How Artificial Intelligence Imagines the Bible

April 3, 2023

There’s that scene in Blade Runner 2049 when the main character, played by Ryan Gosling, visits Dr. Ana Stelline. She’s the memory maker for the “replicants”—artificial human figures who play a prominent role in law enforcement as well as in the apprehension of any rogue, older versions of themselves. Replicants embody artificial intelligence (AI) in its utmost human form. The philosophical implications of the movie are both provocative and disturbing; both imaginative and fascinating.

One could say the same thing about the latest developments in AI. Companies like Alphabet (Google) and the various endeavors led by Elon Musk have been developing AI for some time now. It is common for the ethics behind it and the moral obligations involved with it to be dismissed. They are hotly debated, however; AI ethicists like Blake Lemoine have lost their jobs over raising moral concerns and asserting controversial claims.

As far as a definition for artificial intelligence, a simple Google search provides the following:

The theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.

I set out on a journey through the Scriptures to see how AI imagines the Bible.

In recent months, a new debate has come up about AI. It is related to the field of art and creative expression. Photographers, fine artists, and tech enthusiasts have been enjoying tools like DALL-E and the Midjourney app. These applications use AI to create art, generated simply by inserting a written description of the desired visual a creator hopes to see. The results have been provocative and disturbing but also imaginative and fascinating.

I have worked in the world of cryptocurrency and blockchain for almost two years. There has been an abundance of fine art “minted” on the blockchain from renowned and little-known creators across the globe. A growing number of digital artists have begun integrating AI-generated art into their portfolios and collections. The quality is stunning—here is just one example:

This got me thinking. There are so many iconic Bible verses that describe almost incredulous scenes and scenarios. I wondered how AI-generated art would portray some of these emotionally engaging moments? After all, AI doesn’t have a soul. Does it? It doesn’t, right? Since I dig Jesus, crypto, futuristic technology, and AI, I set out on a journey through the Scriptures to see how AI imagines the Bible.

Selecting iconic verses and moments from the beginning of the Old Testament through the end of the New Testament, I used artificial intelligence to generate reflective art. I committed to doing so on every possible weekday, focusing on one verse, scene, or story per day, until every book of the Bible had been represented, and displayed the images on social media. (Just Twitter and LinkedIn at first, but I plan to share AI-generated art summaries in groups of 10 on Instagram.)

Responses from followers have been affirming. Here are some samples of the selected verses or stories and the AI-generated art from Days 1 through 12:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness covered the surface of the watery depths, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. (Genesis 1:1-2, CSB)

The woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. (Genesis 3:6)

The Nephilim were on the earth both in those days and afterward, when the sons of God came to the daughters of mankind, who bore children to them. They were the powerful men of old, the famous men. (Genesis 6:4)

“Come, let’s build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky. Let’s make a name for ourselves; otherwise, we will be scattered throughout the earth.” (Genesis 11:4)

The two warrior angels entered Sodom [had to replace this with “the ancient city”] in the evening as Lot was sitting in Sodom’s [“the city’s”] gateway. When Lot saw them, he got up to meet them. He bowed with his face to the ground. (Genesis 19:1) 

[Note: This was the only time so far I got a reject message: the word Sodom was forbidden in the AI application. You can likely understand why.]

Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught in the thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram and offered it as a burnt offering in place of his son [Isaac]. (Genesis 22:13) 

“Your name will no longer be Jacob,” he said. “It will be Israel because you have struggled with God and with men and have prevailed.” (Genesis 32:28)

Now Israel loved Joseph more than his other sons because Joseph was a son born to him in his old age, and he made a long-sleeved robe for him. (Genesis 37:3)

Seven years of great abundance are coming throughout the land of Egypt. After them, seven years of famine will take place, and all the abundance in the land of Egypt will be forgotten. The famine will devastate the land. (Genesis 41:29-30) 

She got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with asphalt and pitch. She placed the child in it and set it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile. Then his sister stood at a distance in order to see what would happen to him. (Exodus 2:3-4)

Then the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire within a bush. As Moses looked, he saw that the bush was on fire but was not consumed. (Exodus 3:2) 

These five images are all based upon the story of The Ten Plagues in Exodus when Moses returns to confront Pharaoh.The focus of the images generated were blood, frogs, gnats, flies, livestock, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, and death. (Exodus 7:17-18, 8:3, 8:16, 8:21, 9:2-3, 9:8-9, 9:18, 10:4-5, 10:21-22, and 11:4-6)

If you’re curious, come along with me. It has been a provocative, disturbing, imaginative, fascinating experiment so far. I am looking forward to how AI imagines the highlights of the New Testament.

Thankfully, I have not had a replicant come knocking at my door… yet.

Jason Dukes

Jason Dukes

Jason Dukes is a learner, skeptic, strategist, futurist, author, and coach, although his wife and seven kids would call him an expert pancake and popcorn maker. In 2020 he noticed we were culturally in the early stages of a second renaissance and a decentralized (industrialized) revolution, so he founded to encourage life-giving purpose in a Web3 world. He is currently also an adjunct professor in New Testament at Belmont University. Jason has wide experience including 25+ years in church, non-profit, network, and for-profit entrepreneurialism; 15 years as lead pastor, starting churches and coaching others to do so; and college ministry. He lives with his family in the Nashville, Tennessee, area.
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