Branhamism is a controversial
exonymfor the distinctive doctrines of William M. Branham(1909-1965), an American faith healerand preacher of the mid-twentieth century. The term is generally disliked by adherents, who typically refer to themselves as 'Message Believers' or simply 'Christians' and to Branham's teachings as the Message of the Hour. Groups of these Message believers can be found around the world without any overall formal affiliation or governance. As such, these groups can range from the comparatively orthodox to groups that would fit the popular definition of cults. A central teaching of these believers is the idea that Branham was the final major prophet to the Christian church as a fulfillment of Malachi 4:5, and had a divinely appointed ministry of restoring the true apostolic faith to the church which had been lost by denominationalism.
doctrines include Godhead, The Baptismal formula, the serpent seeddoctrine, attitude to women and divorce, and eschatology.
ermons and Books
The primary source for the distinctive doctrine are the recorded sermons of William Branham. Some of these sermons have been put into book form and translated into other languages. Some groups of Branham's followers regard these sermons as being of equal authority to the Bible, while others regard them as being of generally lesser authority with only those sections for which Branham explicitly claimed to be speaking "Thus Saith the Lord" as being divinely inspired.
In addition to the recorded sermons, Branham also preached a series of sermons on the Seven Church Ages sometimes referred to as "The Revelation of Jesus Christ series". [cite web| url = http://tucsontabernacle.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=70:seven-church-ages-unedited&catid=35:sermon-series&Itemid=66| title = The Revelation of Jesus Christ series of sermons | accessdate = 2008-07-29 | publisher = Tucson Tabernacle |date= ] These sermons were later edited by
Lee Vayleinto a book called "An Exposition of the Seven Church Ages" (commonly referred to as the "Church Age Book"). [cite web| url = http://tucsontabernacle.com/index.php?view=article&catid=35%3Asermon-series&id=69%3Aan-exposition-of-the-seven-church-ages-&option=com_content&Itemid=66| title = An Exposition of the Seven Church Ages | accessdate = 2008-07-29 | publisher = Tucson Tabernacle |date= ]
Some followers believe that the most important contribution of Branham is the 'Revelation of the Seven Seals' delivered in a series of sermons preached in March, 1963. [
* [http://www.williambranhamhomepage.org/lseals.htm William Branham Home Page] Quote from Seven Seal page: "Following the instructions of one of the Seven Angels Brother Branham journeyed back to his home church in Jeffersonville, Indiana and from March 17th - 24th., 1963 he preached on the Revelation of the Mystery of the Seven Seals"
* [http://www.thefreeword.com/books/2263-L.pdf First Seal (sermon text)]
* [http://www.thefreeword.com/books/2363-L.pdf Second Seal (sermon text)]
* [http://www.thefreeword.com/books/2463-L.pdf Third Seal (sermon text)]
* [http://www.thefreeword.com/books/2563-L.pdf Fourth Seal (sermon text)]
* [http://www.thefreeword.com/books/2663-L.pdf Fifth Seal (sermon text)]
* [http://www.thefreeword.com/books/2763-L.pdf Sixth Seal (sermon text)]
* [http://www.thefreeword.com/books/2963-L.pdf Seventh Seal (sermon text)] ]
ize and Distribution
preachingagainst denominationalism has deterred the formation of widespread formal associations of groups of Branham’s followers. This makes it difficult to establish how many followers exist today. An unofficial estimate by grandson David Branham in 1986, based upon literature distribution, gave the figure at 300,000 worldwide. [ (C. Douglas Weaver, "The Healer Prophet, William Marrion Branham: A Study of the Prophetic in American Pentecostalism", 1987, p. 149)]
Some adherents claim that the figure is much larger today and could range as high as 1.5 million. Others disagree that it is much smaller, claiming the the majority of followers only claim to be Branham's followers but in reality only believe a distorted version his teachings. [ [http://www.thecontender.org/read/faninhand.htm Read Contenders ] ]
Groups of Branham's followers are widely distributed around the world, including
North America, Latin America, Africa, Europe, Australiaand many parts of Asia. [* [http://www.believethesign.com/impact.htm "World Wide Impact", Believe the Sign]
* [http://www.wmb1.com/de/~diego/ChurchSitesA.shtml Church Locations] Click on world map.
* [http://www.williambranham.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=36&Itemid=141 Church Websites & Locations] ]
Voice of God Recordings, the major distributor of materials related to William Branham's ministry, currently produce print, audio and video materials in a total of 51 languages. [ [http://www.branham.org/branhamdefault.asp?Home=BlogArchive&LoadPageDetail=WebLog_2004_01.asp&SearchWordResults=51%20languages "On-line Product Catalog Available In February", Voice of God Recordings, 1/16/2004.] ] Bible Believers Missions, based in British Columbia, also conducts an extensive international outreach with Message materials. [ [http://www.bibleway.org/missions/reports/default.asp Bible Believers Missions] ]
Doctrines of Godhead and Incarnation
One of the most distinctive features of Branhamism is the rejection of both the trinitarian view of the Godhead and the views held by
Oneness Pentecostalgroups. Branham taught that there is but One God (The Father), and that God (The Father) is Spirit and therefore The Father and The Holy Spiritare in fact the same being. He also taught that God (who was the father of Jesus) entered Jesus at the River Jordan and left Jesus in Gethsemane so that he could go to the cross as a mortal to bleed and die for the salvation of man.
He explained in his sermon, "Revelation Chapter One 60-1204M P:66", "Now, at the
Nicene Council, they come to two great decisions on the... Oh, many of them in that day of the early church fathers, they had two extreme views. One of them was a triune God, a trinitarian. And the other one was a one God. And they both come into existence and went out on two straight limbs, out like that. The triunity became a place of a three-god person. The oneness became a unitarian, just as far wrong as the other one was. So they both went on limbs, but right in here reveals the Truth. Jesus could not be His own Father."
He also taught that since every son has a beginning, the Son of God also must, by definition, have a beginning. This is in contrast to the trinitarian belief in the co-eternity of Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
Trinitarianposition holds that "in the unity of the Godhead there are Three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, these Three Persons being truly distinct one from another." [ [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15047a.htm 'The Catholic Encyclopedia'] ]
Branham was quite outspoken in his denouncements of
Trinitarianism: :"Let me say this with godly love..."Trinitarianism is of the Devil." I say that THUS SAITH THE LORD. Look where it come from. It come from the Nicene Council when the Catholic church become in rulership. The word "trinity" is not even mentioned in the entire Book of the Bible. And as far as three Gods, that's from hell. There's one God. That's exactly right."( [http://www.nathan.co.za/message.asp?sermonum=708 ‘Revelations Chapter 4 Part 3, Mercy Throne’, 8 January 1961] )
Branham supported his teachings with scriptures such as Matthew 1:18::"Now, the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost."
:"I thought God was His Father? Now, has He got two fathers, brethren? He can't have. If He was, He was a bastard child, and what kind of a religion have we got there? You've got to admit that God the Father and the Holy Ghost is the same self Spirit. Sure it is. Sure, it's the same self Spirit." ( [http://www.nathan.co.za/message.asp?sermonum=761 ‘The Godhead Explained’, 25 March 1961] While some theologians dismiss Branham’s teaching on the incarnation of God in man as a common feature of
Mormonism, followers of Branhamism see this as a necessary part of the process of redemption and refer to John 3:3 ("except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God") with the reasoning that being born again is not a birth into humanity, but a birth into God's image, the complete fulfillment of which will become apparent when the flesh is no longer present (Romans 8:21).
erpent's Seed Doctrine
Branham taught that the fall of mankind resulted from Eve having sexual intercourse with an upright serpent (at that stage not a snake but the "missing link" between apes and man, the serpent's current form is a result of God's curse in Genesis 3:14).
:"And the only way this serpent could plant the seed, he was the only animal next to the human being. For in the evolution of mankind, when man--God brood upon the earth... And He begin to bring up birds, and the--from birds He come to different things, then chimpanzee, and from the chimpanzee to the serpent." ( [http://www.nathan.co.za/message.asp?sermonum=1066 'Questions and Answers', 30 August 1964] )
Versions of the
serpent seeddoctrine appear in a number of sects and cults, notably the Christian Identity Movementwhere it is used as a justification for racism. William Branham was well aware of the potential racist connections of the doctrine and the racial tendencies of the world in general (the Ku Klux Klanpaid for his medical bills after he was shot in the leg as a child) but he tried not to carry any of these racist interpretations into his teachings:
:"I just was talking about Martin Luther King on this great disaster that they're having in the south, with the--the colored people. I said, "If those people were slaves, I'd take my church and go south to help them people out of slavery." I sure would, because man makes slaves, not God. We're all of one blood. We all come from one tree, and that was from Adam. God, by one blood has made all nations. And whether we, our colors are brown, or black, or yellow, or red, or whatever it might be, we are all creatures of the Almighty (See?), and there shouldn't be any differences in us."( [http://www.nathan.co.za/message.asp?sermonum=951 'He Cares, Do You Care?', 21 July 1963] )
William Branham supported the doctrine of the serpent seed with various scriptures including: :" for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present [you as] a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ."(1 Corinthians 11:2b,3)
:"Such [is] the way of an adulterous woman; she eateth, and wipeth her mouth, and saith, I have done no wickedness."(Proverbs 30:20)
:"she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they [were] naked;"(Genesis 3:6b,7a)
:"Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children;"(Genesis 3:16)
Branham identified the tree of the knowledge of good and evil as being Satan, and the tree of life as being God himself.
William Branham said that one basis for his assertion that Eve had sexual intercourse with the serpent was in Eve’s claim that the serpent had "beguiled" her (3:13 in the King James Version), "beguiled" actually meant sexually seduced or defiled rather than deceived (which most contemporary translations give). The original Hebrew word is "nasha", which literally means to lead astray or to mentally delude with a secondary meaning to morally deceive.
Branham also focused on Adam’s willful decision to join Eve in her sin (e.g. Romans. 5:12-19, 1 Corinthians 15:21,22) as a type of Christ taking on our own sin for our redemption. :"Adam took her back. He knew exactly what he was doing, but he did it any way. She was a part of him, and he was willing to take her responsibility upon himself. He would not let her go. So Eve conceived by him. He knew she would. He knew exactly what would happen to the human race, and he sold the human race into sin that he might have Eve, for he loved her." ( ['Ephesian Church Age', William Branham] )
Further evidence that Branham claimed for the serpent’s seed doctrine was his assertion that Cain and his descendants showed the characteristics of Satan, which were not shown by Abel, Seth and his descendants. The source of inspiration for the unnatural acts of Cain and his descendants was revealed in John 1:13, which states "Not as Cain, [who] was of that wicked one, and slew his brother." In contrast to Cain's descendants, Seth's descendants were righteous, particularly Enoch who "walked with God: and he [was] not; for God took him" (Genesis 5:24). William Branham also noted that Cain was excluded from Adam's physical lineage in Jude 1:14 "And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam".
Branham believed that Cain and Seth's lineages are present today: :"Cain's children is here in Jeffersonville tonight, and Seth's children's here in Jeffersonville tonight. As the blood stream weakens and goes out, but that lineage still hangs on." ( [http://www.nathan.co.za/message.asp?sermonum=445 'Questions and Answers Hebrews Part 3', 6 October 1957] )
In spite of Branham's statements that God does not consider nationality in his plan of grace and salvation, his critics don't separate his teachings from racist origins. Key evidence in their argument is the fact that Branham disliked hybrids and would frequently denounce cross-breeding, usually Branham would refer to just plants and animals, however his denunciation of cross-breeding also extended to racial purity amongst humans. [ [http://www.nathan.co.za/message.asp?sermonum=445 ‘Questions and Answers Hebrews Part 3’, 6 October 1957] ] [ [http://www.nathan.co.za/message.asp?sermonum=1066 ‘Questions and Answers’, 30 August 1964] )]
Critics claim that Branham said that ancestral lineage could prevent them receiving salvation regardless of how sincere their faith was. The following quote is used as evidence of this: :"And now, if God being just, if all He required was worship, Cain worshiped God with just as much sincerity as Abel did. Both of them were sincere. Both of them was trying to find grace with God. They were neither one of them infidels. They were both absolutely believers in Jehovah. Now, there, that gives us something to think of. Some here tonight I've never seen, people, I've never seen you before. But you must realize this, and keep this in your mind. See? No matter how religious you are, that don't have one thing to do with it. You might live in church; you might be ever so sincere; and you're still lost." ( [http://www.nathan.co.za/message.asp?sermonum=445 'Questions and Answers Hebrews Part 3', 6 October 1957] )
Branham's followers attribute the quote to
predestination, rather than just serpent seed and cite Branham's additional comments in the same sermon::"Cause there was no colored or white, or any other different; it was just one race of people unto the flood. Then after the flood and the tower of Babel, when they begin to scatter out, that's when they taken their colors and so forth. They're all come from the same tree...See? It's God Who chooses. It's God Who elects (See?), God Who gives mercy. The clay can't say to the potter; it's the potter over the clay. That's right."
William Branham taught that the doctrine of the serpent seed was essential because it revealed why Jesus had to be born of a virgin birth and the reason why Jesus had to shed His blood:
:"Look at Calvary. When that blood cell was housed up, God Himself coming down, building around Himself a Blood cell in the womb of Mary. That Blood cell developed another cell, a cell on a cell. And It was born, the virgin born Son of God; God was inside of Him, the Spirit. Then at Calvary He become a blood sacrifice. And a cruel spear embalmed His body, and broke that blood cell; Out come the life breaking forth from life: water, blood, spirit.:"And now that man coming to Jesus Christ today, and coming through the blood, comes into the Blood cell in fellowship by the Holy Spirit, becomes a part of God, has God's Life in him, becomes a son and daughter of God. It's just as impossible for that man to be lost, as it is for God Himself to be lost." ( [http://www.nathan.co.za/message.asp?sermonum=239 'The Mark of Christ', 12 March 1955] )
Raymond M Jackson
The Message of the Hour
* [http://people.delphiforums.com/johnk63/home.htm William Branham and His Message] An Examination of the Teachings of William Branham from a Former Follower's Perspective
* [http://www.believethesign.com believethesign.com] An introduction to the Ministry of William Branham
* [http://www.thefreeword.com Free Word website :: William Branham Sermons] Complete Library of the Sermons of William Marrion Branham in both audio and text format
* [http://www.messagedoctrine.net MessageDoctrine.net] Brian Kocourek and Lee Vayle present certain of the doctrinal teachings of William Branham
* [http://WMB1.com WMB1.com :: William Branham Legacy] Complete Resource of Information covering 1909 to present day William Branham eLibrary
* [http://www.SpokenWordChurch.com Spoken Word Church] Spoken Word Church, Sermons & Videos of William Branham
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