We are asking a simple, yet difficult question in this series. Do we find Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the Bible?
Our position is that we find three types of intelligence in the Bible:
- Supernatural Intelligence
- Natural Intellilgence
- Artificial Intelligence
Supernatural Intelligence would include God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), angels, heavenly creatures and demons.
Natural Intelligence would include humans. Though some animals, birds, insects and sea creatures demonstrate aspects of intelligence, what God gave them could be likened to special cognitive abilities rather than human-like intelligence. The combination of instinct and cognitive ability allows them to adapt to specific environments and environmental challenges.
We move now to the question of where to find Artificial Intelligence in the Bible.
AI in the Bible
Artificial Intelligence is basically “machines that can learn.” Some people believe machine learning (ML) is a type of AI and say that true AI machines learn and imitate human behavior. Whatever simple definition we use the question remains, where do we find AI in the Bible?
The Bible covers a time period from “the beginning” (Genesis 1:1) to the end of time (Revelation 21:1 – 22:5). The physical writing of the Bible covers a time period from about 1450 BC to 97 AD. Both of those time periods are important as we answer our question.
Let’s begin with the physical writing of the Bible (Old and New Testaments). Those dates, 1450 BC to 97 AD, fall into what we might call “ancient” times. Many historians believe “ancient times” ended with the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD and the beginning of what they call the “Middle Ages.” With those dates in mind, what ancient machines do we find in the Bible that would fit the definition of “machines that learn and imitate human behavior?”
Simple ancient machines include levers, wheels, pulleys, axles, ramps (inclined plane), wedges and screws. People living in ancient times used a variety of materials available to them to make these “machines” including wood, stone, metal, clay, animal bones, plant fibers, etc. We see evidence of the availability of these materials in the early chapters of Genesis.
And as for Zillah, she also bore Tubal-Cain, an instructor of every craftsman in bronze and iron. Genesis 4:22
The term “craftsman” in Hebrew is ḥōrêš and means “artificer” (fabricator). The word “bronze” is nəḥōšeṯ (copper, brass, bronze). The word “iron” is ḇarzel (iron-ore, stone containing iron). The “Bronze Age” is estimated to have been from about 3300 BC to 1200 BC. The “Iron Age” is estimated to have been from about 1200 BC and 600 BC. What we see in Genesis 4:22 is that bronze and iron were both used by craftsmen well before the global Flood. They may have used bronze and iron tools to cut wood and stone to build houses and furniture, weapons and other items used in ancient times. Bronze is made from copper-ore and alloyed with tin. Iron is found in abundance in stone and rocks that are in the earth. Some iron comes from meteorites that fall from the sky.
Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch. Genesis 6:14
Humanity had become so wicked and violent that God decided to destroy everyone except for one man and his family. That man was Noah. God told Noah to build an “ark” (têḇaṯ – box, chest) of “gopherwood” (‘ăṣê ḡōp̄er – wood from gopher tree). Some researchers believe gopher wood might have come from what we call cypress trees, but they are not positive about what tree was available to Noah before the global Flood. The gopherwood tree may even be extinct since Noah’s time. The wood from the gopher tree would have been the right kind of wood to build a massive floating ark that would house Noah and his family and the animals, birds and insects God would bring to them and withstand the explosive change in weather caused by global flooding, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, etc. Noah would probably have used cutting tools that the craftsmen of his time made from bronze and iron. It may have been that Noah had skills in working with bronze and iron and may have made his own tools. Noah may have also used metal or wood nails and screws in the building process.
The word “pitch” is kōp̄er and means “ransom, satisfaction, covering.” God told Noah to “cover” (ḵāp̄artā – cover over, pacify, propitiate, bitumen covering) the ark inside and outside with pitch. Pitch (kōp̄er) is an organic byproduct of decomposed plants. It is waterproof, which would make it perfect to use it as a covering for the Ark inside and outside. Noah would have had easy access to a large quantity of pitch and he would need it for something as large as the Ark.
We find people building cities within a couple of centuries of the end of the global Flood.
Cush begot Nimrod; he began to be a mighty one on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; therefore it is said, ‘Like Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord.’ And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. From that land he went to Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah (that is the principal city). Genesis 10:8-12
Nimrod was a descendent of Noah and the first king on earth (the beginning of his “kingdom”). Noah and his sons would have still been alive (based on the ages of people listed in Genesis 11), so the knowledge of using bronze and iron to make tools for cutting wood and carving stone would have been known to Nimrod. Wood and stone were probably the building blocks he would have used to build his cities and the walls that would have protected the cities.
The first structure Nimrod and other members of Noah’s extended family attempted to build in the land of Shinar was a ziggurat (stepped-pyramid). Notice the building materials they used:
Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. Then they said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly. They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. And they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth. Genesis 11:1-4
Notice the building materials they used:
- brick for stone
- asphalt for mortar
Archaeologists have found that brick and stone were primary building materials thousands of years ago. Asphalt (bitumen) was used as mortar between bricks. It held bricks together and helped in waterproofing the construction. Wood, stones, bricks and other readily-available natural materials were used in construction for millennia and the history we find in the Bible demonstrates that fact. A variety of objects made from metals found in the earth were fashioned into the tools needed to shape wood, stones and bricks for building a wide variety of buildings from houses to palaces, from city walls to pyramids.
King Nimrod was a “mighty one” (gibbōr – strong, powerful, hero, champion) on the earth (Genesis 10:8). He was also a mighty “hunter” (ṣayiḏ – game hunter). Nimrod was a skilled killer of animals which would help feed his family. But the fact that he was also viewed as a powerful hero and champion described his ability at another type of hunting. Nimrod hunted and killed people. That’s how kings got and kept power. It’s how they expanded their power. Nimrod probably lived for about four centuries (see Genesis 11 for comparison of Shem’s lineage with Cush’s lineage in Genesis 10), which would have given him the time to conquer most of Mesopotamia and build multiple cities. Archaeologists have uncovered some of those ancient cities and discovered evidence of powerful military dynasties. Nimrod and his descendants built cities that became city-states through military conquest and totalitarian rule.
How did Nimrod do that? Kings in ancient times were often great warriors who inspired men to fight with them and for them. Kings built armies equipped with war machines. What are some ancient war machines we find in the Bible?
The first described battle with multiple kings in the Bible is found in Genesis 14. Some of the kings won and some lost. The kings who won kidnapped Abram’s (Abraham) nephew and family. When Abram heard about the attack and kidnapping, he armed 318 of his trained servants and chased after the kings. Abram divided his forces against them at night and attacked the kings. Abram won and rescued his nephew and family and brought back all the people and goods the kings had stolen. We’re not told what weapons Abram and his servants used in the rescue, but it’s an example of how training and arming an army of servants could defeat the armies of several kings.
Training was just one part of developing a “war machine” in ancient times. Another part was the use of horses and chariots to fight wars. A chariot was a type of carriage on wheels that was hooked up to two or more horses. It allowed for one or more soldiers to ride swiftly into battle and use a variety of weapons against their enemies. Those weapons included knives, swords, spears and bows and arrows. The first mention in the Bible refers to Joseph riding in a chariot in Egypt (Genesis 41). We see chariots mentioned several other places in the Bible (e.g. Exodus 14; Joshua 11; 1 Kings 4; Acts 8). It demonstrates that chariots were used during the entire time of the writing of the Bible. Very little changed during that time in how armies fought.
We also find “siegeworks” mentioned in the Bible. It’s mentioned by Moses in Deuteronomy 20. Moses had trained in Egyptian-style warfare as a young man, so he would have learned how to conduct a successful siege. The Hebrew word is māṣōwr. Ancient siegeworks were used in ancient warfare for thousands of years. Armies would set up “siege” strategies when they came against a city or fortress that would not surrender and couldn’t be taken quickly. Sieges included surrounding the city and blocking a way in or out of the city. The siege army could cut off resupply of provisions and troops. They could also use siege engines, battering rams and artillery attacks to instill fear in the citizens of the embattled city in addition to the possibility of the attacking army breaching the fortified city walls. Waiting out the opponents inside a city could last months and even years, so the attacking army had to be committed to that kind of warfare.
We find examples of a variety of army sieges in the Bible. The Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks and Romans were well known for their siege strategies. Israel also used sieges in their warfare, but were often the nation under siege. Jerusalem and both of its Temples were destroyed following lengthy sieges by enemies of Israel. The Babylonians destroyed the First Temple and the city of Jerusalem in early part of the 6th century BC.
Now it came to pass in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and all his army came against Jerusalem and encamped against it; and they built a siege wall against it all around. So the city was besieged until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah. By the ninth day of the fourth month the famine had become so severe in the city that there was no food for the people of the land … And in the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month (which was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon), Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard, a servant of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. He burned the house of the Lord and the king’s house; all the houses of Jerusalem, that is, all the houses of the great, he burned with fire. And all the army of the Chaldeans who were with the captain of the guard broke down the walls of Jerusalem all around. 2 Kings 25:1-3, 8-10
The Romans destroyed the Second Temple and the city of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Jesus told His disciples it was going to happen about 30 AD.
Then as He went out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Teacher, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!‘ And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another, that shall not be thrown down. Mark 13:1-2
Jewish historian Josephus was an eyewitness to the Roman army siege of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple and city. He described the Roman siege machines used against the Jews in Israel. The ballista hurled heavy stones long distances to a target. The catapult was used to shoot a variety of missiles (e.g. arrows, pikes) at the enemy. The Romans also used large battering rams. Josephus, who was a Jewish commander, described the power of that machine.
Now that the embankment was approaching the ramparts, Vespasian had the battering ram advanced into position. The ram is composed of a large beam, like the mast of a ship, on one end of which is a mass of iron of a ram’s head, whence its name. It is suspended by ropes and hung from a beam above, which is supported at both ends by upright posts. A large group of men first pull the ram backward, then heave it forward so that it batters the wall. No wall or town can withstand its repeated assaults. Josephus, The Jewish War, W III.193
The Roman General Titus marched from Caesarea with a large number of soldiers toward Jerusalem. That began the siege of Jerusalem that would lead to the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy concerning the city. Though it took about five months, the Romans were eventually victorious. They destroyed the city and the Temple and killed thousands of Jews. Many more thousands died of starvation in the city because of the Roman blockade. You can read The Jewish Wars by Josephus for details of the battles and aftermath.
Think about all of the building materials and war machines we’ve described that were used from the earliest time to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Do you see any that could be called “Artificial Intelligence?” Did any of the materials or machines have the ability to learn and imitate human behavior? The short answer is “no.” As effective as the Roman war machines were in defeating enemies, not one of those machines could learn anything on their own and they certainly couldn’t imitate human behavior.
So, where in the Bible do we find AI? We’ll look deeper into that in the next part of our special series on Artificial Intelligence in the Bible.
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