried on April 11, 1966, the day after Easter Sunday, which was accepted reluctantly by his followers. Most believed that he would have to return to fulfill a vision that he had regarding future tent meetings.[50]

Gordon Lindsay's eulogy stated that Branham's death was the will of God and privately, he accepted the interpretation of Kenneth Hagin, who claimed to have prophesied Branham's death two years before it happened. According to Hagin, God revealed that Branham was teaching false doctrine and God was removing Branham because of his disobedience.[51][52]

Teaching[edit]

Branham became more controversial in his later years and this was particularly evident in his development of a theology that emphasized a few select doctrines. Although not always consistent with each other, his primary concerns were eschatology, the denial of an eternal hell, Oneness Pentecostalism, predestination, eternal security and the serpent's seed.[53] Branham asserted that his doctrinal teachings were given to him by divine revelation.[54]

Denial of an eternal hell[edit]

Prior to 1957, Branham taught a doctrine of eternal punishment in hell. However, by 1957 he was proclaiming that hell was not eternal:[54]

If you see a man that's cheating, stealing, lying, just remember, his part is waiting in hell, for him, his place where he'll be tormented in the Presence of God and the holy Angels, with fire and brimstone. He'll be tormented there. Not forever, he can't be tormented forever, forever don't mean all, for all times. Eternity is forever, Eternity is... has no beginning or end. But forever is "a space of time." The Bible said, "Forever and," conjunction, "forever." Jonah said he was in the belly of the whale "forever." Is a space of time.[55]

Annihilationism was not a new concept to Pentecostalism as Charles Fox Parham had also advocated the doctrine.[56]

While Braham had taught the doctrine since 1957, he suggested in 1960 that the Holy Spirit had just revealed it to him as one of the mysteries that God was revealing in the "end-time".[56]

Oneness Pentecostalism[edit]

Early in his ministry, Branham at times referred to the Holy Spirit as the third person of the Trinity.[56] It was even reported that Branham had told some trinitarians that he agreed with them but that he felt obligated to the "Jesus Only" Pentecostals because they had supported him early in the revival. However, by the 1960s Branham was openly teaching the oneness position.[45]

Branham preached that trinitarianism was tritheism and insisted that members of his congregation be rebaptized in Jesus' name in imitation of the example of the Apostle Paul. He tried to distinguish himself from the Oneness baptism in the name of "Jesus" by teaching the baptism in the name of the "Lord Jesus Christ".[57]

While Branham was at times inconsistent with respect to the need to be rebaptized, by the end of his ministry fidelity to the eschatological "message" required an acceptance of the "oneness" of the Godhead and baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.[58]

Serpent's Seed[edit]

Branham taught that Eve and the serpent had sexual intercourse and Cain was born.[53] Consequently, every woman potentially carried the literal seed of the devil.[59] Cain's descendants were today masquerading as the educated and the scientists,[60] who were "a big religious bunch of illegitimate bastard children."[61] The serpent was the "missing link" between the chimpanzee and man, who was perhaps ten feet tall and looked just like a man.[62]

The central sins of modern culture - immoral women and education - were a result of the serpent's seed. Branham's attitude toward culture was a very extremist perspective of "Christ against Culture". Education was Satan's snare for intellectual Christians who rejected the supernatural. Education was Satan's tool for obscuring the "simplicity of the Message and the messenger".[63]

Misogynism[edit]

Branham was very critical of the immorality of modern women.[64] He taught that a woman with short hair was breaking the commandments of God and ridiculed women's desire to artificially beautify themselves with make-up. Branham believed that scantily clad women were guilty of committing adultery because their appearance motivated men to lust. A woman's place was in the kitchen.[65]

Branham also taught that women were not a "created product of God". Rather she was merely a byproduct of man. His pronouncements with respect to women were often contradictory. He once told women who wore shorts not to call themselves Christians. But he qualified his denunciations by affirming that obedience to his moral code was not a requirement for salvation. However, he also implied that no woman that disobeyed his "Thus Saith the Lord" moral code would be part of the rapture.[59]

Branham's attitude towards women was decidedly misogynistic, covering physical appearance, sexual drive and marital relations.[66] Modern women were basically immoral sexual machines who were to blame for adultery, divorce and death. They were the tools of the Devil.[63]

Eschatological teachings[edit]

Branham claimed to have had a prophetic revelation in June 1933 that comprised seven major events that would occur before the Second Coming of Christ.[67] He believed that five of the seven predictions, relating to world politics, scence and the moral condition of the world, had been fulfilled. The final two visions, one related to the Roman Catholic Church gaining power in the United States and the second detailing the destruction of the USA, would be fulfilled by 1977, subsequent to which Christ would return. A comparison of Branham's descriptions of the prophecies reveals his tendency to exaggerate and embellish his actual predictions.[68]

In December 1964, Branham also prophesied that the city of Los Angeles would sink into the Pacific Ocean. This was subsequently embellished to a prediction that a chunk of land fifteen hundred miles long, three or four hundred miles wide and forty miles deep would break loose causing waves that would "shoot plumb out to Kentucky."[45][69]

In 1960, Branham preached a series of sermons on the seven church ages based on chapters two and three of The Book of Revelation. The sermons depended heavily on C. I. Scofield's dispensationalism. Branham described each church as representing an historical age and suggested that the angerl of each age was an earthly messenger. His most important "revelation" was the description of the messenger to the Laodicean Church, age immediately proceeding the Rapture, whose characteristics were all strikingly compatible to Branham's personality.[70]

Branham regarded his series of sermons on the Seven Seals in 1963 as a highlight of his ministry.[71] In reality, the opening of the seals revealed very little new doctrine and were essentially a laborious restatement of the dispensationalism espoused in the sermons on the seven church ages.[72]

Anti-denominationalism[edit]

Another contributor to the controversy surrounding Branham's ministry in his later ministry was that he believed that denominationalism was the mark of the beast.[63][45]

Much of Branham's "revelation" was similar to Scofield's dispensationalism and the anti-Catholic rhetoric of classical Pentecostalism. In his later years, he came to believe that all denominations were "synagogues of Satan". The heart of Branham's "message" was for the elect Bride to "come out" of denominationalism and to accept the message of the Laodicean messenger who had the "message of the hour". Continued allegiance to a denomination was to take the mark of the beast which would mean missing the Rapture.[73]

Branham's legacy and influence[edit]

Along with Oral Roberts, Branham was the most revered leader of the healing revival.[74][75] The The New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements refers to Branham as the "initiator of the post-WWII healing revival.[76]

Branham is viewed as a false prophet by most evangelicals. For example, Hank Hanegraaff in Counterfeit Revival states that Branham's failed prophecies were exceeded only by his false doctrine.[77] Michael Moriarty in The New Charismatics states:

Branham's aberrational teachings not only cultivated cultic fringe movements like the Latter Rain Movement and the Manifested Sons of God, but they also paved a pathway leading to false predictions, revelatory madness, doctrinal heresies, and a cultic following that treated his sermons as oral Scriptures.[78]

A radical minority among Branham's followers have partially or totally deified him and have given his sermons scriptural status.[79] Most disciples simply emphasize that Branham was the prophet of Malachi 4[80] but many go much further, seeing him as the greatest prophet of all time, second only to Jesus Christ himself[80] and they believe that his ministry foreruns the second coming of Jesus Christ.[81][82] Some observers refer to this as "Branhamism," however, followers of Branham generally refer to themselves as "Message Believers."[83]

The primary medium of evangelization in the "Message" are the publication of Branham's sermons of approximately 1,100 audio sermons of which over 300 are in print.[84]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Weaver 2000, pp. 22.
  2. ^ a b c Harrel 1978, pp. 28.
  3. ^ Weaver 2000, pp. 173.
  4. ^ Larson 2004, pp. 79.
  5. ^ Harrel 1978, pp. 164.
  6. ^ Weaver 2000, pp. x.
  7. ^ Weaver 2000, pp. 20-22.
  8. ^ Sheryl 2013, pp. 11.
  9. ^ Duyzer 2014, pp. 46.
  10. ^ Weaver 2000, pp. 23.
  11. ^ Duyzer 2014, pp. 87.
  12. ^ Liardon, R., God's Generals (Whitaker House, 2003), p. 283
  13. ^ Weaver 2000, pp. 25.
  14. ^ Weaver 2000, pp. 33.
  15. ^ Harrell 1978, pp. 28.
  16. ^ Duyzer 2014, pp. 12.
  17. ^ Weaver 2000, pp. 32-33.
  18. ^ Jeffersonville Evening News, August 17, 1935. Accessed February 9, 2013
  19. ^ Weaver 2000, pp. 32.
  20. ^ Weaver 2000, pp. 38.
  21. ^ Jeffersonville Evening News, June 2, 1933
  22. ^ Weaver 2000, pp. 28-29.
  23. ^ Anderson 2004, pp. 58.
  24. ^ Kraphol & Lippy 1999, pp. 69.
  25. ^ a b Harrel 1978, pp. 32.
  26. ^ a b Harrel 1978, pp. 47.
  27. ^ Voice of Healing, Vol 1, No 1, April 1948
  28. ^ Hollenweger 1972, pp. 354.
  29. ^ Kydd 1998, p. 172-173.
  30. ^ a b c Weaver 2000, pp. 50.
  31. ^ Harrel 1978, pp. 34.
  32. ^ a b Harrel 1978, pp. 35.
  33. ^ Weaver 2000, pp. 57.
  34. ^ Weaver 2000, pp. 56.
  35. ^ Duyzer 2014, pp. 192.
  36. ^ Duyzer 2014, pp. 193.
  37. ^ Harrel 1978, pp. 38.
  38. ^ Bosworth, F. F., Gifts of Healing Plus (in Stadsklev, J., William Branham: A Prophet Visits South Africa, 1952)
  39. ^ Hollenweger 1997, pp. 229.
  40. ^ a b Harrel 1978, pp. 39.
  41. ^ Weaver 2000, pp. 93.
  42. ^ Reiterman & Jacobs 1982, pp. 9–10.
  43. ^ Weaver 2000, pp. 94.
  44. ^ Harrel 1978, pp. 160.
  45. ^ a b c d e Harrel 1978, pp. 163.
  46. ^ Weaver 2000, pp. 133.
  47. ^ Weaver 2000, pp. 140.
  48. ^ Head-On Collision Kills 1, Injures 6, Friona Star, December 1965
  49. ^ Harrell 1975, p. 164.
  50. ^ Weaver 2000, p. 153-154.
  51. ^ Weaver 2000, pp. 105.
  52. ^ Liardon 2003, pp. 354.
  53. ^ a b Weaver 2000, pp. 98.
  54. ^ a b Weaver 2000, pp. 118.
  55. ^ William Branham, Sermon:Hebrews Chapter Four, September 1, 1957
  56. ^ a b c Weaver 2000, pp. 119.
  57. ^ Weaver 2000, pp. 120.
  58. ^ Weaver 2000, pp. 121.
  59. ^ a b Weaver 2000, pp. 111.
  60. ^ Weaver 2000, pp. 113.
  61. ^ Weaver 2000, pp. 125.
  62. ^ Weaver 2000, pp. 124.
  63. ^ a b c Weaver 2000, pp. 114.
  64. ^ Weaver 2000, pp. 109.
  65. ^ Weaver 2000, pp. 110.
  66. ^ Weaver 2000, pp. 112.
  67. ^ Weaver 2000, pp. 29.
  68. ^ Weaver 2000, pp. 30-31.
  69. ^ Weaver 2000, pp. 103-104.
  70. ^ Weaver 2000, pp. 99.
  71. ^ Weaver 2000, pp. 99-100.
  72. ^ Weaver 2000, pp. 101.
  73. ^ Weaver 2000, pp. 116-117.
  74. ^ Harrel 1978, pp. 19.
  75. ^ Weaver 2000, pp. 58.
  76. ^ Burgess & van der Maas 2002, pp. 440.
  77. ^ Hanegraaff 2001, pp. 152.
  78. ^ Moriarty 1992, pp. 55.
  79. ^ Danny G. Reid et al., Dictionary of Christianity in America (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1990).
  80. ^ a b Weaver 2000, pp. 156.
  81. ^ Weaver 2000, pp. 27.
  82. ^ Green P., Acts of the Prophet (Tucson, AZ: Tucson Tabernacle, 2011) , p. 117
  83. ^ Weaver 2000, pp. vi.
  84. ^ Weaver 2000, pp. 152.

Bibliography[edit]

Secondary sources[edit]

  • Anderson, A. (2004). An Introduction to Pentecostalism. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521532808. 
  • Burgess, Stanley M.; van der Maas, Eduard M. (2002). The New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements. Zondervan. ISBN 978-0310224815. 
  • Duyzer, Peter M. (2014). Legend of the Fall, An Evaluation of William Branham and His Message. Independent Scholar's Press. ISBN 9781927581155. 
  • Hanegraaff, Hank (2001). Counterfeit Revival. Thomas Nelson Publishers. ISBN 0-8499-4294-2. 
  • Harrell, David (1978). All Things Are Possible: The Healing and Charismatic Revivals in Modern America. Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-525-24136-1. 
  • Hollenweger, Walter J. (1997). Pentecostalism: Origins and Developments Worldwide. Baker Academic. ISBN 978-0801046605. 
  • Stewart, Don (1999). Only Believe: An Eyewitness Account of the Great Healing Revival of the 20th Century. Treasure House. ISBN 978-1560433408. 
  • Weaver, C. Douglas (2000). The Healer-Prophet: William Marrion Branham (A study of the Prophetic in American Pentecostalism). Mercer University Press. ISBN 978-0253202215. 

Primary sources[edit]

  • Lindsay, Gordon (1950). William Branham: A Man Sent From God. William Branham Evangelistic Association. ASIN B0007ENQ64. 
  • Stadsklev, Julius (1952). William Branham: A Man Sent From God. Julius Stadsklev. ASIN B0007EW174. 
  • Vayle, Lee (1965). Twentieth Century Prophet. William Branham Evangelistic Association. 
  • Green, Pearry (1969). William Branham, The Acts of a Prophet. CreateSpace. ISBN 978-1463711344. 

External links[edit]

Supportive of William Branham[edit]

Neutral or Critical of William Branham[edit]