I realize any GPT analytical snippet may have its flaws, but I find it an alluring tool (if it continues to improve) to offer educated conjectures on what pre-Socratics would have to say about certain topics. The point is to see if GPT can craft an accurate mosaic of these pre-Socratic fragments and apply them to novel scenarios.

For this post, I'm attempting to have chatGPT ventriloquist Thales to comment on the creation account of Genesis, highlighting one congruent and one incongruent idea. It gave me the following:

Thales posited that water is the fundamental arche, the underlying substance from which all things originate. In Genesis 1:2, the acknowledgment of the formless void and the Spirit of God moving over the face of the waters aligns seamlessly with Thales' emphasis on water as the primordial source, underscoring a shared understanding of water's pivotal role in creation.

$$∀x(Origin(x)→Empedoclean Water(x))$$

Taking the verse "Καὶ ἐποίησεν ὁ Θεὸς τὸ στερέωμα," Thales might challenge the introduction of a firmament (στερέωμα) separate from water, as it introduces a distinct element not derived from water.

$$∃x(Separate Element(x) ∧ ¬Derived from Water(x))$$

Compatibility: It seems the compatible aspect more or less checks out, but GPT's a bit too enthusiastic. Water not created until Day 2. Still, it may be said that the earth's initial state was that of an inundated world, that is water preceded the other elements (on earth).

Incompatibility To me, the easiest route would have been to challenge the notion that φῶς should be insinuated as the ἀρχή. I was expecting GPT to suggest to add an asterisk clarifying this φῶς was water in its primordial state before it could be considered compatible with Thales.

The notion of στερέωμα not being reducible to the Empedoclean element of water seems a bit arbitrary to me. Genesis likely never sought to assert the heavens, nor anything else was water in its primordial state. Thales supposedly believed that the earth floated on a disk of water.


Giving GPT the benefit of the doubt on the compatible part, and focusing on the incongruent claim: would the fragments of Thales suggest that Thales would take objection to a firmament introduced at this stage of creation? Particularly, must the firmament be derived from water or would Thales allow for non-water constructs at inception, so long as they are not the first constructs in the cosmos?

1 Answer 1


Water, God, and earth are present from the Beginning in the Genesis 1 creation story. God is not made of water, nor is earth, nor anything that God makes in Genesis 1.

Whether Robot Zombie Thales would like it or not I don't care to speculate.

God creates in three ways: he creates by separating things into their proper places; or he creates out of nothing by divine Word; or he creates by proxy by commanding the earth to bring it forth. Having just created the universe, or finding himself in the primordial universe at the Beginning (1), he sees that the world is in a state of lifeless darkness and chaos. To it he brings light, order, life, and creatures like himself.

1: The text is unclear: either God is original and water and earth the first created things, or it's the beginning of God's act of creation within the existing universe, making water and earth co-pre-existing with God. Jewish and early Christian theologians eventually settled this in favor of the former in the 2nd century AD.

Understanding Genesis 1 requires one to dispense with modern vocabulary and adopt the vocabulary suited to ancient Hebrew cosmology for the Heavens, the Earth, the Deep, and the Firmament. You can start with wikipedia: Biblical Cosmology.

Forget everything about the modern planetary cosmological model. Forget the early vertiginous cosmological models of Greece and Medieval Europe that placed Earth at the bottom-center of vast concentric spheres.

When you look up at the sky, you are looking up from a bumpy circular rocky disk, bounded by mountains, supported on immense pillars, which is the Earth. The sky you see, that blue dome above the clouds, is above the sun and moon; the stars are suspended from it. It is a transparent obdurate dome, created by God. It is your life support system, the shield of all creation, the Firmament, which domes the Earth and meets the great mountains that ring the world. Above it, that blue expanse illuminated by daylight, is an infinite crushing weight of water. That same ocean extends below you; it bubbles up from the earth in springs and from the great rifts beneath the seas, interpenetrating the Earth. The world of life and light is crushed in on all sides by this unfathomable weight of water, the Deep. The impenetrable dome of the Firmament, the domains proper to the sun, moon, and stars within its shielding dome, and the oceans above the sky, together constitute the Heavens.

Lock in your ancient Hebrew cosmological definitions and then read Genesis 1.

Some useful companion texts to whichever interpolated-for-clarity translation you prefer:

Do note that much of the rest of the Jewish Bible and all of the Christian New Testament was written by people who would have believed the roughly-Aristotelian model, and not the ancient Hebrew model, if they thought about cosmological models at all.

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