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Biblical Games: Game Theory and the Hebrew Bible Paperback – December 2, 2002
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About the Author
Steven J. Brams is Professor of Politics at New York University.
Top Customer Reviews
Throughout the chapters, Brams looks at every character as a player in a game, which, by itself, is touted as a challenge whose outcome is dependent upon the type of decisions executed. He subsequently utilizes payoff matrices, which are 2x2 geometric patterns that represent the outcomes of at least four different courses of action, where the results are weighed in as follows: 4=Best, 3= Next Best, 2= Next Worst, and 1=Worst. For each game, Brams places these numbers in ordered pairs; for example, (1,1) would be the result of a worst case scenario for both parties, a (4,2) might be interpreted as a situation where Player/Group #1 has the best possible outcome at the expense of Player/Group #2, who must settle for what is interpreted as next to worst.
In Biblical Games, Brams makes transitions from one decision-making conflict to another. Some of the so-called games exclusively involve bitter enemies, others concern those who typically have one another's best interests at heart, and some just implicate those who are essentially indifferent about the next person's fate or welfare. As he proceeds from section to section, Brams surprises the reader with scenarios that can run counter to one's expectations by showing that regardless of the nature of the game or conflict, there can potentially exist a win-win outcome between enemies and an unmitigated disaster that can be brought forth between friends.Read more ›
Brams uses 2x2, non-cooperative models of complete information for the most part. He uses both game trees and normal expressions of the situations under analysis. This is, I think, one of the strengths of the book. The stories are familiar, if you are familiar with the Judeo-Christian religion, and thus this captures one's attention in ways that abstract stories about prisoners, and husband and wives and other classic illustrations in game theory may not. God is included as a player in situations Brams analyzes, and his interpretations are, at the very least, illuminating. While reading it, I was reminded of an Edmund Burke quote which more or less says that even heresy is valuable insofar as it stirs the stagnant waters of science such that progress can be made. I am finding that even when I disagree with Brams interpretation, his game theoretic explanation nonetheless sheds some light on the story, as well as on broader spiritual ideas like faith and rationality.
One criticism I have of the book is, though, that it is limited only to games of complete information. As I said, I do believe that the fact that this book only uses noncooperative games of complete information is its strength, precisely because I believe this book is helpful as a primer to game theory.Read more ›
The book was interesting and thought provoking. I would recommend it to anyone with a secular interest in game theory applied to a non-obvious choice of subject. The author isn't presuming to think like God. He is applying game theory to a group of situations many are already familiar with.
The doubts of the faithful include those of Eve regarding the death that would seem to immediately follow eating fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, as well as the expectation that God would allow Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac to be consummated. In addition, these doubts are seen to give rise to the counter-arguments that the faithful often direct towards God. Adam points out that the forbidden fruit seemed less than completely suspect because it came from the hand of Eve--the very helpmate that God fashioned from his own flesh. As for Cain and his slaying of brother Abel, Cain's somewhat insolent remark that he is not his "brother's keeper" is meant to show that the actual "keeper" is God, who set up this seminal sibling rivalry by his summary rejection of Cain's offering.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The major reason for a cautious "I like it," rather than an 100% vote, is that I certainly do feel a bit cautious in this kind of game theory (see VA Kolve for the other... Read morePublished 6 months ago by John McLaughlin
He didn't read the book and misinterpreted the whole concept of it. Just because your jewish does't make you an expert on the old testament.Published on October 4, 2003