The Virtual Bible Snapshot Project
Imagine if the people in Bible times had smart-phone cameras? Wouldn’t it be nice to have snapshots of the Bible Stories–photos of the patriarchs, pictures of Joseph in Egypt, or a camera roll from the time of the plagues and the Exodus from Egypt?
The recent advent of AI-generated art has opened up an incredible tool for Pastors and other teachers of the Bible to have freely-available illustrations to make teaching more impactful. In the past, most of the available art for this purpose was either (a) very old artwork from Christian history, which is out of copyright or (b) recent paintings and digital art which comes with expensive and cumbersome licensing terms, especially for the small-church pastor or teacher.
With generative AI, all of this is changing (as of 2023). With some simple prompts, anyone can now create beautiful artwork limited only by ones’ imagination. Of course, getting usable artwork is still somewhat challenging, and services still limit the number of generations due to the cost of GPU time.
What’s also helpful is how copyright law and recent court cases are relating to this new generation of AI art. As it stands now copyright law in the US only applies to works of “human creation.” Since AI art is generated by a machine with very limited human input, courts have ruled that such art cannot be subject to copyright law. Of course, there is still ongoing debate in this area, such as whether the “prompts” used to create the art are copyright-able, or even whether the process of building AI models from copyrighted material could itself be infringing.
That said, it seems that most images generated entirely by AI can be freely used and distributed without the legal minefield that plagued the use of much recent Christian art. (I must point out that I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice.)
In addition, there is also a growing collection of photographs of Bible lands and relevant illustrations that are available under Creative Commons licenses, which can be freely used for most purposes that Bible teachers would need.
The purpose of the Virtual Bible Snapshot Project is to bring together a curated collection of the best freely available images for teaching Biblical topics, including AI art and creative-commons licensed photos and artwork. This collection can be freely used for teaching and preaching illustrations. Any copyrighted images should be clearly marked as to their source and license, for instance CC-Wikipedia. See A Biblical Philosophy of Art for more discussion regarding how art can be used to teach the Bible.
Many of these images have been created with generative AI, including DALL-E, MidJourney, GenCraft, and others. They have also been collated many from other users on MidJourney, Flickr, and Wikipedia, as well as contributions from pastors and Bible teachers. If I have included images that shouldn’t be here, please feel free to message me.
Note that, in regards to the AI generated art in this collection, some files are marked as “CC0” (or other Creative Commons license) to indicate that we have explicit permission from creator/prompt writer to distribute these. Those without a license tag in the filename are assumed to be free based on the arguments above, but are not used here with the explicit permission of the creator(s).
A special thanks to our partner in this ministry, Shawn Hoffman with the Virtual Reality Bible Museum. Shawn has graciously contributed hundreds of images to this collection, including stills and 360 views of his stunning Virtual Reality sanctuary model. Be sure to check out his other resources at VRBM.org
Take a look at some samples below, or browse the entire collection at one of these links. The collection comes in two versions, the “Full” version with original (very large) PNG files, and a “condensed” version with reduced quality and size JPEG files of our best images:
- The Virtual Bible Snapshot Project – Full Images
- The Virtual Bible Snapshot Project – Condensed Version
Sample Generative AI Images
The Virtual Reality Bible Museum has graciously allowed us to redistribute their images of the ancient Wilderness Tabernacle under a Creative Commons license. You can view this collection here, but please do head over to their website at VRBM.org to see their other material, and even consider inviting their ministry to present at your church or outreach event.
Be sure to check out the 360° views of the tabernacle here. Click the three-dot menu by each photo and select the option to “View in PhotoSphereViewer”
Bible Lands Snapshot Collection
One of the most valuable collections in this project is the Bible Lands – Photos and Illustrations collection. These are mainly photographs, available under Creative Commons licenses, of various places in and around the Bible lands. These can be incredibly helpful as teaching aids, in conjunction with good resources to give history and context around these places. Note that this collection does NOT provide commentary or narrative of the places pictured. You can find helpful narrative in a good Bible Lands book. The following websites may be helpful for explanatory narrative, or if all else fails, a Google search. Note that many photos feature churches and monuments relevant to Christian history and Christian tradition, which may or may not directly relate to the actual sites where Biblical events took place, but are nevertheless helpful in understanding the Christian religion and history.
- BiblePlaces.com – The pictures here are not free, but the narratives on this site can be helpful in conjunction with the comparable CC licensed photos in this collection.
- HolyLandSite.com – Video tours and lengthy descriptions of many places featured in this collection.
- Bible Geocoding from OpenBible.info – Identify the places and locations of ancient Bible events on Google Earth.
- Bible Maps from KnowingTheBible.com (mirrored in this collection)
Sample Photos from the collection:
There are many more helpful collections of Bible illustrations and useful AI images that can’t be included here.
- FreeBibleImages is one of my favorite. Some of these images are already included here under a Creative Commons license. Many of other images are licensed such that they cannot be redistributed here without special permission, but they can be used freely for your own use and teaching.
- FreePik has a wide variety of images including AI images on Christian themes. Unlike the MidJourney collection, it is less clear whether the AI images here may also have a large component of human-created art. The copyright terms on the site do not allow redistributing their images, so we aren’t including them in this collection.
- Pixabay hosts many free AI generated images. Just search for “Jesus AI” for example, and you find a number of high quality images. For similar reasons as FreePik, we aren’t including them in this collection at this time. In particular, check out the following users on Pixabay:
- Gospel Art from the Mormon Church can be used for “personal use” and can be posted on other websites, but other use requires special permission.
The pictures in this collection are provided to you as a resource, but not as a finished teaching product. Many of these images, in their current form, may not be suitable for a general audience. Besides often distorted or misshapen bodies (a common symptom of AI generated images), there could be cases of indecent clothing or otherwise generally inappropriate images showing up in the collection. If you come across these, please kindly let us know.
Some pictures here are of excellent quality for full-screen images, while others may only be suitable for smaller illustrations. While we do our best to keep the images of the highest quality, we ask that you be responsible and selective in the use of the images. If you notice problems, please send a message to Pastor Daniel.
The photographs in the collection come from a variety of sources and represent a diversity of religious history. We hope they will be useful as teaching aids, but obviously many represent religious traditions that differ widely from our Adventist beliefs. There are many helpful resources available online and in print, which can be extremely helpful in placing these pictures in their historical and geographical context.
The content in this collection is made available under a variety of licenses. Files generated by AI are prefixed with the following words indicating their source:
- Bing Image (DALL-E Image Generator from Microsoft Bing)
According to our understanding, these AI images are generally not subject to copyright law and can be used for any purpose without an explicit license.
Other files in this collection should include a tag in the filename indicating the relevant license, as below. Most require, at least, attribution to the creator, who is named at the end of the file name.
- CC-BY – Creative Commons Attribution License
- CC-BY-SA – Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike License
- CC-BY-ND – Creative Commons Attribution No Derivatives License
- CC-BY-NC – Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial License
- PD – Public Domain
- CC0 – Essentially Public Domain
Copying / Mirroring the Collection
Since these images are completely free to use, you may wish to copy the entire collection to your computer. There is a handy button to “Download All Files” at the link above, which you can use. However, please note that the entire collection is at least 10GB (as of November 2023) and continues to grow. If you are somewhat comfortable using a command line, you can use Rclone to copy and sync the collection from Nextcloud to your computer over the WebDAV protocol. Here are basic directions:
- Download Rclone and extract it on your computer
- Open a command prompt / terminal (in Windows, press Ctrl+R, type “cmd” without quotes and press enter)
- Run the following commands
- replacing “rclone” with the full path to rclone.exe if needed, e.g. c:\rclone\rclone.exe
- replacing “/path/to/pictures” with the correct path, e.g. “c:\users\my_user\Desktop\BiblePictures”
rclone config (enter a name): ai_pictures (type of storage): webdav (url): https://cloud.fiforms.org/dan_cloud/public.php/webdav/ (vendor): nextcloud (user): TrjZLnLdf7QHcBY (or use user "tSkY7gainasSTpD" for the condensed collection) (password): n (blank password) (advanced): n y rclone sync ai_pictures:/ /path/to/pictures
If you wish to host a mirror of this collection or some portion of it on your own site, you are (obviously) welcome to do this. We do encourage you to get in touch with us, though, so that we can coordinate our efforts.
First of all, thank you! We’re glad you’re willing to share! That’s how this community will grow and flourish. For now, we (the site admins) are reviewing and sorting the images before they are placed “live” in our shared folders. Please go to this link and upload your images. For MidJourney images, please keep the job ID at the end of your filenames to make it easy for others to see your images and prompts in the MidJourney user gallery. For DALL-E, SD or other generators, please add your name to the file name before uploading so we know who uploaded the pictures, and email Pastor Daniel so that we know who has contributed and have a record of your contact information. Unless you specify otherwise, we will assume that by uploading your AI generated images to this collection, you are releasing any copyright claims to these images or prompts under a CC0 (Creative Commons Public Domain Grant) license. If you upload photographs, be sure to specify what Creative Commons license these can be used under.
Note: we are aiming for a few particular styles of art in this gallery: particularly realistic portrayals of Biblical scenes, in either photo-realistic style, or some realistic oil paintings. While other styles are occasionally included in this gallery, we don’t currently have resources to sort and curate collections of anime images, cartoon styles, illustrations, or other art styles. If others wish to curate such a collection, please contact us and we could coordinate or at least cross-link from this site to another collection. Please see the post A Biblical Philosophy of Art to learn more.
Once you upload a batch of files, please contact Pastor Daniel and we will know to take a look at them, and also know who the files came from!
If you’d like to help us organize and curate these files (read-write access to the NextCloud folder) or collaborate in other ways, just reach out to us. We will be glad for the help!