Ahn Sahng-hong

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Ahn Sahng-hong
BornAhn Sahng-hong
(1918-01-13)13 January 1918
Myeongdeok-ri (명덕리), Gyenam-myeon, Jangsu County, North Jeolla Province, Japanese Korea
Died25 February 1985(1985-02-25) (aged 67)
Maryknoll Hospital, Busan, South Korea
Cause of death
Stroke
Resting place
Seokgye Cemetery, Oeseok-ri (신전리), Sangbuk-myeon, Yangsan, South Gyeongsang Province, South Korea
35°27′26″N 129°2′55″E / 35.45722°N 129.04861°E / 35.45722; 129.04861
OccupationReligious leader, author
Years active1954–1985
Known forWorld Mission Society Church of God
Notable work(s)The Mystery of God and The Spring of The Water of Life
Problems with the New Jerusalem, the Bride and Women's Veils
ReligionChristianity
DenominationSeventh-day Sabbatarianism
Spouse(s)Hwang Won-sun (b. 1923) (1958–1985, his death)
ChildrenAhn Kwang-sup (b. 1954)
Ahn Myeong-seon (b. 1957)
Ahn Chang-jun (b. 1959)
ParentsAhn Gyujung and Lee Weoljeon
Korean name
Hangul
Hanja
Revised RomanizationAn Sanghong[1]
McCune–ReischauerAn Sangong[2]
 
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This is a Korean name; the family name is Ahn.
Ahn Sahng-hong
BornAhn Sahng-hong
(1918-01-13)13 January 1918
Myeongdeok-ri (명덕리), Gyenam-myeon, Jangsu County, North Jeolla Province, Japanese Korea
Died25 February 1985(1985-02-25) (aged 67)
Maryknoll Hospital, Busan, South Korea
Cause of death
Stroke
Resting place
Seokgye Cemetery, Oeseok-ri (신전리), Sangbuk-myeon, Yangsan, South Gyeongsang Province, South Korea
35°27′26″N 129°2′55″E / 35.45722°N 129.04861°E / 35.45722; 129.04861
OccupationReligious leader, author
Years active1954–1985
Known forWorld Mission Society Church of God
Notable work(s)The Mystery of God and The Spring of The Water of Life
Problems with the New Jerusalem, the Bride and Women's Veils
ReligionChristianity
DenominationSeventh-day Sabbatarianism
Spouse(s)Hwang Won-sun (b. 1923) (1958–1985, his death)
ChildrenAhn Kwang-sup (b. 1954)
Ahn Myeong-seon (b. 1957)
Ahn Chang-jun (b. 1959)
ParentsAhn Gyujung and Lee Weoljeon
Korean name
Hangul
Hanja
Revised RomanizationAn Sanghong[1]
McCune–ReischauerAn Sangong[2]

Ahn Sahng-hong[a] (Hangul: ; hanja: ; RR: An Sanghong; 13 January 1918 – 25 February 1985) was a Korean Christian minister and founder of Witnesses of Jesus Church of God.[b][3]:7–8[4]

Shortly after his death in 1985 a schism took place dividing Witnesses of Jesus Church of God into two sects, New Covenant Passover Church of God[c] and what is today known as World Mission Society Church of God.[d][8] Both organizations claim him as their founder; New Covenant Passover Church of God regard Ahn as a teacher,[9] World Mission Society Church of God regard Ahn as God.[10]

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

Ahn was born to Buddhist parents[e] on 13 January 1918 in the small, rural village of Myeongdeok-ri in the North Jeolla Province at a time when Korea was under Japanese rule. The family migrated to Busan, where Ahn grew up in the Haeundae District, the city in which he would later found his church.[12]:127[13]:339[14]:65[15]:489[16]

Conversion to Christianity[edit]

From 1937, during the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War II, Ahn and his mother lived in Japan over a nine year period. He returned to Korea in 1946, after the war, and began attending the local congregation of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Incheon in 1947.[12][13][14][15][16] Ahn reported getting revelations in 1953,[17] and renounced his Buddhist faith and was credobaptised on 9 October 1954.[18][f] In 1956 Ahn proclaimed that "Within 10 years there will be a Second Coming of Jesus."[12]:127[13]:339[15]:489[22]:90[23] On 5 April 1958 he married Hwang Wonsun (1923–2008),[g] with the marriage producing three children.[25][26]

Own church[edit]

Ahn grew critical to teachings in The Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the church excommunicated him in March 1962 over disputes about the cross as a religious symbol.[4][12]:128[14]:65[15]:490[16][18][27]:30 Twenty-three people followed Ahn and left the church, and two years later on 28 April 1964, Ahn established his church Witnesses of Jesus Church of God[h] in Busan.[4][7][14][16][31] Witnesses of Jesus Church of God expanded to 13 congregations in South Korea before Ahn's death in 1985.[19][32][33]

Beliefs[edit]

Major dogmata are outlined in Doctrine Manual of the Witnesses of Jesus Church of God (1972),[3] and detailed in the more than two dozen books Ahn wrote. His original publications as well as scans of his notes and extant sermons have been made available online.[34] Ahn argued that the practice of the apostolic early church had been distorted and his restorational doctrines and practices included:[4]

  1. Women should wear headcovering while praying.
  2. Baptism is the first step towards salvation.
  3. The Sabbath should be kept on Saturdays, not Sundays.
  4. Christmas should not be celebrated as Jesus' birthday because it is the anniversary of the sun god.
  5. The cross is considered a form of idolatry.
  6. The Passover and Festival of Unleavened Bread should be kept ...
  7. as should the other feasts in Book of Leviticus chapter 23: First Fruits, Festival of Weeks, Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement; and Feast of Tabernacles.

Eschatology[edit]

Ahn, who like most Christians[35] believed in the Second Coming of Jesus,[36] had predicted a Second Coming "within 10 years" in 1956.[12]:127[13]:339[15]:489[22]:90[23] In the tradition of Seventh-day Adventist eschatology, which had been suppressed by Kuniaki Koiso during his wartime rule of Korea,[37] Ahn further believed to be living in the end time and that the Second Coming was imminent. As Korean Protestants earlier in the 20th century had perceived Japanese occupation by identifying symbolically with the history of Israel,[38] Ahn through biblical exegesis in his book The Mystery of God and the Spring of the Water of Life (1980)[39] interprets the Gospel of Matthew chapter 24 verse 32-34 to suggest that the world could come to an end in 1988, 40 years after the independence of the modern state of Israel.[23] Ahn's original The Mystery of God and the Spring of the Water of Life is made available online; World Mission Society Church of God in their later editions of the book have deleted information pertaining to the failed prediction.[23] Ahn in his book The Bridegroom Was a Long Time in Coming, and They All Became Drowsy and Fell Asleep (1980)[40] in a discussion based on scriptural typology, presented his conclusion that the world would come to an end in 2012:

Since the day that the Ten Commandments was received, it took 168 days to build the tabernacle and to hold the ceremony, and as the fulfillment of this prophecy, Jesus also went into the heavenly Most Holy on the 10th day of the 7th month in 1844 which is the Day of Atonement, and since then began to build the heavenly temple for 168 days namely 168 days until the ceremony. The prophecy is to be interpreted as 1 day to 1 year (Ezekiel 4:6; Numbers 14:34. Therefore, adding 168 years to 1844 when Jesus entered the heavenly Most Holy, 2012 becomes the last day.

Ahn Sahng-hong, The Bridegroom Was a Long Time in Coming, and They All Became Drowsy and Fell Asleep, 1980 & 1985[40]

Mother[edit]

By 1978 a group of people centrered around a female member, one Um Sooin[i] (born 1941), within the Witnesses of Jesus Church of God, claimed through a chain of scriptual eisegesis that they published in writing, that Um variously was "the only bride", "the Heavenly Jerusalem", "the New Jerusalem" on earth, "the comforter sent by God", and they asserted that she was "our mother who has come down from Heaven", and that Ahn was Christ.[42][43][44] Um and the group around her claiming she was the spiritual mother were expelled from the church,[7][43][44] and Ahn dedicated a book entitled Problems with the New Jerusalem, the Bride and Women's Veils (1980, reprinted 1983) to the controversy, in which he writes:

This booklet was published to prevent troublemakers who misinterpret and behave fanatically, [and] explain the errors in the books that Um Sooin published ... women like Um Sooin have caused a great problem to arise with her corrupt ideas ... The Jerusalem in Heaven is Our Mother ... Um Sooin speaks as if she is out of her mind when she claims that the New Jerusalem is herself ... they assert that Um Sooin is our mother who has come down from Heaven. ... How extremely scandalous is this? With this type of misguided delusion, she has become a false prophet and has attempted to gain power. ... The New Jerusalem which is written of in Revelation 21:1-4 ... is a spiritual building not a person. .... Nobody except someone who is not in their right state of mind can believe and follow after this. ... Because the interpretation of Um Sooin was made to match their claims, they have made these ridiculous interpretations. ...

Ahn Sahng-hong, Problems with the New Jerusalem, the Bride and Women's Veils, 1980 & 1983[43][44]

Ahn concludes his rebuking of Um Sooin:

There is never a time when the activity of Satan is cut off in the true Church. The Apostle Paul has written as follows that the Devil will utilize women to cause confusion inside the Church: "A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner."[1 Timothy 2:11-14] In other words, whenever a woman makes assertions in the Church, the Church will fall under the deception of the Devil.

Ahn Sahng-hong, Problems with the New Jerusalem, the Bride and Women's Veils, 1980 & 1983[43][44]

Death[edit]

Following a heart attack during lunch on 24 February 1985, Ahn had a stroke en route to hospital, and died the next day, 25 February 1985 in the Catholic Maryknoll Hospital[j][46] in Jung District, Busan.[47] Ahn Sahng-hong was 67 years old. He was survived by his wife and three children.[8][13]:337[14]:65[15]:494[16]

Ahn was buried in a public grave located in Seokgye Cemetery[k][49] 30 kilometres (19 mi) north of Busan. From the time of his burial in 1985, a single tombstone stood beside the grave, the epitaph reading: "The grave of the prophet Elijah Ahn Sahng-hong."[l][50][51] After the death of his wife Hwang Won-sun 23 years later on 4 September 2008, she was buried in the plot beside Ahn, and a new tombstone carrying both their names (as well as their children's on the back) replaced the 1985 stone, repeating the epitaph.[26][52]

Legacy[edit]

The unexpected death of Ahn gave rise to a power struggle within Witnesses of Jesus Church of God:[7][53] some people in the church wanted to continue along the lines laid out by Ahn, others wanted to re-introduced the concept of a "spiritual mother" embodied in the then 41 year old woman named Zahng Gil-jah[m] (born 1943).[7][16][25][52] After an extraordinary general meeting in Witnesses of Jesus Church of God on 4 March 1985 failed to reconcile the opposing fractions, a schism divided the church into two sects[7][8][16]

  • New Covenant Passover Church of God,[n] and
  • Witnesses of Ahn Sahng-hong Church of God.[o]

New Covenant Passover Church of God[edit]

One group of people in Witnesses of Jesus Church of God stayed on the premisses in Busan. Among them were Ahn's wife and their three children. This sect is today known as New Covenant Passover Church of God. Ahn's son Ahn Kwang-sup[p] (born 1954) is an elder in the church and continues to expound on his father's work.[58] An outside observer visited the church and had this comment:

The service performed at the New Covenant Church is not much different from that of the mainstream churches. The parishioners pray in the name of 'Jesus Christ' and recite the Lord's Prayer. They sing unmodified mainstream hymns. Like the Seventh-day Adventists, they observe Saturday as the Sabbath day.

Lee Seung-yeon, in Modern Religion, February 2012[25]

Witnesses of Ahn Sahng-hong Church of God[edit]

Another group of people in Witnesses of Jesus Church of God including the man Kim Joo-cheol[q] and the woman Zahng Gil-jah wanted to re-introduce the concept of a "spiritual mother", and on 22 March 1985 moved from Busan to Seoul.[7][8][14][16] On a meeting in Seoul on 2 June 1985, they established a church called Witnesses of Ahn Sahng-hong Church of God. Two major new doctrines were codified[60][61]

  • Ahn Sahng-hong should be regarded as Jesus Christ who had already come, should be titled Christ Ahn Sahng-hong, and pursuant to a traditional trinitarian view of Christian hypostasis Ahn was consequently also The Holy Spirit, God the Father, and thus God.[62]
  • Zahng Gil-jah should be regarded as God the Mother, a female image of God,[63] be titled Heavenly Mother, or simply Mother, and together with Ahn Sahng-hong be regarded as God.[63]

A change in religious practise, as reflected in the change of name from "Witnesses of Jesus" to "Witnesses of Ahn Sahng-hong", was, that prayers were no longer conducted in the name of Jesus Christ but in the name of Christ Ahn Sahng-hong.[4]

The deification of Ahn Sahng-hong and Zahng Gil-jah has been "harshly criticized,"[7] and has led to the church being officially condemned by The National Council of Churches in Korea as an interdenominationally combatted, blasphemic, heretic cult.[64][65]

As a central argument to the claim that Ahn Sahng-hong should be the Second Coming of Jesus, and in turn an argument for his suggested promotion of Zahng Gil-jah to the Bride of the Lamb, is the proposision that he fulfilled a Davidic prophecy by preaching 37 years from his baptism 16 December 1948 to his death on 25 February 1985,[21][66] a period which in reality was only 36 years, 2 months, and 9 days.[67] The source for the baptismal date of 16 December 1948 performed by a Pastor Lee Myeong-deok in Incheon is however obscure, and no written record exists.[12]:125[13]:338[14][15]:494[19] In 2011 a protocol from the Seventh-day Adventist Church was discovered, stating Ahn was baptised when he was 36 years old on 9 October 1954 by a Pastor Gim Seo-gyeong. The investigation by The International Korean Christian Coalition against Heresy showed, that while Pastor Gim could be confirmed, no Pastor Lee Myeong-deok was with the church in 1948, reducing the length of the ministry of Ahn from 36 years to 30 years and 4 months.[18]

1988 failed doomsday prophecy

Witnesses of Ahn Sahng-hong Church of God announced that "1988 is the end of the world" citing Matthew 24:32-34 as Ahn had done in his 1980 book The Mystery of God and the Spring of the Water of Life.[7][39][68][69] A few thousand members of Witnesses of Ahn Sahng-hong Church of God gathered on a mountain in Sojeong-myeon, Yeongi County, South Chungcheong Province awaiting the coming of Christ Ahn Sahng-hong, preparing for the rapture and the salvation of 144,000 souls. When Ahn failed to appear and nothing happened the church updated their apocalyptic forecast and scheduled it to the opening of the 1988 Olympics in Seoul later that year.[4][7][13]:342[14]:77[15]:494[16][70][71]

Around 1997, Witnesses of Ahn Sahng-hong Church of God had established a non-profit organization titled the Church of God World Mission Society for the purpose of registering and managing the organization's assets.[7][71]

See also[edit]

List of people claimed to be Jesus

Footnotes[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Hangul: 안상홍 can variously be seen represented in Latin letters as Ahn Sahng Hong, Ahn Sahng-hong, Ahn Sahnghong, Ahnsahnghong, Ahn Sang Hong, Ahn Sang-hong, Ahn Sanghong, Ahnsanghong, An Sahng Hong, An Sahng-hong, An Sahnghong, Ansahnghong, An Sang Hong, An Sang-hong, An Sanghong, and Ansanghong. Korean names follow the <family name> <given name> pattern, but his name is sometimes romanizised using the Western pattern <given name> <family name>, consequently e.g. Sang Hong Ahn, Sang Hong An etc. can also occur.
  2. ^ Korean: 하나님의교회 예수증인회. Translation in a more direct word order would be "Church of God Witnesses of Jesus".
  3. ^ Korean: 새언약 유월절 하나님의교회
  4. ^ Korean: 하나님의교회 세계복음선교협회. Translation in a more direct word order would be "Church of God World Mission Society". This word order has previously been used by the organization.[5] 복음 can also translate to "gospel",[6] and the full name can e.g. be seen translated to "Church of God World Gospel Association."[7]
  5. ^ By 1918 Buddhism was the predominant religion in Korea. By 2010, according to a survey cited by The World Factbook, 2013-14 edition, Christians accounted for 31.6% (Protestant 24%, Roman Catholic 7.6%) and Buddhists for 24.2% of the South Korean population.[11]
  6. ^ Previously a baptismal date of 16 December 1948 performed by a Pastor Lee Myeong-deok in Incheon has been reported, but the source for this date and name is obscure, and no written record exists.[12]:125[13]:338[14][15]:494[19] The published references writes that with a 1948 baptism the ministry of Ahn was c. 37 years (1948-1985),[12][13][14]:75[15][20] which has been used in argument for him fulfilling a Davidic prophecy being the Second Coming of Jesus, the use of the honorific Christ Ansanghong, and the assertation that he ascended rather than died by the World Mission Society Church of God.[21] The investigation by The International Korean Christian Coalition against Heresy of the protocol from the Seventh-day Adventist Church stating Ahn was baptised on 9 October 1954 by a Pastor Gim Seo-gyeong showed, that while Pastor Gim could be confirmed, no Pastor Lee Myeong-deok was with the church in 1948.[18]
  7. ^ Korean: ; hwang-won-sun[24]
  8. ^ Korean: 하나님의교회 예수증인회. The name "Church of God", mentioned several times in e.g. Paul the Apostle's First and Second Epistle to the Corinthians, and in his Epistle to the Galatians,[28] is a name used by numerous, mostly unrelated Christian denominational bodies.[29] Ahn in Doctrine Manual of the Witnesses of Jesus Church of God (1972) cites First Epistle to the Corinthians and First Epistle to Timothy[30] as the source for "Church of God", and several verses in Acts of the Apostles as the source for "Witnesses of Jesus".[3]:7–8
  9. ^ Korean: 엄수인; eom-su-in[41]
  10. ^ Korean: 메리놀병원; Also romanizised Merinol Hospital after its pronunciation, me-ri-nol-byeong-won[45]
  11. ^ Korean: 석계공원묘지; seok-kkye-gong-won-myo-ji[48]
  12. ^ Korean: 선지 엘리야 안상홍 지 묘
  13. ^ Korean: 장길자; jang-gil-ja[54]
  14. ^ Korean: 새언약 유월절 하나님의교회
  15. ^ Korean: 하나님의교회 안상홍 증인회. The name is reflected in the domain name WATV.ORG registered in February 2000[55] the acronym standing for Witnesses of Ahnsahnghong Television.[56] Korean: 하나님의교회 안상홍 증인회 can be seen in other translations, e.g. a more direct word order "Church of God, Witnesses of Ahn Sahng-hong", or "Church of God, Association of Ahnsahnghong's Witnesses".
  16. ^ Korean: 안광섭; an-gwang-seop[57]
  17. ^ Korean: 김주철; gim-ju-cheol[59]

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