Consider an idea. This environment, with all these people expecting a Messiah (or Christ since a lot of them spoke Greek) start to be called Christians (or maybe even thought of themselves as Christians). Now the particular Christ they worshiped may wasn't necessarily Jesus. Mandaeans, for example, worshiped John the Baptist, a lot of them simply held to the idea that a Christ was coming.Forum Monk wrote: You are probably correct and for the moment my thoughts on the matter are a bit scattered. I know what I want to say, just not sure how to say it right now.
In that environment a number of people became 'the Christ', ranging from Pythagoras (yes the one who made us all hate triangles) to Julius Caesar who rose three days after his death as a new deity in Rome. People were so desperate for saviors that a guy named Alexander of Abonutichus defrauded people by naming a sock puppet Glycon the snake God and then tried to get ladies to immaculately conceive with him (its true, look it up).
Alexander was able to pull this fraud off because people were expecting a savior to show up that would fit certain characteristics. The gross outlines of what a Christ would be were fairly well known, it was just a matter of doctrine that would determine the details.
The result is that, early on there were only vague outlines of a Christ story. Paul refers to 'Christ crucified' but doesn't mention details like the Sermon on the Mount or the changing of water into wine because crucifixion and betrayal were characteristics a Christ had to have while the Sermon on the Mount was doctrinal, to be written later, as was the changing of water to wine.
If we suppose that a Christ lived then Paul was unable to quote him, even when it served his purpose to do so, and ignored the opinions of the people who actually met him. A more likely story is that Paul's vision was of a savior, a Christ, who fit his expectation of what a Christ should be. Not a Jewish Messiah, a king who would lead the Jews to a new kingdom but a Gnostic Christ, personal savior of mankind who would redeem sins and grant an eternal spiritual life.
That is the crux of it though, when you boil it all down. The one common denominator of Gnosticism was the notion of salvation and Saviour, a Christ. All of the Gnostic sects have that notion in common though not always in the exact same way.