Also known as the Naassenes, this early Gnostic sect commonly received criticism from Hippolytus and Irenaeus. The Ophites placed heavy emphasis on the serpent in the Biblical book Genesis, and they connected the Tree of Knowledge (the Tree of Good and Evil) to gnosis.
The Ophites view the serpent as the hero, and regard the God of the Old Testament to be the evil demiurge. This sect claimed that the serpent was trying to cause Adam and Eve to gain knowledge (gnosis), and the God of Orthodox Christianity and Judaism forbade this. There are also many Ophite sub-sects including the Naassenes, Sethians, Mandaeans, Perates, and Borborites.
The Ophite theology is drawn in a diagram that consists of ten (sometimes seven) separate circles. These circles are surrounded by one circle that the Ophites believe to be the world soul. The world soul is Leviathan. The Gehenna, a thick black line, divides this diagram. The Father is the one who imposes the seal upon the diagram. The one sealed is the Youth or Son.
There are seven angels sent to deliver this seal. These angels stand on both sides of the soul and set it free from the body. There are also bad angels, created by the Demiurge. These angels are Archontics.
There are seven Archontics. The first is lion-shaped, the second is a bill, the third is a hissing amphibian, the fourth is an eagle, the fifth a bear, the sixth a dog, and the seventh is a donkey named Onoel.
The Ophites place a heavy emphasis on the serpent of the Old Testament, and believe that through this hero of knowledge, humanity will grow to realize that the creator God is the Demiurge, and that their True God has yet to be known.