Question 21 (ABM) - How many people were actually healed in Branham's ministry?
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Question 21 (ABM) - How many people were actually healed in Branham's ministry?
Thanks for your recent response. I am doing some thinking on what you said and will have a follow up after a couple of additional questions.
This question has to do with William Branham’s healing ministry.
Followers of the message believe William Branham to be the greatest prophet since Paul and one of the greatest prophets that ever lived. If this is the case then one would expect that his healing ministry would be similar to that of Jesus or the apostles.
It is clear that in Jesus ministry, everyone was healed that Jesus prayed for. We read this in a number of passages in the Gospels:
- And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them.
- That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick.
- And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.
- And he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all.
- God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.
It is also clear that everyone that the apostles prayed for were healed as well.
- The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.
- And when this had taken place, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases also came and were cured.
What independent observers said about William Branham
From our prior questions and answers, I know you are aware that William Branham was prone to mass exaggeration (which I would call "lying" or "speaking falsehood"):
- Oh, sick people, if you’d let that burn in you for a few minutes, and watch what happens, that kind of a desperation. The God that could heal this little boy the other night, could heal that lady with cancer, heal this man, and do this, Miss Florence Nightingale, oh, the tens of thousands! He, that, undisputable evidence; raising the dead, and healing the sick, and everything else. (63-0901E - Desperations)
However, it is clear that there were a number of voices that knew that William Branham was being dishonest.
Controversy surrounded Branham right from the start of his public ministry. In 1947, a minister in Saskatchewan, Rev. Alfred Pohl, stated that many who Branham pronounced as healed later died.
Pohl stated that he saw several people pronounced well by William Branham who died shortly there after. He relates one case of a friend whose wife had been prayed for:
- ...his question still hit me very hard. "Brother Pohl," he said, "you were there beside my wife's bed the night Mr. Branham prayed for her and pronounced her healed?" "Yes," I replied, " I was right there." He went on, "Can you tell me why it is that my wife who was healed just a few days ago is now in the grave?" My friends, I believe that was one of the hardest questions that I was ever called upon to answer! My heart went out to this dear brother. I felt with him. But how could I answer him?
In another case, a minister flew to Saskatoon for the meetings to have his wife prayed for:
- ...Mr. Branham pronounced her healed. Again there was much rejoicing. I remember that the pastor handed me a cheque of a sizable sum of money to pass on to Mr. Branham. As he did so, he remarked that he couldn't afford to give that much, but that Mr. Branham deserved it because his wife was now healed, and he had spent thousands of dollars on doctors that didn't help her.
- It was several weeks later... when in the vicinity of this pastor's home city, I made inquiry as to his wife's state of health, only to be told that she too had passed away. What a blow that must have been to that dear brother? But that was not all. I was told that he had a good radio ministry in his city. When he had returned from the healing meetings in Saskatoon, he announced over his radio broadcast that his wife had been wonderfully healed. However, just a short while after that he had to inform his radio audience that his wife had died. I was told that it dealt a severe blow to his radio ministry.
- My friends, what kind of a testimony is this to the world? To them it "does not add up." And there is something wrong! Did this pastor's faith fail?
- Let me ask, did this sort of thing happen to those who were healed by the Lord Jesus or by His apostles? Where, then, is it recorded? As Christians we sometimes think that we're "charitable" if we overlook these things, but is this real "charity" or love? Is it loving to permit this type of thing to be carried on in our churches, to the needless suffering, agony, disappointment, and expense of the sick? And more importantly, is it scriptural not to deal with the false, the counterfeit? (see Titus 1:7-14).
In 1948, W.J. Taylor, a district superintendent with the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, raised the same concern. He and his executive asked for a thorough investigation, presenting evidence that claims of the number of people healed were vastly overestimated. While he expressed warm regard for Branham as a person, he stated, "I firmly believe that there is a possibility that this whole business is wrong".
Walter Hollenweger, a noted Pentecostal historian who worked as translator for Branham in one of his campaigns in Switzerland, wrote of Branham:
- He possessed an extraordinary diagnostic gift and could identify the illnesses (sometimes even the names) of persons he had never seen. Unfortunately his healing prognosis was accurate only in rare cases. The excuse of healing evangelists in such cases has always been: The patient did not really believe; for they were convinced that faith leads automatically to health.
Hollenwegger also stated that however generously Branham is judged:
- ...it must be admitted that his sermons were not merely simple, but often naive as well, and that by contrast to what he claimed, only a small percentage of those that sought healing were actually healed."
William Branham’s vindication was not what WMB said it was. That is the reason why WMB's church (narcissistically named after himself) never numbered more than a few hundred people.
The question is - How are we supposed to view William Branham's healing ministry? It was clearly not what he said it was. He told people that they were healed when they were not. It is clearly not a vindication for him being a prophet as he did not have anywhere near the healing ministry that the apostles had.
Response from ABM
Thank you for your continued dialogue. I have carefully read your email to understand your position, and hope I can convey some points that will be helpful to you.
The purpose of Bro. Branham's healing ministry was to draw crowds and to serve as a sign. The bible says that "these signs shall follow them that believe". So it is natural to expect a great ministry of God to have such signs associated with it. However, many followers of the message make a mistake in that they follow the signs rather than let the signs follow. In other words, it is a mistake to be led by the signs. The healings that took place in Bro. Branham's ministry are of minor importance, truthfully. The miracle's in Christ's ministry were a tool to draw the people to him so he could preach to them. It is in this same way we view the miracles associated with Bro. Branham's ministry. They were just a tool to draw crowds to be preached to. This is the framework in which I view the miracles attributed to his ministry.
You state "It is clear that in Jesus ministry, everyone was healed that Jesus prayed for". This is a very true statement, however I would suggest something a bit more. Every bodily healing ever done by Jesus was only temporary. Take, for example, the greatest bodily healing possible: resurrection from the dead. Christ raised Lazareth from the dead in one of his greatest examples of healing. Yet, like every other person healed by Christ, he subsequently died (again). It was merely a temporary healing. Everyone Jesus healed eventually still died - and their bodily healing was thus only temporary. This is why healing of the spirit and a new birth is so important. Spiritual healing will bring eternal life. It is the same with Bro. Branham. Many people he pronounced healed subsequently died. Eventually, should time go on, everyone he pronounced healed will be dead. But those who received spiritual healing and had a new birth by the spirit, they will live forever. So that some died after being pronounced healed, is not in itself a convincing argument.
You make a point that everyone was healed in the ministry of Christ. This is very true in that, everyone he prayed for was touched. However, he was not able to heal everyone. There are some he did not pray for because he was unable to heal them. Matthew 13:58 makes it clear that the faith of the people being ministered too was impactful even to Christ's ability to perform miracles. So that Bro. Branham was unable to heal everyone is not surprising. Additionally, Bro. Branham was not God, he was limited.
As for Pohl, I have read his book before. The things he says about Bro. Branham are indeed very disturbing. If they be true, then it would be a very negative thing for Bro. Branham. The charges are serious, and I do not outright reject them as being false. They are something have to be evaluated and treated seriously. The bible gives us a formula for evaluating such claims. It says to not accept a charge against an elder except it be by two or three witnesses. Likewise, it says let every word be established by two or three witnesses. There is no second or third witness for any of Pohl's accusations. Hollenwager and Taylor neither offer any specific cases in their statements. I am unaware of any dispute against Bro. Branham's healing minister where the two needed witnesses can be provided. Thus, scripturally, I have no grounds on which to accept their accusations. They just hang there ominously. Because I cannot establish them with a second witness, they are in a category of being possibly not true.
Given that Jack Coe was jailed and sued for a failed pronouncement of healing in the same years, it seems unusual to me that Bro. Branham would not have faced something similar if his pronouncements of healing were such epic failures. Bro. Branham held meetings multiple times in the area that Alfred Pohl was a minister. Likewise, Pohl mentions the newspapers covered the events and investigated them. I would be interested to find the newspaper accounts and see if Pohl's statement's can in some way be validated.
I find the account of Doug Wead to be very effective in defending Bro. Branham. Wead is not a message believer. He wrote the forward to Don Stewart's 1999 book "Only Believe". I am placing an except here and including a picture of Wead (note: the picture has not been reproduced because of potential copyright concerns).
- The Assemblies of God, the largest Pentecostal denomination in the country, was being bombarded with mail. "Who is this guy? Is he doctrinal sound? Is he a fraud? Can we co-operate with his meetings?"
- In those days, my father Roy H. Wead was the point man for the Assemblies of God in Indiana. He was called the District Superintendent, which meant he was sort of the denomination's bishop for the state. "What do you know about a Baptist preached named William Branham?" Headquarters asked. Dad had never heard of him. "Well, he's from your state, so check him out."
- Every Sunday my father spoke in a different Assemblies of God church somewhere in the state. It was a time of unprecedented growth. In Indiana they opened a new church every month, a pace that would continue for 12 straight years. Traveling the state was Dad's way of troubleshooting the District problems and promoting the statewide events. There were four boys in the family and on this particular weekend, I was elected to go with dad.
- At first glance, William Branham was not a very impressive guy. It looked like he had slept in his suit. No one even introduced him. His first words were an apology for his poor English. But the crowd apparently knew what was coming. When they realized it was him they broke into a roar of conversation, drowning out his voice, and there was a belated but spontaneous and excited applause. In those days, people never applauded in church. But they had been waiting all afternoon for this moment.
- And then Branham pointed up to my father. "The man up there. No, not you. The man to your right. No, not you. The one behind you. The one in the blue suit."
- My father sunk lower and lower in his seat. No one knew he was going to this meeting. The General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God didn't know. Mom didn't know. Dad himself didn't know until that morning when his host pastor had dropped the news that Branham was conducting a Sunday afternoon service nearby.
- My father had been surprised. As far as he had known, Branham was still ministering in the Pacific Northwest. Dad hadn't even told the pastor what he was up to. But now William Branham was calling him out of the audience.
- Dad looked at me solemnly. "Now, you stay right here," he ordered. Whatever happens, stay right here. I'll be back."
- According to my father, as he related the story in later years, Branham welcomed him to the platform, pulled him aside, and said, "You and I have never met. I don't know who you are or where you come from. But I saw you in a dream last night and I knew you would be here today. God sent you here to confirm my ministry. You may ask any question you want. You may talk to any of the people in the healing line. You may interrupt what is going on at any point. You do what God tells you to do. You are here to confirm my ministry."
- Over the next few years my father did just that. At some meetings he rearranged the healing lines, just in case Branham was only invoking some parlor trick, memorizing who had what disease. He quizzed the people who claimed that they were healed, taking down names and addresses. And often he would call their doctor to talk about what had happened. On more than one occasion he spotted a friend from out of state and would spontaneously walk that friend to the front of the line. Branham would never miss a beat. "You are from Iowa," he would say. "Three weeks ago you were told by your doctor that you have cancer."
- Afterwards, the friend would confide to my father, "Nobody knew that but my wife and I, and she is back in Iowa. I haven't even told my children.
Accounts like this from non-message-believers can present you with a problem. Should I accept the account of Pohl, or Wead? Or both? To me, it seems clear that the majority of evidence is more supportive to Wead's account, than to Pohl's. We have to really dig hard to find Pohl, Taylor, and Hollenwager. To the best of my knowledge, these are the only three writers who were witnesses of Bro. Branham's ministery and recorded events like this. We find their three accounts repeated in all other sources who make the claim letting us know these three men are the basis for all claims that healings failed. For example in Larson or Moriarty or Haangraaf. Taylor and Hollenwager though are just one sentence in their book, as stated already, not enough to form an opinion on. Taylor is clear in his statement that he is uncertain if his belief is accurate, he merely states it as a possibility. Pohl is the only one to give us kind of details to evaluate. I would challenge you on this: see if you can find another source from the period besides these three, and see if you can find anything to support Pohl. I have looked personally in the past to see if such a thing existed but never found anything. I believe I have read every book out there that talks about Bro. Branham.
I am sure you know, there is a multitude of people who claim to have been healed or touched in some way by Bro. Branham. There are many youtube videos of people who Bro. Branham healed who give their testimony first hand that can be reviewed. I am aware of a large number of people who claim healing through his ministry.
You ask: "How are we supposed to view William Branham's healing ministry?" Answer: View it as a tool to attract audiences so that they could received the true healing: the healing of their souls through salvation. View it as a tool to gather people to hear the message of truth. But do not let it overshadow the message.
You state of his healing ministry: "It was clearly not what he said it was." However, Historian Ronald Kydd, in his 1998 book Healing through the Centuries: Models for Understanding, states the number of people who claimed to be healed in Branham's campaign meetings "is impossible to approximate" and that "no consistent record of follow-ups was made" of the healing to prove them false or true. I generally agree with Kydd's position. Using what most people would consider reliable sources, there is insufficient evidence to arrive at a clear conclusion at just how many people were healed. Where ten thousand people healed? Maybe. Where tens-of-thousands healed? Likely not, but there is no way to definitively prove that. I am certain thousands were healed. Only Jesus exceeds that in the biblical accounts.
You state "He told people that they were healed when they were not." There is not a single report I am aware of, where a person pronounced healed came back to report they were not healed. I think it is safe to say Bro. Branham personally prayed and pronounced people healed in front of at least several hundred thousand people during his ministry. Out of that, we have 3 to 8 (at most) known people who state someone they knew failed to be healed. Of that 3-8, only Pohl gives any type of a detailed explanation for his allegation. (Your podcast interview could be considered a second such case, but she contradicts herself by stating her mother believed herself to have been healed.)
You state "It is clearly not a vindication for him being a prophet as he did not have anywhere near the healing ministry that the apostles had." I would agree with this, in part. Healing is not a vindication of a prophet. I disagree though that his gift of healing was not on par with the apostles. You have to discount many reputable sources to arrive at that conclusion. By the bible, at most we could say a few hundred were recorded as healed in the Book of Acts. There is ample evidence that at least a few hundred were healed during the ministry of Bro. Branham. I, and those who have been collaborating with me, are eye witnesses and even recipients of many miracles. In my own church there are over thirty people who are still living who were healed through Bro. Branham's prayers. My own family members were miraculously healed through his prayers and I was witness. I have personally known people healed of birth defects through his prayers. You cannot fake that. I know people who claim to be witness to Bro. Branham raising the dead, and they are faithful people I have no reason to doubt them. And they provide multiple witnesses of the event. The list is long if I were to recount it all, and I am sure you have heard such things a thousand times. Suffice to say, I am completely convinced a great many people were healed.
Bro. Branham likely exaggerated the number of miracles in his ministry. Does that mean there were none? Or few? No, there were many. But ultimately what did any of them profit? Most all of the healed people are now dead. Healing was the bait. The miracles were the first two pulls. But those pulls did not catch the fish. In fact, the angel told Bro. Branham very plainly he made a mistake with his first two pulls. He placed too much emphasis on the miracles.
- Carl Dyck, William Branham: The Man and His Message, Saskatoon, 1984, ISBC 0-919847-00-5
- Alfred Pohl's entire testimony has been published by the Berean Research Institute
- Alfred Pohl's entire testimony is available from the Berean Research Institute
- Kydd, Ronald A. N. (1998). Healing through the Centuries: Models for Understanding. Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. ISBN 0-913573-60-4.
- Hollenweger, Walter J. (1997). Pentecostalism: Origins and Developments Worldwide. Baker Academic. ISBN 978-0801046605.