Question 24 (ABM) - Grounds for Divorce according to William Branham
The following are a series of questions and answers between one of our editors (referred to as BTS) and an anonymous Branham minister (referred to as ABM). This series of Q&A relates to William Branham's doctrine and teaching. The full text of this question and its answer is below.
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Question 24 - Grounds for Divorce according to William Branham
Thanks for your responses to date. I do find our discussions useful and I do think they will be useful to others who might read them in the future.
While I do disagree with and take significant exception with your conclusions and the reasoning you use to get to your conclusions, I also appreciate that you are not an angry person and we can carry on a reasonable discussion. Almost everyone in the message that we have had contact with becomes incredibly angry when we disagree with William Branham.
I want to move towards some of William Branham's unscriptural teachings.
One of the more controversial teachings of William Branham is the subject of Marriage and Divorce.
Specifically, William Branham was of the view that a man was permitted to divorce his wife for any of the following 3 reasons:
My question, which follows after my discussion below, is with respect to what constitutes biblical grounds for divorce. It is my view that, from a biblical perspective, William Branham's teaching on this subject is contrary to the plain meaning of scripture.
I apologize for the length of this email but I want to include a reasonably complete summation of what the Bible teaches on the subject of divorce. This summary will also form the basis for a further question on the subject of remarriage, so I do have some general comments on that issue. But that is not the question that I am concerned with in this email. I simply want to address what are acceptable grounds for divorce from a biblical perspective. We can deal with the issue of remarriage in a subsequent question.
Mark is generally seen as the oldest of the Gospel (i.e. the first one written) so we will start there:
It is clear from this passage that the genders are equal when it comes to remarriage. Mark 10:11 is addressed to men and Mark 10:12 is directed towards women. If a man remarries, he is guilty of adultery. If a woman remarries, she is guilty of adultery.
The interesting thing about this passage is that the Lord refused to answer the Pharisees’ question about divorce until they clearly understood God’s will for marriage - what God has joined together, let not man separate.
He then deals with the remarriage question directly when he is alone with the disciples. He clearly states that remarriage is wrong because it is adulterous: a man who remarries after divorce commits adultery and in the same way a woman who remarries after divorcing her husband commits adultery.
Since Jesus specifically calls remarriage after legal divorce ‘adultery’, he is saying that although the two may be legally divorced, they are still married before God. This means that remarriage is not only wrong, it is impossible at the deepest level. Jesus is saying that it is not actually possible to marry again during the lifetime of a divorced partner; it is only possible to commit adultery, even though from a legal point of view this new ‘marriage’ has been properly entered into. And he does not differentiate between the sexes.
Jesus taught that a man who divorced his wife and remarried committed adultery ‘against her’ i.e. his first wife. Jewish law did not recognize this. A woman could commit adultery against her husband by having an extra-marital affair. A man could commit adultery against another man by having an affair with that other man’s wife. But if the woman was unmarried, then the sin of the man was fornication (since intercourse is only permitted within marriage) and not adultery (since the woman was not married). It was not possible, under Jewish law, for a man to commit adultery against his own wife.
Jesus clearly changes Mosaic law and introduces gender equality into divorce and remarriage. A wife, according to Jesus, has just as great a right to fidelity as a husband. It is just as much adultery against her if he has an affair as it is adultery against him if she has an affair. Or to state more accurately what Jesus says: If the man remarries having divorced his wife, this is an offense against her and, specifically, the sin of adultery. She is just as much sinned against in this case as he would be if she remarried after divorcing him.
Mark is also unique among the Gospels because it records Jesus not only forbidding the man to divorce and remarry but forbidding the wife the same thing. St Paul also states that Jesus told wives not to divorce their husbands (1 Cor. 7:10). This was impossible under Jewish law, according to which a wife could sue the courts for divorce but could not directly divorce her husband.
Luke contains a single verse on the issue of divorce:
This verse addresses the issue of remarriage. The first half of this verse is virtually identical to Mark 10:11 The second part of the verse adds a new point to that of Mark - it is also adultery for a single man to marry a divorced woman. The entire verse is addressed to the man. Jesus says: it is wrong to marry another woman after divorcing your wife; it is just as wrong to marry (for the first time) a woman who has been divorced. In other words, the divorced woman’s first marriage still exists despite the legal divorce and therefore true remarriage is actually impossible in reality, and in God’s eyes (as opposed to those of the law of the land), it can only be adultery.
Matthew records 2 passages on the issue of divorce, the first being in Matthew 5.
Again, these two verses are addressed to the man. The first part of verse 31 (ignoring the exception for sexual immorality for the moment) is identical to the first portion of Luke 16:18 - whoever divorces his wife – but the end of the statement is very different. The assumption is that, after being divorced, she will remarry. She commits adultery BUT the guilt for the sin is her first husband’s (and not hers). He ‘causes her’ to commit adultery: he drives her to it. Admittedly, she should not get remarried, but the greater sin—though it does not excuse her action or make the remarriage all right—is her husband’s for divorcing her in the first place.
It is clear from William Branham’s teaching on this issue that he completely misses the point of Jesus statement when he states:
William Branham’s statement here completely ignores Mark 10:11 and Luke 16:18. It also assumes that Matthew’s lack of speaking to the woman somehow allows a man to remarry and a woman not to remarry.
You can’t make a doctrine out of silence. You have to take the scripture as a whole.
What Jesus is saying is that the divorced woman commits adultery by remarrying, and her first husband should have prevented it by not freeing her and giving her economic reason to marry another man.
Dealing with the exception clause, the phrase “except sexual immorality” uses the Greek word “porneia” from which we derive the English word “pornography”. Its normal meaning would be that of illicit sexual intercourse but would also include other sexual acts such as incest, homosexuality and bestiality. It is probably for this reason that the more general word porneia is used in preference to the more specific term for adultery (moicheia).
But why is the exception here and not in Mark or Luke?
Both Jewish and Roman law demanded divorce in the case of adultery; a Christian would therefore be breaking the law if he did not divorce an adulterous wife. Divorce in these circumstances was also considered mandatory in some of the writings of the early church.
The assumption is that Jesus (in his teaching recorded in Mark and Luke) was aware that divorce would take place—or at least was permissible—in the case of adultery; and Matthew simply brought out what everybody knew already.
One thing that is clear is that the main thrust of Jesus’ teaching, and what stuck in his disciples’ minds (and therefore not in either Mark or Luke), was not the exception but the forbidding of divorce and of remarriage. It is also clear that Jesus does not here state that remarriage is permissible where there is illicit sexual activity during marriage but simply that divorce is permitted only in such circumstances.
The last part of Matthew 5:32 is basically the same as the last part of Luke 16:18
William Branham misinterprets this passage as follows:
William Branham thinks that the KJV interpretation of the word porneia is something that refers to activity prior to marriage, which it is not. The NIV interprets it as “except for marital unfaithfulness”; the GNT as “other than her unfaithfulness”; and the Amplified as “except on the grounds of unfaithfulness”. His interpretation does not stand up to scrutiny if you look at the true meaning of the Greek.
This passage is Matthew’s account of the incident told in Mark 10:1-12. As in Matthew 5:32, but unlike the passage in Mark, Matthew’s account contains an exception. The wording in the Greek is similar here and again uses the Greek word “porneia”.
Clearly Jesus allows divorce where there has been illicit sexual activity. But is he also allowing remarriage for the partner who has not committed adultery, where there has been divorce for adultery?
Two positions are possible. Either Jesus allows separation, including legal divorce, in the case of porneia (marital unfaithfulness) but maintains that the marriage bond is still in existence and therefore even in this instance remarriage would be adultery: or he allows full divorce in the case of adultery, a divorce which dissolves the marriage bond and therefore opens the way for remarriage.
The exception phrase comes after the verb ‘divorce’ and modifies the clause ‘anyone who divorces his wife’. This is the obvious—indeed the only—position in the sentence that Matthew could put the phrase if he wanted to say that divorce is permissible in the case of adultery but remarriage is not. If Matthew had written: ‘Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, except in the case of marital unfaithfulness’, then it would be clear that remarriage was allowed. But that is not how it is worded. This passage as a whole makes more sense if Jesus is rescinding the whole concept of full divorce which the Mosaic legislation permitted.
This position also makes sense in the context of the reaction of the disciples to Jesus teachings – “His disciples said to Him, “If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” (Matt 19:10)
If Jesus was allowing remarriage after divorce for adultery why would the disciples react with such surprise??? It can only be because he laid down a law that was so strict that they could not even comprehend it. Jesus’s reply to the disciples’ surprised reaction was also surprising. While they may have expected him to refute their comment, what he did was comment on the positive value of being single.
The disciples are amazed at Jesus’ reply. They have understood him to say something much more strict than anything they had encountered. Jesus is not allowing remarriage even in the case of adultery; he is saying that even in the case of adultery the marriage bond still exists.
Jesus’ response to the dismay of the disciples is also interesting. He states - “Not everyone can accept this statement, except those to whom it has been given.” Does this mean that if you can’t accept it you don’t have to? Does it mean it doesn’t apply to everyone? Is this principle not practical for everyone? Or is it that not everyone can understand what is being said but only those to whom God had given understanding? Apparently all of these interpretations are possible from the Greek wording of the passage.
The Corinthians had written to Paul (1 Cor 7:1) specifically asking him questions on a variety of matters which he addresses in his letter to them. In fact, the second part of 1 Cor 7:1 – “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman” – appears to be a direct quotation from their letter which Paul would be in some agreement. But he does not agree with how they are using it.
The leading commentators believe that it was the women in the church especially who were saying that sexual intercourse was to be avoided. From 1 Cor 7:1-6, it is very likely that the women in the Corinthian church were denying sexual intimacy to their husbands (‘have his own wife’ in verse 2 means ‘have intercourse with his wife’, it does not mean ‘get married to his own wife’). Commentators think that it may well have been this which drove some of the men to seek sexual satisfaction with prostitutes (1 Cor 6:15–20). The Corinthians thought that because they were people of the Spirit, they had moved to a higher plane, the realm of spirit, where they were unaffected by behavior that had merely to do with the body. The word for ‘immorality’ in 1 Cor 7:2, has the same root as the word for prostitution (porn-) and is in the plural (literally: because of the immoralities), which may refer to the men having sex with prostitutes. Thus 7:2 would then be saying: Since the men are resorting to prostitutes, each man should be allowed to have intercourse with his own wife (contrary to the teaching (verse 1) espoused by the Corinthian women).
Dealing with divorce, Paul approaches two distinct issues:
It is very important to recognize these separate distinct issues when looking at the question. His comments where there are 2 believing spouses are by way of command (“not I, but the Lord”) and his comments where only one spouse is a believer appear to be by way of suggestion (“I, not the Lord”).
1 Corinthians 7:10-12
:And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: 11 But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.
In 1 Cor 7:10-11, Paul is speaking to believing couples. But why does Paul major so heavily on the wife and adds the husband almost as an afterthought? The order of Paul’s concern, which is addressed first and primarily to the women, lends credence to the suggestion that the problem stems basically from women in the church who were using their slogan from 1 Cor 7:1 to reject sexual relations with their husbands (verse 5), and arguing for divorce if it came to that. In speaking to “the married,” Paul is directing his response to couples where both partners are believers. This is made certain by 1 Cor 7:12–16, where, in a way that balances with 1 Cor 7:10–11, he addresses “the rest,” whom that context defines as believers married to unbelievers.
Paul specifically refers to the fact that Jesus himself spoke to this question, so he states that it is “not I” from whom this command comes, “but the Lord.”
“No divorce” is what is “commanded” for believers; nonetheless, just as in all the other situations addressed in this chapter, Paul allows an exception: “but if indeed she is separated.” “No divorce” is not turned into law, and the woman who does so is not put out of the community. What is disallowed is precisely what one finds in the teaching of Jesus: no remarriage, i.e. no adultery. Hence if she does separate, she must continue to follow the command “Stay as you are,” meaning now “Remain unmarried.”
The wife who divorces her husband may not use her present unmarried condition as an excuse for remarriage to someone else. If she does in fact desire to remarry, she must “be reconciled to her husband.” This is in keeping with Paul’s view expressed elsewhere that for believers marriage is permanent, from its inception until the decease of one of the partners (1 Cor 7:39; Rom. 7:1–3). The command is clear: she is to remain as she is and not divorce her husband; but if she were to disobey this first directive, then she must again remain as she is and not commit adultery by remarrying someone else. If she does not like her new unmarried status, then she must be reconciled to her husband.
What is true of the wife, Paul adds, is likewise true of the husband: “And a husband must not divorce his wife.” The lack of an exception here suggests that this is not where the problem lay; although one could imply that what is said of the wife would apply to the husband as well.
William Branham's teaching on divorce is completely against scripture when he states:
He moves even farther from Paul's teaching on the subject when he states:
There is nowhere in the Bible that this is taught. And certainly this goes directly against Paul's teaching when he states, "let not the husband put away his wife."
William. Branham further misses the whole point of Paul’s teaching when he states:
How did Brother Branham create an exception when none is given? And specifically, when Paul commands that the husband not divorce his wife, how is any exception allowed? Nowhere does Paul permit either directly or indirectly any remarriage of the husband in this verse.
Paul is effectively stating that if a Christian husband and wife cannot be reconciled to one another, then how can they expect to become models of reconciliation before a fractured and broken world?
1 Corinthians 7:12-16
Paul’s answer is consistent with 1 Cor 7:10–11; they are to “stay as they are.” The believer may not initiate divorce (1 Cor 7:12–13), for which in this instance a reason is added (1 Cor 7:14). But as before, there is an exception; if the pagan chooses to leave, then the believer is not bound to maintain the marriage (1 Cor 7:15). But God’s call is to “peace”, which means further that one should maintain the marriage in the hope of the unbelieving spouse’s conversion (1 Cor 7:16). The believer may not pursue divorce, “but if” the unbeliever separates, let him or her do so. That is, if the pagan spouse seeks the dissolution of the marriage, then allow the divorce.
The real difficulty with this passage is with the middle part of verse 15, “a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases.” That is, they are not bound to the ruling given above about maintaining the marriage. They have wanted to dissolve such marriages. Paul has said “No”. But now he allows that if the pagan wants out, then one is not enslaved.
Does this mean that the believer is free to remarry? There are a number of reasons why this does not appear to be the case:
The real problem with this passage is that its focus on maintaining mixed marriages (but allowing them to dissolve if the pagan initiates the action) does not offer much help on the problem of remarriage.
The Early Church
It should be added that from earliest post-New Testament days, writers in the early church wrote about divorce and remarriage. Almost always their teaching is about remarriage—rather than merely about divorce. In almost every case they write against remarriage and mention no exceptions. When writing about divorce they do quite frequently mention the permission—which they quite often make into a command—to divorce where there has been adultery. The overwhelming majority of them do not allow remarriage in these circumstances. Some specifically prohibit it; others simply say: there should be no remarriage after divorce. They mention no exceptions.
William Branham's teaching on marriage and divorce is just plain wrong according to the Bible. As a result, it is common in message churches for men to divorce their wives and remarry. Message ministers do not speak against this because they would be speaking against their prophet.
QUESTION: Do you agree with William Branham's doctrinal teaching that a man can divorce his wife for any of the following 3 reasons?
I want to keep this question very specific to the issue of divorce in these three cases so am not asking about his position with respect to remarriage. We can deal with this later but I do not want to confuse the issue of divorce with that of remarriage.
If you are in agreement with William Branham that a man can divorce his wife for any of these three reasons, please substantiate this with biblical support.
Quotes of William Branham
The following are quotes of William Branham which are included for completeness and reference:
The Bible claims, if a woman cuts her hair, a man's got a right to put her away in divorcement, because she's not honest with him. We have to get down and preach the Bible here some of these days. Said, "If she bobs her hair, she dishonors her husband." If she's dishonorable, she ought to be put away. You can't marry another one, but you can put her away. Whew. Boy, that—that's going hard; I can feel it. But that's the truth.
And the woman had a dress on, and if I'd see my wife like that, I'd divorce her. And that's exactly the truth. I wouldn't... I'd put her away, out there like that, and paint all over her face....
Notice, he can put away his wife any time he wants to, but she can't put him away...
Now you notice in First Corinthians 7:10, notice, Paul commands the wife that is, that divorces her husband, to remain single or be reconciled, not to remarry. She must remain single, or to be reconciled back to her husband. She cannot remarry. She must remain single, but, notice, he never said about the man. See, you can't make the Word lie. "From the beginning," the sex law by polygamy. Now, the Word of God runs true with nature of God, runs in to continuity.
I have told you the Truth, THUS SAITH THE LORD, all the way through! 
Response from ABM
Thank you for your continued dialogue. I can appreciate that many people get angry when you disagree with Bro. Branham. Those of my sect have long experienced this, going all the way back to when Bro. Branham was alive.
I have carefully read your email, and as far as doctrinal considerations go, I believe we largely agree, perhaps with one exception. I will state what we believe and then go on to try and show how we reconcile it with Bro. Branham's teachings.
How we handle divorce.
In short, we follow Paul's formula. Divorce falls into two categories. (1) Divorce where both are believers. (2) Divorce where only one party is a believer. The rule varies based on which situation a person is in.
We believe that the only circumstances in which two believers may divorce is in the case of adultery. Matthew 19:9 is our basis for this statement. In this case, we also believe in excommunicating the guilty party according to 1 Cor 5:9 for a period of time. We do allow an opening; if the two spouses choose to reconcile, then excommunication is lifted. We believe the decision to divorce belongs solely to innocent spouse according to Matt 19:9. The spouse who committed adultery has no right to remarry if there is a divorce. As long as the guilty spouse remains unmarried, they can be forgiven and received back into the fellowship after a period of time has passed. We find no scripture authorizing a new marriage for someone guilty of adultery. The innocent spouse is free to remarry. We base this freedom of the innocent spouse to remarry based on Matt 19:9 also, Jesus use of the word "except" implies remarriage in the case of adultery is permitted for the innocent party.
In the case where one spouse is a believer, but the other is an unbeliever, the believer is free to divorce if they are not well treated by their unbelieving spouse. If the believing spouse is not well treated, this is evidence that the unbelieving spouse is not pleased to dwell with them. We do not prevent the believer from initiating the divorce of their unbelieving spouse in this case. We base this on 1 Cor 7:12–16. We believe that "being pleased to dwell together" means to dwell happily and in peace together. If you review the greek word (strongs 4909), it does not simply mean "willing", but it means also "gratified" and is elsewhere translated as "hearty agreement". It implies a certain attitude be present in the unbelieving spouse. So if we find a lack of that attitude in the unbelieving spouse, we permit the believing spouse to divorce. For example, if an unbeliever mocked the believer for their faith and was constantly a thorn, yet never pressed divorce, the believing spouse is free to divorce. (We would try to counsel the situation first) So we are quite liberal in granting believers the freedom to divorce their unbelieving spouse.
If two believers have problems which are not adultery, they are permitted to separate. Divorce is not permitted. This is according to 1 Cor 7:11
If two people are married, and one is abusive, after counseling we can deem the abusive spouse to be an unbeliever, excommunicate the unbeliever, and permit the believing spouse to divorce and remarry. This is not explicitly stated in scripture, but we interpret Matthew 18:15-17 to give us a mechanism to declare someone an unbeliever, and having thus been decided, our interpretation of 1 Cor 7:12-16 takes effect.
We deem any marital sin prior to conversion to be forgiven through baptism and repentance. We do not consider any pre-conversion reason as valid reason to divorce or to prevent remarriage. This can be a bit complicated, but will leave it at that.
Reconciling Bro. Branham's teachings
What I have elaborated above seems somewhat different than your opinion of Bro. Branham's teachings. Let me explain how we derive our belief from his teachings.
We begin by understanding the situations going on in the Tabernacle that prompted Bro. Branham to preach Marriage and Divorce to begin with. We understand that outsiders do not have the full context of the situations there, and some things which are obvious to us are not obvious to others. We secondarily believe Bro. Branham was not trying to create new doctrine on this subject, but simply interpret existing scripture. (Idolaters on the other hand believe he was trying to put forward some new standard. This is error. He was just promoting what he believed was a traditional Christian view of divorce.)
There were several people at the church who had unbelieving spouses. In the cases of a wife dishonoring her husband, we understand Bro. Branham was speaking about cases with an unbelieving spouse. If the unbelieving spouse dishonored their believing spouse that would be an indication that they were unwilling to dwell together in peace. This would be grounds for divorce under 1 Cor 7:12-16. However, if both spouses were believers, this would not be grounds for divorce. So in this manner, we feel we fully reconcile what Bro. Branham taught on these points to scripture. (It is not clear to outsiders that Bro. Branham was speaking specifically of cases of an unbelieving spouse when he spoke of the cases where the wife dishonored her husband.)
In the case where Bro. Branham says a woman has no right to remarry in the case where her husband divorces her, we believe he just did not communicate clearly and many people (including message people) misunderstand what he meant. We interpret his teaching to mean that the party guilty of adultery has no right to remarry, whether it is the man or the woman. He merely used the example of a husband as the innocent party. We agree that there is equality between man and woman in these matters, and we believe Bro. Branham believed so himself. He was just not clear on this point. Emphasis is on the guilty party not being able to remarry, not on the gender.
In the case where a woman had relations prior to marriage but did not disclose it to her husband prior to marriage, we differ with you slightly. We do believe in Old Testatement times, this would be a cause for divorce, immediately following the consummation of the marriage when the lack of virginity was discovered. (Duet 22) If, immediately after a marriage, a husband found his wife to not be a virgin, we believe it would be acceptable to annul the marriage. We have, however, never witnessed such a case. So this is purely a hypothetical situation. We have heard of some message sects allowing divorce years after marriage for this reason. We do not believe this was in keeping with the scripture. If the request to divorce for this reason is not immediate following the marriage consummation, it is not a valid reason to divorce. We would, of course, if such a situation arose, do everything within our power to encourage the two spouses to reconcile and not divorce. (We believe Bro. Branham did think it was acceptable to divorce a woman years after their marriage if he discovered she had not been a virgin at marriage. However, this is not scriptural, and we believe he had a mistaken understanding.)
In the case where Bro. Branham says "he can put her away, but she cannot put him away", we also accept this teaching. But we interpret it differently that you are. We believe in the specific cases he gave, that the party guilty of adultery has no right force the divorce. It is the innocent party who has the right to chose a divorce. The prerogative of divorce or reconciliation lays completely with the innocent party. Bro. Branham merely stated if from the perspective of the man being the innocent party - however the reverse could also be true. So again, we believe this is equal for both genders, and the emphasis is not on the gender but on the guilty party.
I am aware how other sects of the message have went crazy with Bro. Branham's statements. Some adopted polygamy, some divorced their wife of many years for no good reason, others used it to hold women in bondage. That is wicked, and those men are wicked. We do not blame Bro. Branham for their wickedness, because we see through his own life how treated his wife and understand how we felt about marriage. I view people who use Bro. Branham's statements to justify their immorality no differently than people who twist the sayings of Jesus.
You ask: Do you agree with William Branham's doctrinal teaching that a man can divorce his wife for any of the following 3 reasons?
If the wife cuts her hair; or
If the wife dresses in a manner that the husband doesn't like
If the wife had sex with a man other than her husband prior to marriage but did not tell her husband prior to their marriage.
I would say that all three of these scenarios are very petty reasons to divorce and we would counsel the parties to not divorce for these reasons. But if they pressed for divorce and ignored our counseling, we would permit it. In all cases, including adultery, we seek to have the couple delay any decision to divorce, but separate if necessary. We see divorce as the last resort. In cases of abuse, we are quick to encourage separation and in cases of serious abuse we move quickly to excommunicate the abuser and report to the authorities. We have several thousand people in our associated churches, so we have had to deal with these issues from time to time and believe we have a very scriptural system. Divorce is uncommon in our "sect" of the message. It is primarily driven by cases of adultery in my experience.
Follow up from BTS - Polygamy and Equality of the Sexes
I agree that it does not appear that William Branham was trying to bring some new standard on marriage and divorce. I think that he was trying to bring his view of scripture. But as I stated in my original email, I think his understanding and interpretation of scripture is blatantly and obviously wrong.
You state, “He was just promoting what he believed was a traditional Christian view of divorce.” I do not agree with this statement. I do think he set a separate standard between men and women. This is not the traditional position of the church.
I think your attempt to reconcile William Branham's teaching to scripture is a result of cognitive dissonance. You cannot accept that William Branham could be significantly wrong in his teaching and, therefore, you must reconcile his teachings with scripture, even if that is not possible from what he clearly said. Your belief that he is a prophet will not allow you to have any substantial disagreement with him.
You state that "It is not clear to outsiders that Bro. Branham was speaking specifically of cases of an unbelieving spouse when he spoke of the cases where the wife dishonored her husband". I believe you must make this distinction even if it is not the case. More on that later.
You stated, “We agree that there is equality between man and woman in these matters.”
This is what the New Testament teaches, so we are in agreement. But there are other issues where we are clearly in disagreement.
You stated, “We believe Bro. Branham did think it was acceptable to divorce a woman years after their marriage if he discovered she had not been a virgin at marriage. However, this is not scriptural, and we believe he had a mistaken understanding.”
This is a significant statement. But I believe he was mistaken in a more significant way.
You later state, “If a wife was found to not be a virgin on her wedding night, she could be put away, but only if it was done immediately. (Duet 22, which yes is the law. But I believe it establishes the principle. We would not stone the woman, but we would permit the divorce.)”
I will go into the issue of William Branham’s view of the law and its application in the New Testament church in a later question. However, it is clear as we stated in our original question that Jesus clearly changed Mosaic law in his teaching on divorce. Given that, how can you justify bringing the law into the New Testament? Jesus did not carry the principle of Jewish law on divorce into the new covenant, so why would a principle of that law apply here except that you must agree with William Branham?
You state, “We deem any marital sin prior to conversion to be forgiven through baptism and repentance. We do not consider any pre-conversion reason as valid reason to divorce or to prevent remarriage.“ I agree with this statement but would apply it to all sexual immorality. But you make an exception for this on the marriage night? I don’t understand how you can make such an exception from the New Testament.
You state, “In the case where Bro. Branham says "he can put her away, but she cannot put him away", we also accept this teaching. But we interpret it differently that you are. We believe in the specific cases he gave, that the party guilty of adultery has no right force the divorce. It is the innocent party who has the right to chose a divorce. The prerogative of divorce or reconciliation lays completely with the innocent party. Bro. Branham merely stated if from the perspective of the man being the innocent party - however the reverse could also be true. So again, we believe this is equal for both genders, and the emphasis is not on the gender but on the guilty party”.
This disagrees with the plain meaning of William Branham’s statements:
WMB obviously held men to a different standard for divorce than women. He specifically states, “he never said about the man.” Why would he say that if he was not making a distinction between men and women? I understand that this is not scriptural. That is my whole point. I also think the reason virtually everyone in the message would disagree with you is that they actually understand what William Branham taught on the issue.
You state, “a wife who dishonors her husband by cutting her hair inappropriately, he may divorce her if she is an unbeliever (if she is a believer, it is not grounds for divorce).”
You go on to state, “If an unbelieving wife dresses in a way her husband does not like that is not grounds for divorce. I do not think this question actually reflects what Bro. Branham taught. I believe he presented it in a manner in which she dishonored her husband. But if she dresses in a (sic) inappropriate way that dishonors her husband, yes that is grounds for divorce if she is an unbeliever (if she is a believer, it is not grounds for divorce).“
But this is not what Paul plainly taught in 1 Cor 7:12-13:
This does not say that if the unbelieving wife cuts her hair but still wants to live with her husband that the believing husband has the right to divorce her. It also does not say that if the unbelieving wife dresses in a manner that the believing husband does not like but she still wants to live with her husband that he has the right to divorce her. To argue this is twisting the passage to mean something it clearly does not state. This also holds true equally to the woman. The issue is the desire to remain married, not whether the unbelieving wife has "dishonoured" her husband in a way that she does not even understand or in a way that may be normal cultural behaviour for a married woman.
There is nothing in the New Testament to support your statement or William Branham's statements. This is contrary to the preaching of Christ and to the apostle Paul.
You state, “I would say that all three of these scenarios are very petty reasons to divorce and we would counsel the parties to not divorce for these reasons.”
We believe that the teachings of Jesus and that of the apostle Paul are clear. The three reasons that William Branham gave were not scriptural and cannot be supported from any New Testament teaching. In fact, they are contrary to the plain meaning of the New Testament.
Reply from ABM
I can appreciate your position. I apologize for the length of my email. I do not think we are that far apart on the subject of divorce and remarriage. I would summarize our contrasting views on divorce as follows (please correct me if I am mistaken) You and I are in near complete agreement in our position on divorce between believers We disagree over permitting divorce in the hypothetical case where one spouse failed to disclosure their non-virginity prior to marriage, but I think the practical result of our full views would have the same result of no divorces occurring for this reason We disagree over whether a believing spouse can initiate a divorce against their unbelieving spouse We likewise disagree over remarriage in such a case. We believe a believer who is divorced from an unbeliever may remarry, while you believe they may not remarry From my perspective, those are the root issues behind our disagreement over Bro. Branham's statements. Bro. Branham's statements about divorce for cutting hair, dressing inappropriate, and dishonoring your spouse are based on his belief that a believer may initiate divorce an unbeliever in certain circumstances.
Scriptural rationale to permit a believer to remarry if they have divorced from an unbeleiver
We interpret 1 Cor 7:12-13 where Paul states "she is willing to live with him" differently than you. I do not believe I am twisting the meaning. That word "willing" is not an adequate translations of the Greek word "syneudokei". The Greek word also means gratified, pleased, or hearty agreement. In the King James Version, which we use, it says "she is pleased to dwell with him". (Other translations use the word "contented", "happy", and not "willing". Strong's says: "4909 syneudokéō (from 4862 /sýn, "identity with" and 2106 /eudokéō, "seems good") – properly, to consent in a "hearty" (personal) way, in keeping with the close identification involved (note the syn); enthusiastically agree to cooperate with a partner to reach solutions, i.e. to achieve the things both have committed to do together.") It implies an attitude be present in the unbelieving spouse. This meaning is lost when a translator merely uses the word "willing". And doing something which dishonors your spouse is a clear sign that a pleased, gratified, or hearty attitude is not present in the unbeliever. Thus divorce can be permitted in cases where the attitude of the unbeleiver is not one that can be described as gratified, pleased, or hearty.
We further believe that Matthew 19:11 indicates Jesus's rules for divorce only applies to situations where the parties involved are both believers who accept his teachings. Finally, we believe it is a sin to marry an unbeliever according to 2 Cor 6:14 (among other verses). The sin of marrying an unbeliever is forgiven at conversion, and thus frees the believer to remarry should their marriage end.
It seems like your position has a logical fallacy. You would permit a remarriage if the believer divorced prior to conversion, but not after. (I may be misunderstanding though)
Emphasis is on the guilty party, not the gender
We interpret what Bro. Branham said differently from each other. You interpret it to place the emphasis on gender, we interpret it to place emphasis on the guilty party. We believe that each time he suggests the woman is in an inferior position, it is in the scenario where she is the guilty party. It is not her gender which leads to an inferior position, but her status as the guilty party.
You state that virtually every message believer would disagree with what I am saying. That is very mistaken and an oversatement, and a sign of your lack of knowledge of the full movement. There are hundreds of fellowships who believe in the manner I expressed, and you can find confirmation of my statements in the literature of those fellowships. I would agree with you that the idolaters widely believe the way you interpret it. But there are certainly thousands of message believers who believe in the manner I am explaining to you here.
Cognitive dissonance or rightly dividing the word?
You suggest we reconcile Bro. Branham's teachings to the bible because we cannot accept Bro. Branham was a false prophet. I would suggest we reconcile them to the bible because we are Christians who believe the bible is the authoritative source of truth. Bro. Branham is not the only person we extend this courtesy to.
A comparative example would be Martin Luther. Martin Luther was a Jew hater, in no uncertain terms. He used scripture to justify if Jew hatred. Hilter subsequently used writings of Martin Luther to justify the the Holocaust. Martin Luther was badly mistaken in his hatred of Jews. Yet clearly, he was a great man of God. Without him, the reformation would have looked very different, or perhaps never happened.
We also extend this courtesy to the men of the bible. Paul said in 1 Cor 7:1 “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman". This seems to be completely contrary the bible. In fact God commanded mankind to be fruitful and multiple. How can this happen without sexual relations? Why is Paul discouraging people from doing the very thing God commanded them to do? Yet, I understand Paul must have had a good intent in what he was saying and I find away to interpret it in that manner. We can see that men took what Paul said concerning sexual relations and largely used that for the basis of a celibate priesthood. Can we blame Paul for that? No, we blame the people who twisted his teachings, and did not view them in light of the full scripture.
Failure to disclose non-virginity before marriage and the law of Moses
You state: "... it is clear as we stated in our original question that Jesus clearly changed Mosaic law in his teaching on divorce. Given that, how can you justify bringing the law into the New Testament? Jesus did not carry the principle of Jewish law on divorce into the new covenant, so why would a principle of that law apply here except that you must agree with William Branham?"
I think our disagreement is only slight on this issue. I think in a practical sense, when you think it through, our two overall positions would arrive at the same end result - there would be no divorces occur because of a failure to disclose non-virginity. We have never authorized a divorce for such a reason, and no one has ever asked us for a divorce for such a reason. I am aware of a few cases in other sects of the movement where this was used to legitimize divorce - but in all those situations those were wicked men who were guilty of adultery and other sins and were merely seeking some way to justify their wickedness.
I do disagree slightly with your statement's form though. Jesus did not change the law of Moses, he fulfilled it. The law of Moses is still perfectly in effect, in a sense. (Matt 5:17-18 "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.) I would note that the entirety of the law of Moses is not yet fulfilled. We can get into that later. But in essence, we are not bound to keep the precepts of the law to obtain salvation, but we are bound to use it as a guide to inform our understanding (among other things). Paul somewhat explains this in Gal 3:24-25 ("Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.") By calling it a schoolmaster, we understand it is possible to learn from the law, without still being ruled by it. Paul did just that, his faith and beliefs were informed by the law. So while we do not observe its precepts, it is a tool useful for learning and understanding. Christ did not cancel the law or change it, he fulfilled it. What was a type in the law, is now fulfilled in our lives through Christ. So without a depth of explanation, I find no problem with using Deut 22 to inform our interpretation of marriage and divorce. Note: Duet 22 makes no mention of divorce, it is a separate type of case. Thus when Jesus spoke of divorce in Matt 19, the case of Duet 22 was not within his scope of consideration, because Duet 22 did not involve a divorce.
You ask why I would I bring a principle of the law into the New Testament? I do it to inform my understanding. Just like you take what the law states as a mechanism for detecting a false prophet, and use it inform your understanding. You use the law in a limited way. You would not suggest we should take Bro. Branham out and stone him in New Testatement times, you would just suggest we reject him. So in that way you use the law to understand how to handle something in New Testament times. I am merely doing the same.
I stated “We deem any marital sin prior to conversion to be forgiven through baptism and repentance. We do not consider any pre-conversion reason as valid reason to divorce or to prevent remarriage.“ Then you stated and asked: "I agree with this statement but would apply it to all sexual immorality. But you make an exception for this on the marriage night? I don’t understand how you can make such an exception from the New Testament."
We agree in part, the sin of fornication or any sexual immorality is certainly forgiven at conversion. Past forgiven sin is not a cause for divorce. But dishonesty in the present is a new sin. To mislead your spouse about your past is dishonesty. You would expect a spouse to disclose their credit card debt before marriage, for example. It would be very unfair to your spouse to not disclose things that will be impactful to the marriage. This is why counseling before marriage is important, to deal with all these things before they actually happen. A good ministry is going to help their congregants avoid having problems like this to begin with.
When reading the law, we must come to understand the spiritual implications of the law. Because for it to be fulfilled in us, we must be the fulfill what it typed. I can look at Duet 22 and see that it sets a standard that spouses must be honest to each other prior to marriage and not marry under false pretenses. Thus I can spiritualize the type established in the law, the law which we are to fullfill. We fulfill it not by divorcing because of a failure to disclose something prior to marriage, but we fullfill by actually disclosing such things before marriage. So I feel like maybe you miss the point here. The point is not to find grounds to make a divorce. The point is to encourage believers to be fully honest with each other before marriage. And as I have said, we have never had a divorce in any of our fellowships for a reason like this, because we endeavor to fulfill what the law pointed to - honesty before marriage.
But say you have a poor ministry who is not counseling people who get married, and are not fullfilling the type set forward in the law. Let me carry this out to the extreme. Say the spouse you marry is discovered to have contracted a serious STD, and you only find all this out immediately following the marriage because one spouse misled the other and failed to honestly disclose their situation. Perhaps sores are immediately visible and questions lead to the discovery. Imagine the great turmoil this introduces to the marriage immediately. Sexual relations is an important part of marriage, and if the very act of consummating the marriage requires one spouse partake of an awful disease... I hope you can see my thought... (This is a way that a non-virgin husband can also be discovered). We would permit a divorce in this circumstance. Why would we force two people to stay together when marital consummation or continued relations mean contracting a disease? Clearly, the agreement to marry was made under a false pretense. God is not a hard God, so we can look into Duet 22, and we find a principle in the old testament that can inform our understanding and give us a way in which we can handle such an unpleasant situation. Would you force the pair to remain married if they didn't want to after such a discovery? Like I said, we have never known of such a case in any of our churches.
Implications of your position
Let me consider fully the implication of your position (please correct me if I am mistaken). You interpret scripture to say a believer may never divorce an unbeliever in any circumstance. Only the unbelieving spouse may initiate divorce.
So if that be what the bible says, how do I handle situations of abuse? Do I force a believing spouse to remain married to an abusive unbelieving spouse? If the unbelieving spouse is unwilling to divorce, it seems like the believer is trapped.. Your interpretation would provide no mechanism for a believing spouse to escape an abusive spouse. And if they did escape (which would violate your interpretation of the command of Paul to stay together if their unbelieving spouse chose to dwell with them), you still see no grounds for the believer to press a divorce?
Worse, how do I handle a situation where there is abuse between two professed believers and the abuser refuses to reform? This woman (or man) is now trapped for the rest of his life in the marriage, her only option is to separate and live a celibate life for no fault of her own. This seems cruel to me, and not fitting with the character of the gospel.
You state "There is nothing in the New Testament to support your statement or William Branham's statements. This is contrary to the preaching of Christ and to the apostle Paul."
I believe I have presented a case using Matt 19:11, the logic that their sin of marrying an unbeliever is forgiven at conversion, and a proper interpretation of the Greek word "syneudokei" in 1 Cor 7:12-16, to substantiate my belief. Divorce in any case would only come after a failure at counseling and attempts to reconcile, which Bro. Branham also believed and taught which is an important component I think you are leaving out. And finally, needing to be honest with each other prior to marriage is a perfectly fair interpretation of scripture, and the bible does give allowances (in the old testament) for terminating (the term divorce is not applied to such situation) the marriage in such cases.
Reply from BTS - Do you agree with William Branham?
To continue our conversation, as I previously stated, I don't want to deal with the remarriage situation as yet. It complicates things.
And I also don't want to deal with a myriad of issues that distract from what William Branham taught, such as abuse (which he never dealt with). I specifically listed three specific issues where William Branham's views are unscriptural.
So to simplify the question, I want to focus on one of William Branham's unscriptural views - where the wife cuts her hair.
Here are the facts I would like you to consider:
I agree with you that this is a petty issue BUT William Branham states that in this situation the husband has a right to divorce the wife.
It appears that the plain meaning of 1 Cor 7:12 must be ignored if you allow a Christan man to take the initiative and divorce his non-Christian wife simply for cutting her hair in accordance with cultural and societal norms.
Scripture is plain:
Are you in agreement with William Branham on this issue?
Further response from ABM - Women cutting their hair
I think I see another point perhaps where we disconnect. Hair cutting.
Now if your point number 3 was that the wife was refusing to dress and present herself like a lady, but rather insisted on fashioning herself more like a man, then yes, it would be grounds for divorce if it could not be reconciled.
However, if the total facts of the situation are only the three points you give, then I would never approve of such a divorce.
Bro. Branham would not either. First because you leave out the requirement for the couple to be counseled and attempt to reconcile, which he fully supported.
Secondly, I have to interpret what Bro. Branham means by "cutting her hair". Bro. Branham's wife cut her hair... If cutting hair in any form was dishonoring the husband and a divorcable offence, then why would he have remained married to his wife? I am sorry I did not realize you interpreted him to mean no hair cutting at all is permitted. His daughters cut their hair also. My wife cuts her hair. My daughters cut their hair. Pretty well all the woman in our "sect" of the movement cut their hair. And they and did so when they went to the tabernacle while Bro. Branham was living too. He invited us to his house, he never said a thing about it to any of us. He told us we looked holy and proper. (This is one of the things the Ontario street preachers harass our people about, women's hair is too short they say.) Bro. Branham accepted it then and never condemned it. When he talks about cutting hair, we understand, given the context, he means cutting their hair into a style like that or similar to that of a man. A "bobbed" haircut. So hair below the shoulder is entirely acceptable and in no way grounds for divorce, and in no way dishonors to one's husband.
It is only the idolaters who ever took his sayings and interpreted to mean they could not cut their hair at all. It was just his personal desire to see no women cut their hair. The bible does not support an idea like that. If you look into his question and answers series he was asked a question about this. He was very clear that cutting of hair was not completely forbidden, but was acceptable within limits.
Later in the same message her refers back.
Is it wrong to trim the ends of woman's hair?
He indicates clearly he has no scripture for his position, that it is his personal conviction and desire for them to not cut their hair at all, but that he sees nothing wrong with some degree of hair cutting. That said, if someone has a conviction not to cut their hair, that is their freedom to not do so. Holiness is not the outward... It is on the inside.
I understand you want to keep topic focused, but I do not see the other issues related to divorce as completely severable from the discussion. Divorce is an important subject, and the scriptures for it are few and limited. Therefore the precise interpretation of them is critical. If we do not view 1 Cor 7 as providing a rationale for authorizing a believer to initiate divorce from an unbeliever, then there is no scriptural rationale within the bible to then authorize it. This put converted believers then in a very bad position if their mate turns hostile to them but refuses to divorce. I have counseled many married people over the years, and without this interpretation, I do not know another scriptural basis on which I could help those people. "Sorry, go back to your hard unbelieving spouse" does not sound like something Jesus would say.
William Branham did not mean what he said?
Thanks for your response. This is one of my big issues with William Branham - he was all over the map on issues.
Additionally, I was very clear that I wanted to keep this question to the three simple non-scriptural views on divorce that William Branham had. I understand that the whole marriage and divorce issue is incredibly complicated and there are almost an infinite set of variables that you have to deal with when discussing the issue.
I also did not state that a spouse that was being physically abused by their partner could not leave the marriage. That was not an issue that WMB was dealing with.
William Branham clearly stated his view with respect to the issue of a wife cutting her hair.
But now you seem to be saying that he didn't mean that. This is notwithstanding the fact that he said it not once but on multiple occasions - a wife cutting her hair was grounds for divorce.
How can he not mean what he said?
This is someone that I am supposed to take spiritual direction from?
I should add that I do not think that everything William Branham said was wrong. To the extent that he said what scripture said, he spoke the truth. But on this issue, he clearly departs from scripture.
Response from ABM re William Branham's confusing statements
I understand what you are saying concerning conflicting statements, and I agree there are plenty of them. The reason that questions was asked him about hair cutting and trimming was because what he said about had been confusing. I know the one who asked him that question... After Bro. Branham died they started coming to my church, and stayed in fellowship with us until she died.. But as I have said several times in our dialogue, accept the good and reject the bad.
I am sorry if I have over complicated things for you. But I feel it is important to show the same scripture which would be used to allow divorcing an abusive unbeliever, is wrote very liberally, and allows for divorce between a believer and unbeliever for very little cause, including the circumstance I believe Bro. Branham was talking about. I understand we disagree on that point. I just don't understand, if you reject 1 Cor 7 as permitting a believer to initiate a divorce of an unbeliever, where else you find any scriptural justification for it, without conflicting with your own interpretation of 1 Cor 7. When you are so absolute in your interpretation of that scripture, it undermines a Christian's ability to put forward a scriptural position to deal with more difficult divorce situations. At any rate, I will let that go.
I feel clear that Bro. Branham showed that his rationale was because his example case equaled dishonoring the spouse, and that really is the grounds for the divorce, more so than the act which manifested the dishonor. Bro. Branham said if he saw his wife like what he described, he would divorce her. So we can fairly conclude that when he talks about cutting hair, he did not consider her hair cutting to be in the scope of what he was looking at... Yes, it is unfortunate he was not more clear on this. But it was unfortunate Paul was not more clear when he said "It is not good for a man to have sexual relations." Both men have had their statements twisted to support false doctrines by many people.
If you want a last word on this, I will let you take it.
I appreciate your thoughtfulness in your questions. I truly believe that in the end, our beliefs would have the similar practical results concerning divorce. And as Bro. Branham carried out marriage counseling, I believe it also had the same practical results. I hope you maybe see something useful in my responses.