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Michael Hart is an amateur historian and also the author of The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History. In this book Hart lists in order the people he believes to be the top 100 most influential people. In this essay I am going to look at three specific people, and compare Hart’s ranking of their impact on society against my own. The three people are Jesus of Nazareth, the founder of Christianity; Paul of Tarsus, Christianity’s most important missionary; and Muhammad, the founder of Islam. Since religion did play a considerable role in the shaping of civilizations, it is no coincidence that these three people are respectively the three most important people in the founding of the top two religions in the world. Also Hart’s ranking of these three men will be analyzed, and compared to my own rankings of these three influential men.
In Hart’s book, The 100, he regards all three of these men as being very important in contributing to the rise of two great religions. In his ranking of the top 100 Muhammad, Jesus, and St. Paul rank one, three, and six respectively. Now right from this statement most people would believe that Hart is already wrong, and that Jesus should be one. In some sense those who believe that Jesus are right because the amount of Christians in the world almost doubles that of the Moslems. Yet if we carefully look at Hart’s reasons for ranking them the way he does, you would see that his ranking seems more understandable.
First we should start by analyzing Hart’s reasons for ranking Muhammad one. His main point for ranking him one, above Jesus, is because “ Muhammad played a more important role in the development of Islam then Jesus did on the development of Christianity';(9). He believes this statement to be true because St. Paul complemented Jesus in helping to spread the belief of Christianity. Though Jesus was responsible for the main ethical and moral precepts it was St. Paul who was the main developer of its theology, its proselytizer, and for writing a large portion of the New Testament. While on the other hand Muhammad was the only one responsible for the teachings of Islam, and also to the moral and main ethical principles. This is shown in the idea that the Koran, the sacred book of Islam, contains the teachings of Muhammad, and that his teachings are said to be the words of God.
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Hart believe that Jesus was just a little less influential in history. Without St. Paul Christianity might not have become the important religion it did, but without Jesus Christianity probably wouldn’t exist. Finally, St. Paul is ranked sixth on Harts list for the reason that he was the main person who helped to shape the theology of Christianity. Since Christianity became such an important factor in the shaping of history, St Paul had to be put near the top of the list. The most important factor that St. Paul contributed to Christianity was his missionary work in which he was very successful in converting non-Jews into Christians.
To me there are a few factors that I would consider important to be considered a person who has a great impact on history. I believe that probably the single most important factor is for the person to think individually. I believe that the person should have his own ideas and beliefs, because it always seems to be the people who are considered to be the crazy ones who are the people that change the world. Another quality I believe is important is to have a great sense of leadership and courage. I believe that a person who is able to rally together a bunch of people, whether it be a country or not, and have all of them follow him is a rare and hard to find quality. I think that person’s ideas or inventions and their impact on the outcome of history is of grave importance. For example the invention of the wheel, not only did it make things easier for the culture at the time, but it also to this day plays an important role in society. Last of all I think that to have an impact on history I think that the person has to first have an impact on his own time and place.
Using these factors and beliefs along with Harts rational on the rankings of these three religious people, I believe that his rankings were correct. I think that collectively Muhammad did accomplish more than Jesus and St. Paul. It was Muhammad alone who started the Moslem religion as well as being solely responsible for the teachings of the Koran. While on the other hand Jesus and St. Paul did both play an important role in the rise of Christianity, it is just that it was the combination of them both that made it successful. I think that if I were to rank these three individuals myself I would end up with the same rankings. Even though I am a Christian, I would still put Muhammad ahead of Jesus and St. Paul. There are other factors in this ranking besides the importance of each of their roles in the rise of their respective religions though. Such thing as the civilization that the person was born in makes a difference as well. As Hart puts it, “The majority of the persons in this book had the advantage of being born and raised in centers of high civilization, highly cultured or politically pivotal nations. This is another advantage for Muhammad being ranked one because he was born in a Mecca, and at that time Mecca was a place were many Arabs believed in many gods. So the idea of a single god would of have to come from the influence of few Jews or Christians that Muhammad crossed paths with coincidentally.
In conclusion all three of these individuals, Muhammad, Jesus, and St. Paul, were very influential people on history. Each of them played a role in the development of their respective religions, which was unmatched. If any of these people were not involved in their religion, it could be quite possible that either Christianity or the Islamic religions would not be as important or may-be not even exist. Using my own factors in ranking an influential person, and by comparing them to Hart’s, I have come to the conclusion that we both agree on the same rank, and that Muhammad was a more influential person than Jesus and St. Paul. Also that Jesus was a slightly more influential person than St. Paul, because without his existence there would probably be no religion called Christianity.