The Gnostics were a sect that was present throughout the early New Testament church. It consisted of little groups of people that met together under the teaching of a guru. A guru was essentially a philosopher that held knowledge about how man is supposed to live.
The basic teaching of the Gnostic school is that the whole world is divided into two groups. There is one good group, and one evil group. This concept is also known as dualism. To them, all matter was evil and thus they rejected the idea of God being the Creator of the world. Their Supreme Being had to be completely removed from any matter.
Their ideas about how the world was created are interesting. They believed that the world was created by emanations. The Supreme Being emanated other divine beings, which in turn created other divine powers. Charles Bigg states concerning this, “a long chain of divine creatures, each weaker than its parents,” are created and come at last, “to one who, while powerful enough to create is silly enough not to see that creation is wrong.” Since man was created by a divine being he is a mix of material and spiritual and thus he needs to be saved from the material
The Supreme Being noticed this need in man, so he sent one of the lesser divine beings, called Christ, to save man. But it gets more complicated. Since, Christ can have no contact with matter, he cannot be in the matter of a human body. So when he was baptized Christ came down into him and when he was arrested Christ ascended out of him. In some radical forms of Gnosticism, the Christ did not even have a human body, he simply was a sort of heavenly ghost.
Thankfully the early Christian church recognized this error. One of the reasons we have the Apostles Creed is because of this heresy. The early church believed it was necessary to outline what they believed, so that no one could be mistaken concerning their beliefs. Thus, we have statements such as:
I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth; And in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord; Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary; Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell; The third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
Today doctrine and creeds are just as important as they were 2000 years ago. There are hundreds of types of Christianity and many of them teach heresy. We must be able to discern between the lie and the truth. That is why Hosea gives the warning in Hosea 4:6, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: Because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: Seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.”