New 'AI Jesus' can deliver a sermon, but will you understand it?

Tech collides with theology, in AI Jesus.
Tech collides with theology, in AI Jesus. (Image credit: Shutterstock)

What happens when you train a neural network using the King James Bible? You get "AI Jesus" — artificial intelligence (AI) that expounds on topics as Jesus from the King James edition of the New Testament might have done. 

Well, almost.

The voice of this so-called AI clone of Jesus comes from one source of data — the Bible — "and nothing else," said AI Jesus programmer George Davila Durendal. As a developer of AI algorithms and CEO of Saviors Artificial Intelligence, Durendal trains neural networks to detect guns in security camera footage in order to prevent mass shootings.

The neural network's exclusive focus on every word in the Bible surpasses the biblical scrutiny "of all the monks of all the monasteries that have ever been," Durendal wrote in a blog post about the AI. Nevertheless, the resulting "sermons" were far more abstract and less grammatically accurate than those attributed to the biblical Jesus, Durendal said.

Related: Can machines be creative? Meet 9 AI 'artists'

There are hundreds of translations of the Bible, but the King James Bible, commissioned by England's King James I and first published in 1611, is the most popular English translation, and is one of the most widely-read books in the English language. Durendal used this version of the Bible to train AI Jesus in English vocabulary, grammar and syntax, "to replicate the style of the King James Bible without quite copying it," Durendal wrote in the blog post. 

AI Jesus' "brain" is made up of units that process data sequences — such as strings of text — as neurons do. Working together, units in the network helped the AI "learn" the language of the King James Bible, enabling AI Jesus to generate original phrases that mimicked the style of the biblical text. 

But thus far, AI Jesus' oratory prowess doesn't quite live up to that of its namesake.

In the King James Bible, Jesus inspired his followers with profundities such as, "Blessed are the peacemakers," "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the Earth," and "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy," during his Sermon on the Mount in Matthew Chapter 5. 

AI Jesus delivered its debut "sermon" from a more modern platform — Twitter — and while the language was similar to that of the King James Bible, the words were somewhat less inspiring and more puzzling.

"Power and godly, and have commanded the children of the world, and will set my face against thee, and thou shalt be called the people," the neural network tweeted on Aug. 30.

Durendal challenged the AI to respond to three topics — "Caesar," "The End of Days," and "The Plague" — as those subjects were relevant to the challenges humanity faces today, he wrote in the blog post. AI Jesus' responses to Durendal's prompts were cryptic at best, providing little guidance or comfort. 

"For I will fill the land which the LORD thy God hath given thee a time to eat the force of the LORD of hosts," read one AI response. "And the soldiers of the prophets shall be ashamed of men," read another.

Then again, even when neural networks learn from lots of examples, the results can be weird. An AI that was trained on a database of 30,000 cookbook recipes came up with instructions for making bizarre treats such as Crock Pot Cold Water, Chocolate Chicken Chicken Cake and Completely Meat Circle. Another AI fed a diet of millions of words from the "Game of Thrones" novels generated a new installment to the series with an intriguing plot twist: "Jaime killed Cersei and was cold and full of words, and Jon thought he was the wolf now" in Chapter Four, Live Science previously reported.

And an AI that attempted to produce adorable cat photos failed spectacularly; the resulting feline images were dramatically distorted and downright creepy.

As of Aug. 26, AI Jesus had generated writings that were "less random and less prone to errors" than its original works, encompassing three new topics: "Wisdom," "Greeks" and "Blood," according to Durendal. However, while these newer writings were more technically proficient than AI Jesus' earlier works, they lacked "artistic flair and prophetic prose," Durendal added.

"You can have a more interesting model that takes artistic liberties and produces some glitches. Or you can have more mundane, more technically proficient writing," he explained. 

But achieving both would take a miracle; one that AI Jesus can't yet deliver. 

Originally published on Live Science.

Mindy Weisberger
Live Science Contributor

Mindy Weisberger is an editor at Scholastic and a former Live Science channel editor and senior writer. She has reported on general science, covering climate change, paleontology, biology and space. Mindy studied film at Columbia University; prior to Live Science she produced, wrote and directed media for the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Her videos about dinosaurs, astrophysics, biodiversity and evolution appear in museums and science centers worldwide, earning awards such as the CINE Golden Eagle and the Communicator Award of Excellence. Her writing has also appeared in Scientific American, The Washington Post and How It Works Magazine.  Her book "Rise of the Zombie Bugs: The Surprising Science of Parasitic Mind Control" will be published in spring 2025 by Johns Hopkins University Press.