Friday, February 3, 2023


I have been talking about ChatGPT with my faculty colleagues.ChatGPT is the new artificial intelligence resource that creates responses to questions posed to it. It surveys the web, and has learned enough natural language ability to create reasoned responses. You can ask it to write songs, poems, stories with parameters you specify. It can sometimes be amazingly good and sometimes stunningly bad. (Cf. below where I asked it to compose a poem based on Luke 8.22-25.)

I’ve played around with it posing biblical and theological questions. The responses were mostly accurate, sometimes even insightful, and sometimes better than what I’ve gotten from students. The concern in an academic setting is that the responses can be used without fear of plagiarism, because each time you use it, it creates something new. (Apparently new tools are being created to check if someone has used ChatGPT.) You can get very specific about asking questions requesting evidence or citations, and you can ask it to include particular details in its response.

Someone did further testing using ChatGPT for biblical stuff. You’ll see how far you can go with this:
You’ll also see that it has fatal flaws.

TLdr: ChatGPT was smart enough to identify what the scholarly issues are re: Jew and Gentile in Romans 2. It was able to address for specific and detailed questions. It even was able to cite known scholars and provide citations for articles in JBL or in books. Good? Further digging, however, showed that some of the citations were either inaccurate or fictions. I.e., ChatGPT was probably drawing on stuff it found on the web where people have made the errors, and it just repeated them. (Follow up article on Isaac Soon’s ChatGPT experiment: )

So what does this mean for seminary teachers?

  1. ChatGPT  is out there, it’s free, it’s handy… Assume students are going to use it.
  2. ChatGPT might be quite useful for students just wanting to get some initial background information. In many instances, it’s better than a Google search.
  3. It might be helpful in provoking new ideas. Stuck on a writing a sermon? ChatGPT shouldn’t be used to write a sermon, but it might generate some sparks to get you going.
  4. I think the most helpful way to use ChatGPT is to assign students a question to ask it. Then, ask them to verify and provide accurate citations for the responses. As a final outcome, they should edit or rewrite the ChatGPT response and provide a better and more reliable response.