AI as Tutor in Biblical Studies?

AI as Tutor in Biblical Studies? October 2, 2023

I am continuing to experiment with, and attend workshops and seminars about, the use of AI in higher education. I don’t think that a tool like ChatGPT can serve as a reliable and effective tutor in the humanities, if by tutor we mean someone who can be a helpful with regard to information and methods, two things that an AI has no capacity to provide. However, in a recent workshop at my university I was led in the direction of some helpful uses that ChatGPT might be put to. One is to tell the AI what scholars you have read and asking which others have views that you might be missing. I typed in to ChatGPT, “I am doing research on the historical Jesus. I have the views of Borg and Crossan. Which scholars hold different views that I need to include in my essay?” It recommended other scholars such as N. T. Wright and Bart Ehrman, even explaining that Borg and Crossan are both connected with the Jesus Seminar and thus reflect a similar methodology and viewpoint. It got stuck the first time it was generating the response but I regenerated its response and it produced this:

Certainly, when researching the historical Jesus, it’s essential to consider a range of perspectives to provide a well-rounded view of the subject. While you’ve mentioned the views of Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan, who are associated with the Jesus Seminar and often take a more liberal or skeptical approach to the historical Jesus, it’s also important to include scholars with different perspectives. Here are a few scholars who hold different views:

  1. N.T. Wright: N.T. Wright is a prominent New Testament scholar who takes a more conservative or traditional view of the historical Jesus. He argues for the historicity of the resurrection and emphasizes Jesus’ role as the Messiah and the Son of God.
  2. Ben Witherington III: Witherington is another conservative New Testament scholar who has written extensively on the historical Jesus. He offers a more orthodox perspective on Jesus’ life, teachings, and significance.
  3. Richard Bauckham: Bauckham is known for his work on Jesus and the eyewitnesses. He argues for the reliability of the Gospels as sources for the life of Jesus and the involvement of eyewitnesses in their composition.
  4. Dale Allison: Dale Allison takes a nuanced approach, considering both the historical and theological aspects of the Gospels. He has written on various aspects of the historical Jesus, including his eschatology and the apocalyptic context.
  5. E.P. Sanders: Sanders’ work on the historical Jesus, particularly in his book “The Historical Figure of Jesus,” takes a more middle-of-the-road approach, focusing on Jesus within the context of Second Temple Judaism.
  6. Bart Ehrman: Ehrman’s work often explores the historical Jesus from a critical perspective. He raises questions about the reliability of the Gospels and discusses the evolution of early Christian beliefs.

Including perspectives from scholars with varying viewpoints will help you present a more comprehensive understanding of the debates and discussions surrounding the historical Jesus. It’s important to engage with their arguments, compare and contrast their views, and critically evaluate the evidence and methodologies they employ in their research. This will enrich the depth and credibility of your essay on the topic.

Another idea is to use ChatGPT as a conversation partner for students who are not inclined to disagree with one another due to their culture and upbringing. The bot can be given directions to adopt the persona of someone who disagrees with the conclusions of the student. I have yet to experiment with this, but it seems that this could be a good use. One concern I have is that ChatGPT is so prone to politely apologize when challenged that it might not actually work. Another concern I have is that the bot would essentially replicate the Argument Clinic from Monty Python.

I also plan to experiment with its use as a guide to formatting citations correctly. ChatGPT is infamous for making up sources. If it is given some basic info, such as author and title, and asked to provide a citation in Chicago or MLA or whatever other format, how will it do, and how consistently?

Before ending this post, I should also mention that I found on Reddit that someone tried to get ChatGPT to reenact the famous Argument Clinic Monty Python sketch.


Browse Our Archives