Abraham Eleazar (14th c.?) was a Mysterious Jewish alchemist, associated by some with Nicholas Flamel.
Nothing is known about the life of Abraham Eleazar other than what is contained in his book Uraltes Chymishces Werck (Age-Old Chymical Work). Scholars have debated the verity of the work and the existence of Eleazar, some contending the work is spurious and was written as late as the 17th century, while others say the work dates to the early 14th century and may or may not have been written by one “Abraham Eleazar.” A distinguishing characteristic of the book is its emphasis on the Jewish religion and the plight and suffering of Jews, elements usually not found in purely alchemical manuscripts, even those written by Jewish alchemists.
Age-Old Chymical Work was printed in German in 1735. The book has two parts. The title pages describe Eleazar as “A Prince, Priest, and Levite, Astrologer and Philosopher, born of the Stock of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Judah.” The book is a “gift of God of Samuel Baruch,” an unknown person but supposedly—according to the second title page—a rabbi, astrologer, and philosopher, born of the same stock as Eleazar. The book purports to teach “the great Secret of the great Master Tubal-Cain, from his tablet, found by the Jew Abraham Eleazar.” Julius Gervasius, another unknown figure, is credited with publishing the book and adding illustrations, indices, and so forth. Of all of these names, the only one known is the mythical Tubal-Cain.
According to Gervasius’s preface, Eleazar lived prior to the time of Flamel, or before the 14th century; he “flourished quite sometime after the destruction of Jerusalem.” Eleazar was concerned about the plight of the Jews in his community under the oppression of the Roman Empire, whom he witnessed in great suffering and believed that the suffering was the results of the sins of their forefathers. He said he would teach the secrets of alchemy so that his people could benefit and pay their required taxes to the empire.
Gervasius equates the manuscript with the mysterious book of alchemical hieroglyphs acquired by Flamel, the so-called book of Abraham the Jew. He says that in Age-Old Chymical Work, Eleazar explains the hierogylphs that were originally made by Tubal-Cain.
Eleazar’s book contains alchemical recipes and mysticism and discusses alchemical symbol s. The second part, which is attributed to the unknown Samuel Baruch, is an alchemical commentary on Genesis. Eleazar explains that he found the secret writings of Baruch on copper tablets and copied them into tree bark—another apparent link to Flamel’s book, which Flamel said was written on pages made of tree bark and covered with a thin sheet of copper.
Some scholars have speculated that Gervasius is the true author of the book, which is not likely. He is critical of the Jews in his preface, calling them a “miserable people” who are cursed by their condemnation of Jesus. Nonetheless, he has respect for Jewish alchemical adepts.
It is difficult to know whether Age-Old Chymical Work is a genuine text that preceded Flamel or whether it was inspired by Flamel as a spurious work. Most likely, it is not older than the 14th century.
- Patai, Raphael. The Jewish Alchemists. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1994.