I was discussing some things at work with a co-worker and he tossed out a question that I've never heard before. He asked, "Why don't you believe in Hercules instead of Jesus." I laughed at first then thought....ok...he was being serious. I went home and read a brief story of Hercules and he has a strikingly similar story to that of Jesus. Many people date his life about 1000 years before Christ as well leaving me to ask was his story edited later or just a really big fluke the supernatural aspects match? What is a rebuttal against this if someone ever is to say Jesus is a rip off of Hercules?
My immediate answer to this argument has been that there is strong historical evidence for the existence of Jesus and for his actions and teachings. The gospels were written at a time when many who could have refuted them were still alive, and when many who could attest to their truth were as well. Even non-Christian writers document the existence of Jesus and his teachings, even if they did not accept the miracles. Nobody ever claimed to write an eyewitness account of the life of Hercules. Every account of his life claimed that he lived hundreds of years before the writer. He is essentially a mythic rather than historic personage. Even the accounts of his life don’t always agree.
The second answer is that there are significant differences between the historic Jesus and the mythic Hercules. Most notably, nobody ever claimed that Hercules died to take away the sins of the world. Some accounts have him dying as an old man. He was never considered a sacrifice for sin. Nor have I ever read a claim that he was sinless. There are no eyewitness accounts that Hercules rose from the grave. These are essential doctrines of Christianity.
I believe there may have been a Hercules, who performed some of the acts attributed to him, or at least something similar. But nobody ever claims to have actually seen him do what he is said to have done. I know, on the other hand, that there was a man named Jesus who lived and taught. Eyewitnesses attribute miracles to him. Eyewitnesses say he rose from the grave. They say that proves he was the Messiah and that he takes away our sins. That is why I don’t believe in Hercules “instead” of Jesus.