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 credibility. The full text of this question and its answer is below.
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Question 11 - A Faked Discernment?
I appreciate that you have admitted that William Branham did make mistakes, but disagree that these would not disqualify him as a prophet. I have run into people who also were of the view that he made errors, but they emphasize that we must avoid examining those mistakes but rather look at when he was under the "anointing" when the "Angel" was standing beside him.
The following is one of the more disturbing issues that I have found.
At a meeting on the evening of April 11, 1959 in a meeting in Los Angeles, California, William Branham calls out a person from the audience:
- Right straight back, the back of this place here, about middle ways of this aisle, there's a little--there's a woman, and she's suffering with a high blood pressure. She--she's not from here, she a Finn. She's from Finland. If you believe, sister, you receive your healing. "Jumalan rauhaa," rise up to your feet and accept your healing and be made well. God bless you. "Kiitos Jesus." Hallelujah! What was I saying?
The next evening, April 12, 1959 (also in Los Angeles), William Branham relates what happened the previous evening:
- Visions to me are just like a trance. And they were telling me of a woman that I had called back in--somewhere in the audiences, and had told her that a certain affliction had gripped her. But she was--couldn't understand me because she didn't--she was from a--another country, a Finnish woman. And then the Holy Spirit, to show that He's no respect of person, spoke through here, and called her name, and told her to bless God. Spoke in a language that I didn't know, and called the woman, and give who she was, and something about to--the Lord's blessings upon her, something another, in Finnish language. I don't even know English, let alone Finnish. So it goes to show that God speaks in all the languages and all human beings belong to Him. How wonderful.
While William Branham described this event as an astonishing display of God's power to speak through his prophet in the Finnish language, any who examine the "supernatural" event are a bit shocked at how little "God" actually spoke.
But when you review the details of this event on the night prior to Branham's claim, we only find two phrases Branham spoke in Finnish, "Jumalan rauhaa," and "Kiitos". And during the course of these words coming out in the sermon, Branham claims not to have known what he was saying.
There is just one problem with William Branham's claim - He had been to Finland. And these words, which he claimed not to have known, were repeatedly used throughout his ministry when speaking to those who knew the Finnish language. Eight years earlier, in 1951, William Branham referred to his trip to Finland. Interestingly, he mentioned learning the exact words that he claimed to have came to him in an "unknown language" in 1959:
- Now, we were in Finland, or England; we flew to Finland right away to start. At Helsinki we had a marvelous congregation. The Finnish people are so lovely and sweet. And many times when I think about how poor they are there, and how much that we ritzy Americans have, we should be ashamed of ourself. That's--that's right. Those poor people... There's a Finnish woman come on the platform the other night. And I was trying to keep myself under anointing, but when she passed she said, "Jumalan rauhaa," that's "God's peace upon you." And I said, "Kiitos," to her, it means "thank you." (51-0728)
To be fair, we must give William Branham the benefit of the doubt. Some followers of William Branham claim that he suffered from a very poor memory, and that his many conflicting statements are a result of his inability to remember important facts. Did William Branham remember these words after having learned them in Finland? It would appear that he did. He continued to use them each time he encountered a Finnish-speaking person in a prayer line or on the streets:
- As the Finns would say, many of them in here, Jumalan rauhaa. That's "God's peace rest upon you. (52-0720E)
- And I was passing through here the other night, and the custodian said he was from Finland and his people was from Finland. I spoke a few words of Finnish to him. And I said, "Kiitos" and "Jumalan rauhaa." And he looked at me. "Kiitos" is "thank you," and "Jumalan rauhaa" is "God's peace be upon you." And so I think I'd speak a few words in German, and they'd be a whole lot of people understand me. (56-0122)
- Jumalan rauhaa. Now, the man cannot speak English. He's Finnish. But I'll make signs to him what's wrong, if God will tell me. You, preacher. Now, it's over. Jumalan rauhaa. Kiitos. (56-0407)
When William Branham stated that he spoke to a Finnish woman in a language that he didn't understand, he was telling the truth. But the truth was also that he did know three Finnish words and those were the only words he spoke.
The question must be asked - Why was William Branham intentionally deceptive?
Although William Branham did not know the Finnish language, he did know 3 words.
He gave away that he knew exactly what he said in Finnish when he told the audience that the "Holy Spirit" told her to “bless God. Spoke in a language that I didn't know, and called the woman, and give who she was, and something about to--the Lord's blessings upon her, something another, in Finnish language.”
How did William Branham know she was Finnish?
How did he know what the "Holy Spirit" said in an unknown tongue?
When William Branhan asked the deceptive question - What was I saying? - he knew the answer.
Paul rejected this kind of deception:
- But we have rejected shameful hidden deeds, not behaving with deceptiveness or distorting the word of God, but by open proclamation of the truth we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience before God. (2 Cor. 4:2 – NET)
Was Paul referring to men like William Branham when he stated this?
- I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. (Romans 16:17-18 – ESV)
The more difficult issue is the doubt that this incident casts over William Branham's entire discernment ministry. It is obvious that he lied about his speaking in tongues. But how did he know that the woman was Finnish? Did he make that up too? Or, as some have supposed, did Billy Paul work the crowd as they entered prior to the service and simply supply his dad with the information. Did this information come from the prayer cards or from talking to people in the audience prior to them taking their seats? We will never know for sure but this kind of evidence throws significant doubt on an important aspect of William Branham's "supernatural" ministry.
I would appreciate your view on this very difficult issue.
I see these issues you raise, and I can fairly see why you may have a concern about them. The conclusion a person arrives at looking at this issue is really a matter of perspective they look at it from. If you already believe Bro. Branham was a fraud and the miracles in his ministry was a hoax, then you can look at this find evidence to support your opinion. But if you look at this as someone who believes the miracles were largely genuine, then you look at this and give it the benefit of the doubt.
As someone who has seen many things first hand, and know many people who testify to the things that happened, I come away convinced there was an element of what happened that was genuine. I could recount many stories, which I am sure you have heard many yourself, of the events and things that happened. I know people who were healed of birth defects. How do you fake that? I know people who had never told a single person anything, yet their heart was revealed through Bro. Branham. Was he a good guesser? There is enough there, over and over, to substantiate to me that there was a real gift in his life.
So you see the two different starting points we come from as we begin analyzing these things.
When I look and read over this, it is not obvious to me that Bro. Branham is attempting to fake speaking in tongues or discernment. I can see plausible explanations that do not arrive at that conclusion.
- Right straight back, the back of this place here, about middle ways of this aisle, there's a little--there's a woman, and she's suffering with a high blood pressure. She--she's not from here, she a Finn. She's from Finland. If you believe [ABM: Is this what he was referring back to?], sister, you receive your healing. "Jumalan rauhaa," rise up to your feet and accept your healing and be made well. God bless you. "Kiitos Jesus." Hallelujah! What was I saying? [ABM: I will also introduce the next sentence. Could the statement "What was I saying" just be a prelude to the next statement? To connect the next sentence to what he said to her "if you believe"?] If thou canst believe. Tell that little lady laying there with arthritis, have faith in God, get up from that cot and go on home.
- Visions to me are just like a trance. And they were telling me of a woman that I had called back in--somewhere in the audiences, and had told her that a certain affliction had gripped her. But she was--couldn't understand me because she didn't--she was from a--another country, a Finnish woman. And then the Holy Spirit, to show that He's no respect of person, spoke through here, and called her name [ABM: I did not read a name being called.. Is this the same woman?], and told her to bless God. [ABM: Neither of those things were a command to bless God. And nothing he spoke to her commanded her to bless God. Are you sure this is the same woman?] Spoke in a language that I didn't know, and called the woman, and give who she was, [AMB: I did not read him telling the woman who she was in another language. Are you sure this is the same woman?] and something about to--the Lord's blessings upon her, something another, in Finnish language. [AMB: Could he just be interpreting the part he himself understood? He clearly indicates this instance had more than just that in another language.] I don't even know English, let alone Finnish. So it goes to show that God speaks in all the languages and all human beings belong to Him. How wonderful.
So we see there is a plausible explanation to this which does not make Bro. Branham out to be a fraud. If there was one Finnish woman there, is it not plausible there were other Finnish people there as well? Could something have happened off the tape with another person that he is referring to? The two accounts are different enough to think it is possibly a different event. If viewed in this manner, then none of the questions you raise about this event are valid questions. The validity of the issues depends on to assumptions, 1) that "what was I saying?" is referring to what he spoke in another language, and 2) That the second quote is referring to the same woman. There are other plausible explanations to both of these. I worry that your assessment "it is obvious that he lied about his speaking in tongues" is not as obvious as you think it is.
But again, as I have stated in my previous answers, Bro. Branham did exaggerate and embellish stories. You have not convinced me that his personal failings in this area are a valid reason to reject him as a false prophet. I find too many examples of genuine prophets with equal or worse personal failings. In Genesis 42 Joseph pretended to not know the truth, he even planted evidence. He also pretended that he did not know a language which he actually did (Gen 42:23). None of these things are without precedence in the scripture. It does not make it right, but it likewise does not make them false prophets. There is nothing wrong with looking at the failings of men to learn from them. That is why the bible is full of such examples. We see the mistakes men made, and we learn from them. Accept the good, and reject the bad. It is no different with Bro. Branham.
It is purely conjecture that Billy Paul or anyone else worked the crowd. Just as Duyzer's claim of mnemonics is conjecture. There is no evidence of it, and many examples can be produced where Bro. Branham almost certainly had no advance knowledge of the things he claimed came to him by the spirit of God. How many of the other men were exposed as frauds in those days? Lots - Jack Coe, OL Jaggers, etc. And the same attempts to figure out how Bro. Branham "did it" was made by men then, and they could not find it looking into it firsthand and with direct access to the people involved. He was the biggest prize for them, if they could figure out how he did it. If they failed to proved it then, while the events were occurring and could be investigated, that speaks something to a reasonable person. There was no lack of trying to figure out what his "trick" was. You will find in Don Stuart's book Only Believe an outsider's account of the men who were sent to debunk the miracles God did through Bro. Branham's ministry. In short, there is no smoking gun evidence to prove a hoax, and this problem is not one either.