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Biblical Games: Game Theory and the Hebrew Bible

Author

Listed:
  • Steven J. Brams

    () (New York University)

Abstract

In this unusual book, first published by The MIT Press in 1980 and now updated with a new chapter, Steven Brams applies the mathematical theory of games to the Hebrew Bible. Brams's thesis is that God and the human biblical characters acted rationally—that is, given their preferences and their knowledge of other players' preferences, they made strategy choices that led to the best attainable outcomes. Beginning with the Creation and focusing on those stories richest in conflict and intrigue, Brams uses elementary game-theoretic tools to elucidate the rational calculations of biblical players and to show precisely the manner in which they sought to achieve their goals. He relies almost exclusively on noncooperative theory, making use of both game tree and matrix forms of games. Brams uses his strategic analyses to build a detailed assessment of God's character and motivations, including the reasons for His frequently wrathful behavior. Brams's insights have application to biblical studies, the philosophy of religion, political theory, and game theory and methodology. In the new chapter, Brams surveys the literature of the past twenty years on political-strategic interpretations of the Hebrew Bible. He also extends the game-theoretic analysis, using the theory of moves, to study a counterfactual situation—what if Abraham had refused God's command to sacrifice Isaac?—and to examine the rationality of believing in a superior being.

Suggested Citation

  • Steven J. Brams, 2002. "Biblical Games: Game Theory and the Hebrew Bible," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262523329, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:mtp:titles:0262523329
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    Cited by:

    1. Paul Pecorino, 2004. "Negotiation games: applying game theory to bargaining and arbitration, rev. ed., by Brams, S. J. Routledge advances in game theory, ed. by Schmidt, C., London and New York: Routledge, 2003, xxvi &plus," Managerial and Decision Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 25(3), pages 175-176.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    game theory; Hebrew Bible;

    JEL classification:

    • C7 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory
    • Z12 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Religion

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