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Game Theory and the HumanitiesBridging Two Worlds$
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Steven J. Brams

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780262015226

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: August 2013

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262015226.001.0001

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The Bible: Sacrifice and Unrequited Love

The Bible: Sacrifice and Unrequited Love

(p.29) 2 The Bible: Sacrifice and Unrequited Love
Game Theory and the Humanities

Steven J. Brams

The MIT Press

This chapter discusses applications of game theory to the Hebrew Bible, and is organized as follows. Section 2.2 describes Abraham’s attempted sacrifice of his son, Isaac, as related in the book of Genesis, in which Abraham played a game with God. Section 2.3 asks whether Abraham might have achieved a better outcome if he had made a choice—contrary to fact—that he apparently rejected, highlights the role which threats played in the story, and discusses how they may be made credible. For this purpose, it introduces some nonstandard game theory based on the theory of moves (TOM). TOM is used to analyze a more secular conflict between Samson and Delilah, in which God’s name is invoked at the beginning but in which He plays no further role. Section 2.4 describes their conflict while Section 2.5 elaborates TOM’s rules of play relating to possible moves that the players can make. Section 2.6 points out that not all moves, according to TOM, may be feasible, so the analyst must take into account the situation being modeled and constraints on moves.

Keywords:   game theory, Hebrew Bible, Abraham, threats, God, theory of moves, Samson, Delilah

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