“The word gnosis is the Greek word for knowledge, and they claimed to have secret knowledge that is needed to achieve salvation. Therefore, they were smug elitists in the worst way.”
- Apologist Meme Endlessly Repeated
There are two words for knowledge in Classical Greek: 'gnosis' and 'episteme'. Since 'gnosis' is the direct acquaintanceship that leads to being able to recognize, it isn't something you can keep secret, nor something you can disclose only to the elect.
If we both know Anthony, we both are acquainted with and can recognize him. There is nothing you can do to keep me from recognizing him, and vice-versa. If I don't and you do, there is nothing you can tell me that will ensure that I do recognize him. Mistaken recognition is a constant theme in comedy, pointing out our pragmatic understanding of this. This is not to say that there aren't things you can tell me that might help me, but you cannot tell me recognition—it doesn't even make grammatical sense.
The only way for what the apologists are saying to make sense is if we change terms, replace 'episteme' for 'gnosis.' If you do that, then it could be a type of knowledge, information, that you could tell someone—and you could then have a system where that information was required for salvation. Who has such a system? The apologists themselves. If you do not posses the information about Jesus, you would be unable to believe it, and hence are damned. This is their world-view, I trust I don't have to drag it out ad nauseum.
So, who are the smug elitists with the information required for salvation? Not the Gnostics, but rather the Meme loving orthodox-minded apologists themselves and their co-religionists.