Gnosticism (Greek: γνῶσις gnōsis, knowledge) refers to diverse, syncretistic religious movements in antiquity consisting of various belief systems generally united in the teaching that the material cosmos was created ...
The gnōsis referred to in the term is a form of mystic, revealed, esoteric knowledge through which the spiritual elements of humanity are reminded of their true origins within the superior Godhead, being thus permitted to escape materiality. Consequently, within the sects of gnosticism only the pneumatics or psychics obtain gnōsis; the hylic or Somatics, though human, being incapable of perceiving the higher reality, are unlikely to attain the gnōsis deemed by gnostic movements as necessary for salvation. Jesus of Nazareth is identified by some Gnostic sects as an embodiment of the supreme being who became incarnate to bring gnōsis to the earth. In others (e.g. the Notzrim and Mandaeans) he is considered a mšiha kdaba or "false messiah" who perverted the teachings entrusted to him by John the Baptist. Still other traditions identify Mani and Seth, third son of Adam and Eve, as salvific figures.
Whereas Gnosticism has been considered by scholars to originate as a branch of Christianity, alternate theories have proposed traces of Gnostic systems existed some centuries before the Christian Era, thus predating the birth of Jesus