On September 12, 2020, the first-ever English language debate between a message pastor (Jesse Smith of Akron, OH) and an ex-message Christian (Rod Bergen from the Off The Shelf podcast) took place. The discussion was moderated by Jay Cox and Tim Kraus.
There are a number of photographs that William Branham and his followers point to as being supernatural vindication of his status of a prophet. But are these photographs really of a visible manifestation of God?
Please examine these photographs and decide for yourselves.
The Pillar of Fire with Joseph Branham
Below is a photograph that is available for purchase from Voice of God Recordings entitled "Pillar Of Fire On The Rock Under Brother Branham and his son, Joseph". The picture was supposedly taken at Sunset Mountain in Arizona on May 19, 1965. however, it is more likely that the picture was taken at Rattlesnake Mesa.
The conclusion: The photograph of William Branham and his son Joseph does not contain anything other than light bleed from a defective camera.
Pillar of Fire on his shoulder?
Here is the photo that is available for purchase from Voice of God Recordings entitled "Pillar Of Fire Over Brother Branham's Shoulder". It is a black & white photograph that was taken in March, 1964, at Soul's Harbor Temple in Dallas, Texas.
The problem is that the picture sold by Voice of God Recordings has been cropped. The original of the photograph is displayed below:
Please note the door is slight ajar in the top left of the photograph letting in a small stream of light which hits William Branham on his shoulder with a very small amount spilling onto his tie.
The conclusion: There is a light on William Branham's shoulder, but it is sunlight. There is nothing supernatural about this photograph.
The Fire of God?
The following two photographs are available for purchase from Voice of God Recordings and are entitled "Brother Branham Preaching Just Before The Fire Of God Appeared" and "The Fire Of God Surrounding Bro. Branham As He Is Preaching", respectively. These colour photographs were taken in 1958 in Lakeport, California.
It is clear to anyone that has the slightest knowledge of photography that the second photograph is a "double exposure" (that is, a superimposition of two exposures to create a single image) photograph. Additionally, the camera was moved in the second exposure using a fairly slow shutter speed. This is indicated by the multiple streaks of light that are duplicated in the photograph.
Here are a couple of examples of what happens when a the camera is moved while directed at several point sources of light. Notice the similarities to the streaks of light in the "supernatural photo" of William Branham.
The conclusion: The picture of William Branham with the streaks of light is an accidental double exposure, something that was fairly easy to do accidentally on the cheap cameras that were common in the 1950's and 1960's.
The iconic image of William Branham in the Sam Houston Coliseum has an entire article on this website devoted to it.
However, it is worthwhile to make a couple of brief observations.
The picture below is available from Voice of God Recordings for purchase. The original photograph was taken in Houston, TX by Douglas Studios on January 24, 1950. However, the original photograph was black and white and therefore the photo below has been manipulated to add colour.
William Branham was adamant that this picture was supernatural in nature. But there are a number of problems with the statement that the photograph is of the pillar of fire.
If the light passed through the lens and struck the film, why did know one else in the auditorium see the light. Could it be that the light was seen by everyone but just not from the specific angle of the camera. It should be added that a flood light bank would appear "blown out" on a normal exposure of a portrait photograph such as that of William Branham. Here are other example of flood lamps in a stage setting. Notice the similarities with tthe "pillar of fire in the Houston photograph.
For more details on this photograph, please see our article on The Houston Photograph.
The conclusion: The light above William Branham's head was photographed but it was not a supernatural phenomenon. It was simply a flood lamp in the auditorium.
The Angel of the Lord in Germany
Sometime in 1955, a series of three pictures was taken in Germany. William Branham stated that the light in the photographs was the angel of the Lord and that scientists had attested to the fact that the light in the photographs was supernatural in nature.
The light that is reflected from the glass on the far wall is obviously that of a flash from the camera that took the picture. Again, anyone that is familiar with photography can spot this in an instant. Here are a couple of examples that we found on the internet.
The conclusion: The light on the far wall was simply a reflection of the photographer's flash. The light was not supernatural.
Quotes of William Branham
This was by the FBI, fingerprint and document; here it is, the same Pillar of Fire that led the children of Israel. It's in Washington, DC as the only supernatural Being was ever photographed. Germany, got it three times in Germany with their camera last year, coming down, giving the discernment and going back. And George J. Lacy, the head of the FBI fingerprint and document, examined this. There's his write-up on it. See? It's the... That same Angel is not two foot from where I'm standing right now. What is it? It's the Pillar of Fire that led the children of Israel.
And I remember when It spoke to me as a little boy, and down through life how I described It years before they ever took the picture of It. And now, they've got three official pictures of It: one from Germany and two from the United States, of the picture of the Angel of the Lord which scientists of Germany and scientists of the United States has put their seal upon it, that It's a supernatural Being, described just exactly, that Pillar of Fire. To my opinion, and if I'm wrong God forgive me, and as your brother, I think It's the same Pillar of Fire that led the children of Israel. I'm not saying that because It had Its picture taken with me; because It's not to me, It's to the Church, the entire Church.
- THE.DOOR.OF.THE.DOOR_ NEWARK.NJ THURSDAY_ 57-1212
- THE.QUEEN.OF.SHEBA_ CHICAGO.IL TUESDAY_ 58-0107