Branch Davidians

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Branch Davidians
Waco Branch Davidians Flag.png
A painting of the Branch Davidian flag
Benjamin Roden
Regions with significant populations
Branch Davidian Seventh Day Adventists
Mount Carmel 12
Isaiah 9:7, Ezekiel 9, Hosea 1–2, Micah 6:9, Micah 7:14, Zechariah 3:8; 6:12, Matthew 20, Revelation 5:2, Revelation 7:6, Revelation 13, Revelation 14

The Branch Davidians (also known as "The Branch") are a religious group that originated in 1955 from a schism in the Davidian Seventh-day Adventists ("Davidians"), a reform movement that began as an offshoot from the Seventh-day Adventist Church ("Adventists") around 1930. Some of those who accepted the reform message had been removed from membership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church because of their supplemental teachings. Today, the original Davidian Seventh-day Adventists and the Branch Davidian Seventh-day Adventists are two different and distinct groups. The doctrinal beliefs differ on major teachings such as the Holy Spirit and Its nature, and the feast days and their requirements. Both groups have disputed the relevance of the other's spiritual authority based on the proceedings following Victor Houteff's death. From its inception in 1930, the reform movement believed themselves to be living in a time when Biblical prophecies of a final divine judgment were coming to pass as a prelude to Christ's Second Coming.

In 1993 the ATF, FBI, and Texas National Guard raided one of their properties for suspected weapons violations. Once the Branch Davidians met the raid with gunfire they were laid siege for 51 days. The siege ended with a raid which resulted in the deaths of the Branch Davidians' leader, David Koresh, as well as 82 other Branch Davidian men, women, and children, and four ATF agents.[2][3]

Early history[edit]

In 1929 Victor Houteff, a Bulgarian immigrant and a Seventh-day Adventist Sabbath School teacher in a local church in Southern California, claimed that he had a new message for the entire church. He presented this message in a book, The Shepherd's Rod: The 144,000—A Call for Reformation.[4] The Adventist leadership rejected Houteff's message as contrary to the Adventists' basic teachings and disfellowshipped Houteff and his followers. However, there was some controversy over the method the leadership took to disfellowship Houteff.

In 1935 Houteff established his headquarters to the west of Waco, Texas and his group became known as The Shepherd's Rod Seventh-day Adventists.[5] In 1942 he renamed the group to the General Association of Davidian Seventh-day Adventists, 'Davidian' indicating the belief in the restoration of the Davidic Kingdom of Israel. Following Houteff's death in 1955, the segment of the group loyal to Houteff continued as the Davidian Seventh-day Adventists, led by his wife Florence. Convinced of the imminent apocalypse, Florence Houteff gathered hundreds of faithful followers together at their Mount Carmel Centre near Waco in 1959. [6]

Following this disappointment, Benjamin Roden formed a splinter group called the Branch Davidian Seventh-day Adventists and succeeded in taking control of Mount Carmel. This name is an allusion to the anointed 'Branch' (mentioned in Zechariah 3:8; 6:12). [7] [8] When Benjamin Roden died in 1978, he was succeeded by his wife Lois Roden. After Lois Roden died, a bitter power struggle ensued between Lois Roden's son George Roden and her designated successor David Koresh (then still using his birth name of Vernon Howell), eventually won by Koresh.

Rise of Koresh[edit]

David Koresh in 1987.

David Koresh's arrival on the Waco compound in 1981 was well received by nearly everyone at the Davidian commune. Koresh had an affair with the then-prophetess of the Branch Davidians Lois Roden. When she died, her son George Roden inherited the position of prophet and leader of the commune. However, George Roden and Koresh began to clash.[9] Koresh soon enjoyed the loyalty of the majority of the [Branch Davidian] community" [10]

As an attempt to regain support, George Roden challenged Koresh to raise the dead, going so far as to exhume a corpse to demonstrate his spiritual supremacy. This illegal activity gave Koresh an opportunity to attempt to file charges against Roden, however he was told he needed evidence. This led to the November 3rd, 1987 raid on the Mount Carmel Center by Koresh and 7 of his followers equipped with five .223 caliber semiautomatic rifles, two .22 caliber rifles, two 12-gauge shotguns and nearly 400 rounds of ammunition. Their objective seemed to be to retake the land that Koresh had left three years earlier although they claim to have been trying to obtain evidence of Roden's illegal activity, yet they did not come equipped with a camera.[11]

The trial ended with the jury finding the followers of Koresh not guilty, but were unable to agree on Koresh. After the followers were found not guilty Koresh invited the prosecutors to Mount Carmel for ice cream.[12]

As spiritual leader[edit]

Koresh, having gained the role of spiritual leader from Roden, asserted his spiritual role by changing his name from Vernon Howell (his birth name) to David Koresh, suggesting ties to the biblical King David and to Cyrus the Great (Koresh being Hebrew for Cyrus). In 1989 Koresh used this power as spiritual leader to take several "spiritual" wives, asserting he was to create a new lineage of world rulers. [13] This raised allegations of child abuse, which contributed to the proceeding siege by the ATF. [14]

Interpreting Revelation 5:2, Koresh identified himself with the Lamb mentioned in the verse. [15] [16] This is traditionally interpreted as a symbol of Jesus Christ, however Koresh suggested that the Lamb was to come before and lay a path ahead of the second coming of Jesus Christ. [17] [18]

Waco siege[edit]

FBI photo of Waco siege

By the time of the 1993 Waco siege, Koresh had encouraged his followers to think of themselves as "students of the Seven Seals" rather than as "Branch Davidians." During the standoff, one of his followers publicly announced that he wanted them to thereafter be identified by the name "Koreshians".[19]

It is claimed that Koresh was never authorised to use the name "Branch Davidians" for his breakaway sect,[20] and that the church of that name continues to represent that part of the Branch church which did not follow him.

Branch, The Lord Our Righteousness[edit]

One modern incarnation of The Branch Davidians exists under the leadership of Charles Pace, a former follower of Koresh. Pace left the Branch Davidians in the mid-1980s. He claims that Koresh twisted the Bible’s teachings by fathering more than a dozen children with members’ wives.[21] Pace feels the Lord "has anointed me and appointed me to be the leader" but he claims he is "not a prophet" but "a teacher of righteousness".[22] Like the Branch Davidians under Koresh, Branch, The Lord Our Righteousness is waiting for the end of times.[23]

In popular culture[edit]

References to The Branch Davidians can be found throughout the music of Boards of Canada including their song 1969 which contains a sample of an interview regarding Amo Bishop Roden as well as a song titled after Amo Bishop Roden herself.

The Waco siege is also referenced in Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake as the basis for a futuristic videogame, Three-Dimensional Waco.

The Mountain Goats released a song on the remastered version of their 2002 album All Hail West Texas, entitled Waco, about the siege.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Smyrl, Vivian Elizabeth. "Elk, Texas". Handbook of Texas – Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 25 November 2012. 
  2. ^ Gazecki, William; Gifford, Dan; McNulty, Michael. "Waco: The Rules of Engagement (1997)". Film Documentary. IMDb – Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 25 November 2012. 
  3. ^ Newport, Kenneth G.C. (June 22, 2006). "The Branch Davidians of Waco: The History and Beliefs of an Apocalyptic Sect". Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0199245741. 
  4. ^ The General Association of Branch Davidian Seventh Day Adventists. "The Shepherd's Rod, Vol. 1". Retrieved 2011-03-18. 
  5. ^ Pitts, William L. "Davidians and Branch Davidians". Handbook of Texas – Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved November 25, 2012. 
  6. ^ Melton, John Gordon. "Branch Davidian | Religious Organization". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2017-05-17. 
  7. ^ "Zechariah 3:8; “ ‘Listen, High Priest Joshua, you and your associates seated before you, who are men symbolic of things to come: I am going to bring my servant, the Branch.". Retrieved 2017-05-17. 
  8. ^ "Zechariah 6:12; Tell him this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the Lord.". Retrieved 2017-05-17. 
  9. ^ "Biography: David Koresh". PBS. Frontline. Retrieved 21 May 2016. 
  10. ^ David G. Bromley and Edward D. Silver (1995). The Davidian Tradition: From Patronal Clan to Prophetic Movement,. in Stuart A. Wright, Armageddon in Waco: Critical Perspectives on the Branch Davidian Conflict: Chicago: University of Chicago. p. 54. 
  11. ^ "BIOGRAPHY: David Koresh". PBS. Retrieved 23 May 2016. 
  12. ^ Nossiter, Adam (1993-03-10). "Warning of Violence Was Unheeded After Cult Leader's Gun Battle in '87". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-05-19. 
  13. ^ Melton, John Gordon. "Branch Davidian | Religious Organization". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2017-05-17. 
  14. ^ "Report to the Deputy Attorney General on the Events at Waco, Texas: Child Abuse | DOJ | Department of Justice". Retrieved 2017-05-17. 
  15. ^ Melton, John Gordon. "Branch Davidian | religious organization". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2017-05-17. 
  16. ^ "Revelation 5, New International Version (NIV) | Chapter 5 | The Bible App |". Retrieved 2017-05-17. 
  17. ^ Krell, Keith. "14. When All Heaven Breaks Loose! (Revelation 5:1-14)". Live Like You're Leaving: Revelation. Retrieved 2017-05-17. 
  18. ^ Melton, John Gordon. "Branch Davidian | Religious Organization". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2017-05-17. 
  19. ^ "Mr. Ricks [FBI negotiator] said today that Ms. Schroeder had told him that members of the sect, a renegade offshoot of Seventh-day Adventists, henceforth wanted to be known as Koreshians." By Robert Reinhold, Published: March 15, 1993 New York Times [brackets added].
  20. ^ The General Association of Branch Davidian Seventh Day Adventists
  21. ^ The Associated Press. "Near Waco, a New Fight Over an Old Compound". New York Times. Retrieved 12 May 2016. 
  22. ^ Burnett, John (April 20, 2013). "Two Decades Later, Some Branch Davidians Still Believe". National Public Radio. Retrieved 12 May 2016. 
  23. ^ Burnett, John (April 20, 2013). "Two Decades Later, Some Branch Davidians Still Believe". National Public Radio. Retrieved 12 May 2016. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 31°35′46″N 96°59′17″W / 31.596089°N 96.98804°W / 31.596089; -96.98804