William Branham

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Editors Note: The following biography is based on William Branham’s own statements. However, where a particular story is told more than one time, we have attempted to rely on the first, or original, version only.
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William Marrion Branham (April 8, 1908[1] – December 24, 1965) was a Christian evangelist who has been called the "pacesetter of the healing revival" [2] and a "prophet"[3]. Born in rural Kentucky, he was raised in humble circumstances and experienced many tragedies. In the 1940’s his healing ministry skyrocketed him from a rural pastor to an international evangelist.


Contents

Early Life

William Branham was born in a log cabin in the hills of Kentucky, the first of nine children of Charles and Ella Branham. The Branham family then moved to Utica, Indiana, and then farther down the Ohio valley[4].

William Branham said that he received two visions as a young boy. The first was when his father asked him to haul water from the barn to the house. As he was carrying water, a voice spoke to him out of a whirlwind in a tree and said, "Never drink, smoke, or defile your body in any way, for I have a work for you to do when you get older." The second vision happened a few weeks later when he was playing marbles with his brother. What he saw was of the construction of the Louisville Municipal Bridge being built across the Ohio River, and 16 men falling off to their death during its construction.

William Branham recalls that compared to other families, the Branham's were poor. At school his shoes were often torn, and he would sometimes wear a closed jacket when he had no shirt to wear.

When William Branham was 14 years old, he was shot in a hunting accident, and spent seven months in the hospital. Through his teenage years he did not want to have anything to do with God, or church. In 1928, he told his mother he was going camping in Tunnel Mill, Indiana, and left home to work as a ranch-hand in Phoenix, Arizona. He enjoyed himself until he received news that his brother Edward had died on June 20, 1929, and the joy of his adventure vanished.[5] Edward's funeral was taken by a close family friend, Rev. McKinney, who made a salvation call that William Branham refused.

William Branham found work in Indiana as a high-voltage linesman with the Indiana Public Works. In 1931 he was checking meters at the Gas Works in New Albany, and was overcome by fumes. As a result of this he began suffering from stomach acid. When he went to a specialist, he was told he had appendicitis and went for an operation. Afraid, he requested local anesthetic only, and brought along a minister from the First Baptist Church to stand by him. During the operation his mind went back to the whirlwind in the tree, and he promised to preach the Gospel if God would bring him through the operation.

During his slow recovery, William Branham began visiting different churches. One of those churches was the First Pentecostal Baptist Church of Jeffersonville, which was pastored by Rev. Roy Davis, a member of the Ku Klux Klan. It was here that William Branham first met Hope Brumbach, who was a youth leader and speaker at the church. Roy Davis preached strongly about the Pentecostal revival, and wrote that William Branham received the Holy Spirit in his front room.

It was at this time that William Branham began praying for the sick.

Early Ministry

William Branham became an elder in the First Pentecostal Baptist Church, and began ministering. Later that year, he has two visions: one of a man hit by a car getting healed, and another of an infirm woman being instantly healed. Within weeks, he prayed for both of these people and they were instantly healed.

William and Hope Branham

1933 was a remarkable year for William Branham,

  • He had his first evangelistic tent meetings in June 1933, in which 14 people were converted. He received front page news coverage of these meetings.
  • He started construction on the 'Pentecostal Tabernacle’ in Jeffersonville (this later became known as the 'Branham Tabernacle').
  • He experienced a series of seven prophecies that he talked about much in later years (see Prophecy for more details).

William Branham told of a vision he had on the morning he was laying the cornerstone for his new tablernacle. The vision was of an orchard, with places for new trees on either side of an aisle leading to the cross. Plum trees were on one side, and apple trees were on the other side, and both types of fruit were found in the cross. William Branham was instructed to walk between these trees (which he identified as the Trinitarian and Oneness Pentecostals), and do the work of an evangelist, as both types of fruit were found in the cross.

William Branham continued to work and preach, and married Hope Brumbach in 1934. William Branham also travelled north to a town called Mishawaka, where he was received warmly by a group of mixed European-American and African-American Pentecostals. William Branham often said that these Mishawaka meetings challenged his perspective on Christianity. In 1935, a son, Billy Paul, was born to William and Hope Branham.

In 1936 William Branham began receiving a number of invitations to preach at various Oneness and mixed-race churches, and was pressured by his mother-in-law not to accept these invitations. William Branham also said that he prophesied that the Ohio river would flood, and reach 22 feet over Spring Street in Jeffersonville. Finally, a daughter named Sharon Rose Branham was born to William and Hope Branham.

Tragedy and Recovery

In January 1937, the Ohio river flooded over Spring Street. Hope Branham became sick around this time, and died in the summer of 1937. Sharon Rose also passed away from disease in 1937. William Branham blamed the death of Hope and Sharon Rose on his decision to respect his mother-in-law’s request.

William Branham relays little about the years after the death of his wife and daughter. It was a period of extreme trial and depression, with William Branham attempting suicide twice during this time. Still, William Branham continued to work, and preach, and care for his son.

In 1940, William Branham prayed for a crippled boy and girl, and both were healed. This marked the start of his recovery. In 1941, he married Meda Broy. William Branham again continued to work and preach, while life quietly passed by. There is evidence of early healing revivals in the local areas around Jeffersonville at this time, primarily with the Oneness Pentecostal groups.

Commission and Evangelism

In March 1945 William Branham saw a vision of birds who would not eat from a small pile of white bread. A voice told him “That is your Tabernacle and they won't eat the bread of life anymore. I am sending you…westward.” William Branham was then shown a large tent with a platform at the front. Behind the tent was a great pile of the same white bread, and he was told to feed a white-robed audience that had gathered from everywhere. The following day, William Branham explained the vision to his church.

William Branham left Jeffersonville on June 14, 1945 and headed directly west with his wife, son, and Rev. Daugherty to St. Louis, Missouri. The testimonies from the tent meetings in St. Louis were compiled in a tract called I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision and distributed at subsequent revival meetings.

In 1946, Meda Branham gave birth to a girl, Rebekah.

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In June 1947, the Evening Sun newspaper of Jonesboro, Arkansas reported that "Residents of at least 25 States and Mexico have visited Jonesboro since Rev. Branham opened the camp meeting, June 1st. The total attendance for the services is likely to surpass the 20,000 mark." William Branham also met Gordon Lindsay in 1947, who became his primary manager and promoter. Shortly after, several other prominent Pentecostals joined his ministry team, including Ern Baxter and F.F. Bosworth. Gordon Lindsay proved to be an able publicist for Branham, founding The Voice of Healing magazine in 1948 which was originally aimed at reporting on Branham's healing campaigns.

His early work in faith healing attracted attention, and as stories began to spread of his healing gift, local pastors came to ask Branham to minister to their congregations and pray for the sick. When local churches could not accommodate the crowds, Branham's meetings were moved to larger auditoriums or stadiums for united campaigns in major cities in North America. His success soon took him to minister in countries around the world. According to a Pentecostal historian, "Branham filled the largest stadiums and meeting halls in the world."

On the night of January 24, 1950, an unusual photograph was taken during a speaking engagement in the Sam Houston Coliseum in Houston, Texas. The photograph was of William Branham standing at the podium, with a halo of light behind his head. William Branham claimed that this was a supernatural light, and paid to have the photograph examined by a professional, George J. Lacy, to confirm that the negative had not been tampered with.

William Branham continued his worldwide ministry, and the “Voice of Healing” magazine published in article in June 1950 about a boy who was raised to life in Finland during the William Branham campaigns, after being hit by a car.

By this time, William Branham was praying for the sick using two methods. The first was a physical reaction in his hand indicating the presence of germ diseases. The second was that he knew could talk to people directly about their lives without the need to ask questions. In 1951, William Branham prayed for a boy named Donny Morton, which was reported in both Chatelaine and Reader’s Digest. This article describes how William Branham described the boy’s situation to his father, without asking questions. However, after a long and difficult battle with meningitis, Donny Morton died of pneumonia while recovering from surgery.

In Durban, South Africa in 1951 William Branham addressed meetings sponsored by the Apostolic Faith Mission, the Assemblies of God, the Pentecostal Holiness Church, and the Full Gospel Church of God. Meetings were conducted in eleven cities, with a combined attendance of a half million people. On the final day of the Durban meetings, held at the Greyville Racecourse, an estimated 45,000 people attended and thousands more were turned away at the gates. As he travelled around the world he met many individuals of public influence.

During this time, over 1100 of William Branham’s sermons were recorded and transcribed.

The non-European section of the Durban congregation.
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Teaching Strange Doctrine

From the mid 1950s onwards William Branham became more open with his beliefs, and by the late 1950s he was openly stating that the Trinity as presented by most churches was not scriptural. He took the position that neither Oneness theology nor Trinitarianism lined up with the Bible. William Branham also started to teach a number of other doctrines which were considered to be unorthodox, such as the 'serpent's seed doctrine.

It was during these years that William Branham introduced the vision of the “third pull” that was to play a more significant part in later years. The third pull relates to a vision of an Angel who was teaching him how to fish. He was to cast his line out, pull slow at first (his healing ministry), jerk a little harder the second time (his discernment ministry), and set the hook for the catch on the third pull. However, in the vision William Branham got his line tangled, and the Angel rebuked him for making a public show of his ministry. The angel then took him back to a tent where people were being saved (reminiscent of his 1945 commissioning vision), and the pillar of fire leaves William Branham and goes back into a small building to meet people privately.

A Prophet?

In 1960 William Branham spoke a series of sermons on the Church Ages (see Seven Church Ages for more details) that outlined his views of church history and his interpretation of the first few chapters of the book of Revelation. In these sermons, William Branham predicted that the seven visions he saw in 1933 would be fulfilled by 1977. Much of these sermons is similar to the doctrines published by the Baptist theologian Clarence Larkin.

In 1962 William Branham moved to Tucson, Arizona. He came back for meetings in Jeffersonville in early 1963 where he preached about an angelic visitation he had received, and how he was divinely instructed to preach about the Seven Seals. These sermons contained a lot of church history, and also borrowed heavily from the commentary of Clarence Larkin. People who believe that William Branham was a major prophet consider these sermons the fulfillment of Matthew 17:11, where Jesus says that Elijah must come and “restore all things”.

In May 1962 William Branham expressed his confusion and decision at becoming a seer or an evangelist.[6] In June 1963 he tells of an angelic visitation where he is told to "Return! Did not I tell you in the beginning to do the work of an Evangelist?" In the same sermon, William Branham confesses that he has lost the love for the people, calling them "Ricky and Ricketta" when they are still children of God, and are only under bondage to denominations who tell them "don't you do this, and don't you do that." [7]

In January 1964, Kenneth Hagin had a prophecy that Gordon Lindsay communicated to William Branham, that the devil would take William Branham's life before the end of 1965 because of his own error.

Death

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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 Holidays. About three miles east of Friona, Texas just after dark, a car traveling west struck Branham's car head-on.

The driver of the other car died at the scene, as did the other front seat passenger. The other two passengers in the back seat of the car were severely injured. Branham's wife was seriously injured and his daughter Sarah was lying in the back seat and was also injured. Branham's left arm was mangled and caught in the driver-side door, and his left leg was wrapped around the steering wheel. After about 45 minutes Branham was pulled from his car and transported to the hospital at Friona, and then later transported to the hospital at Amarillo, Texas. He lived for six days after the crash, dying on December 24, 1965 at 5:49 PM. His body was returned to Jeffersonville, Indiana for burial.

References

  1. William Branham listed April 8, 1908 as his birthday on his marriage license to Hope Brumbach.
  2. The Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements: (Zondervan, 1988, p. 372) ~ Branham filled the largest stadiums and meeting halls in the world.’ ... As the pacesetter of the healing revival, Branham was the primary source of inspiration in the development of other healing ministries.
  3. The Full Gospel Men's Voice Magazine (February, 1961) ~ "In Bible Days, there were men of God who were Prophets and Seers. But in all the Sacred Records, none of these had a greater record than that of William Branham."
  4. Based on tract Jesus Christ the Same Yesterday, Today, and Forever written and published by William Branham.
  5. Edward Branham's death was reported on the front page of the Jeffersonville Evening News on Thursday, June 30, 1929, (http://searchingforvindication.com/assets/Bridge/19290620B.pdf)
  6. Questions and Answers, May 27, 1962
  7. Standing in the Gap, June 23, 1963


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