Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
A Case Study in Apostasy
05/23/2013 - James WhiteEvidently, you cannot identify apostasy in today's world, let alone passionately call someone to repent of it lest they experience the wrath of God's judgment, lest you run afoul of the new cultural First Commandment, Thou Shalt Be Nice. Sometimes being nice is the coward's way out. I would say most of my failures as a parent were related to wanting to be "liked" by my kids rather than doing what was best for them and right in God's eyes. How often we are willing to compromise God's glory, God's truth, for the sake of our own popularity. We never show ourselves less willing to tread in the apostles' footsteps than when we fall into line with this new cultural dogmatism.
Last week while I was in Montana I received an e-mail from Tyler McNabb. It had been quite some time since I had last had contact with Tyler, as I had addressed his situation back in July of 2012, here and here. He had drawn back from conversion, briefly, but, as his email indicates, went through with it. Others, who follow his blog, indicate that he was contacted by many of the same folks who have declined to defend Rome's primary authority claims over the years but who are quick to "compass land and sea" to make converts to Mother Rome. In any case, I did not respond immediately to young Tyler. I had to give some thought to how to respond to his email in a properly biblical fashion.
Apostasy is a grievous sin. It may well be what John has in mind when he speaks of a "sin unto death" as well. There is a vast difference between a purveyor of a false religious belief who does not know the truth, and one who once professed it but now denies it. I must extend great patience and grace to the one, not to the other. The apostates named, by name, in the New Testament are said to be under God's judgment, and there is no indication, at all, that they are to be coddled, cajoled, snuggled with, treated as folks with "just a different opinion," etc. They are to be identified, marked out, cast out of the church, denied the ordinances, and most of all, they are to know, with certainty and without compromise, that their end will be that of judgment if they do not repent of their grave sin.
Now, in almost any area of gospel proclamation today, that kind of firm, uncompromising, no-nonsense kind of speech is a rarity. We are living in a day of feminization, feelings, and emotions. Little boys aren't supposed to play soldier anymore (you'll get kicked out of school for that), and preachers are supposed to be in touch with their "feminine side." The prophets and apostles of old would have no idea how to do this "proclamation of truth" thing anymore. And poor John the Baptist---seriously, locusts and honey? Leather belt? Let's get that poor man some Rob Bell glasses, shall we?
In any case, I do not coddle those who throw the gospel of Jesus Christ under the bus so that they can feel warm and cozy on the far side of the Tiber River. Especially if someone has stood behind the sacred desk and preached the gospel of peace based upon the singular accomplishment of Jesus Christ from the sole inspired revelation of truth we possess in Scripture---such a person is guilty of such an outstanding act of hubris and rebellion that I only have one message for him/her: God's wrath abides upon you, repent, flee, confess, cry out for forgiveness before it is too late. God will cause those who refuse to love the truth to love a lie, and once you love it, once it is firmly set up as the idol to which you give full allegiance, there is little hope indeed of your rescue. When I speak to unbelievers who have never even known the truth, I must patiently and graciously bring them that good news, seeking, repeatedly, to overcome barriers of misunderstanding and tradition. But the apostate is one who has already possessed and professed that truth---my testimony to them must be clear, and concise.
As you will see, Tyler thinks I'm a big meanie. That's fine. I'm sure Demas and Alexander had less than warm fuzzies about the Apostle Paul, too. I am no Paul, but I do seek to, as best I can, walk in his footsteps. I falter often. But you see, I am not the issue. I am walking the same path I have trod for three decades of ministry, pretty much as long as Tyler has been alive. As you read these emails, note how often Tyler tries to avoid his own action of apostasy, demand instant legitimacy as a representative of his new religion, and make me, and my unwillingness to grant his apostasy propriety, the topic of conversation. I may be many things---and one of them is dogged, as you will see.
From: tyler mcnabb
Date: May 18, 2013 8:32:34 AM MST
To: James White
I pray that you are doing well! I have no idea if you know what has occurred since last summer, so I not only wanted to update you on what has occurred but I also wanted to end this email with a proposal for some sort of debate. During the month of August I recommitted myself to Catholic theology and last December I officially entered communion with Rome. I wanted to see if you might be interested in a debate. Though I do not have as an impressive resume as you do, I do indeed have a resume. Besides having participated in professional debate, I have a MA in Philosophy of Religion and a BA in Biblical Studies. I am also starting my PhD in Philosophy from the University of Glasgow this year. Furthermore, I am also a professor at community college in North Carolina. It is at this college that I teach New Testament and World Religions.
I propose the following topic:
Knowledge of Catholicism: Can one know that Catholic teaching is true?
I move in the fall to the U.K. so I would love to figure something out before then.
Tyler D. McNabb
Three days later I got around to replying:
From: James White
Subject: Re: Debate
Date: May 21, 2013 3:09:25 PM MST
To: tyler mcnabb
So sad to hear from you! I guess it is best, for as Scripture says, "they went out from us so that it might be made manifest (ἀλλ᾿ ἵνα φανερωθῶσιν) that they were not all of us." It is necessary for the clarity of the gospel that those who do not hold to it be marked out as such.
I am, of course, booked well into 2014 as far as travel and debates are concerned, including teaching in Germany and a trip to London and South Africa in October. I just had a new book released on the Qur'an, and am writing a second with a well known Islamic scholar, so even if I felt there was a reason to invest the effort in debating the above topic (and it is so nebulous, I would not do so), I would surely not be able to do so in your short time frame. I asked TurretinFan if he would like to debate you via Skype, and he said he would. I could put you in touch with him.
I will not bother you with words you will not hear, Tyler. Those who love men's philosophy more than the gospel will always find a way to shroud their position in a haze of meaningless words of wisdom. No one who has ever truly understood their own heart, their own guilt, and the holiness of God, could ever trade the finished work of Christ for the never-perfecting charade of the Romanist mass, the medieval myth of purgatory and indulgences, and the legion of alter Christi who daily attempt to sew up the rent veil.
I was straightforward in my response. He has gone out from us. He has embraced a non-saving gospel. And as anyone would, I think, know, I have to schedule a bit down the road, especially when traveling around the globe, so arranging a debate in just a few months is a long shot even if it was something I really wanted to do. Further, I do not believe the topic would be useful to the vast majority of listeners, as seems rather obvious, as it could be construed in so many different ways and would lead, inevitably, to a game of philosophical gamesmanship.
Evidently, Tyler thought I would be happy to hear of his abandonment of the gospel of grace. What in my writings or teaching over the past three decades could be the foundation of such a hope, I cannot tell.
From: tyler mcnabb
Subject: Re: Debate
Date: May 22, 2013 1:45:05 PM MST
To: James White
It brings me sorrow to read your words. How you treat others who disagree with you is alarming. If someone ever sends me an email in the future and I believed that they had left the faith, I hope I would not greet them by informing them of how I am 'sad to hear from them' or espouse some half hearted diatribe against their religious belief. Regardless, I understand that you are a busy person, and if that is the reason that you cannot debate me then I totally understand. As I am sure you remember, a PhD is a lot of work so I will soon be right there with you on that.
I am not sure what you mean about the topic being unclear. I know you are not familiar with contemporary analytic philosophy/religious epistemology, but there is indeed a problem in philosophy that is articulated in a very similar way to the topic of the proposed debate. I asked for that topic on purpose given the fact that it would allow me to approach the debate in my preferred philosophical approach. I prefer this as this is the field that I am in. Did you already know this? Is this what you mean by 'meaningless words of wisdom'? If not, why did you bring that up?
I won't take much more of your time. I am open to a possible debate with TurrentinFan in the future, however, I would have to decline on your counteroffer. I have a specific reason in regard to why I wanted to debate you. Perhaps there might be a chance of that sometime down the road.
Praying for you...
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James White vs. Tim Staples on BAM, 1996 (Update)
05/10/2013 - James SwanI recently re-listened to the first White / Staples debate on Sola Scriptura: Is The Bible the Only Infallible Rule of Faith? This debate is from 1996. If you listen to this debate, you'll hear references to an earlier discussion between Dr. White and Tim on the Bible Answer Man show. I had never heard this before, so I tracked it down: The Roman Catholicism Debate on BAM (White vs Staples - I). This is a lively discussion as well. It's an inexpensive downloadable mp3. Since it's an old recording, for best sound results, lower the bass frequencies and raise the highs. I mention this old discussion because it serves as a reminder that Dr. White was interacting with Roman apologists long before many of us even cared. His argumentation back in 1996 (probably a lot of it compiled without the Internet or "e books" or gizmos) was excellent, both in this discussion, and in his debate with Tim. In the BAM discussion, you'll hear a basic outline of the White vs. Staples Purgatory debate many years before the debate actually happened. This is the 2010 debate Catholic Answers has no interest making available.
As a preview, here's a short sample of the discussion. Hank asks if Dr. White and Tim Staples considers the other "lost." Here is the clip.
After a few years of wondering why Catholic Answers has not released the debate between Dr. White and Tim Staples on purgatory, they've finally decided to offer it in their store. It appears to be the result of my comment above, as the director of marketing for Catholic Answers sent an e-mail over. This is good news for the members of the Catholic Answers community. It will give their supporters an opportunity to hear a fair discussion on an important topic.
How to Get an Infraction from Catholic Answers
04/25/2013 - James SwanFor those of you who've listened to the recent Dividing Line broadcast, I'd like to provide a little background on the section in which Dr. White played a Roman Catholic calling Steve Gregg's The Narrow Path radio show. Since there's a good chance this call may eventually get me banned from Catholic Answers, I might as well document what happened. A few weeks ago one particular Catholic Answers discussion thread caught my attention: "I called in at the Steve Gregg radio show" (some of you may remember that Dr. White debated Mr. Gregg on the Freedom of God in Salvation). The person who wrote this post ("Adamski") stated,
I was listiening [sic] to Protestant radio (Anabaptsit [sic] radio) And this guy Steve Gregg the host went off on all you need is your bible and don't become a member of any church. This concept really bothers me because I have friends that are like this and they have come up with some really really strange ideas on thier [sic] own. So I called the radio show and asked him "if your [sic] an expert how do you get a different answer than Tim staples or Scott Hahn" His response is "sadly they don't know thier [sic] bible very well." Then I responded "then how do you come up with a different answer than John Calvin or Martin Luther." All this was said in a calm manner but my John Calvin and Martin Luther response was not put on air and he went off on some tangent back to how one should stay away from institutional churches.This sounded like something worth hearing, so I inquired to Adam as to when he was on Mr. Gregg's broadcast. I was able to track down Gregg's show calender (it took weeks for the show to be uploaded). I found the call in question and posted it on Catholic Answers in the same discussion thread. I can't add much to what Dr. White said. Mr. Gregg made some good and bad arguments. One thing does come across in the call: Mr. Gregg was cordial with the caller, despite cutting him off from time to time. In fact the call ends peacefully between these two men. From the way the discussion was portrayed in the Catholic Answers post, I had thought it was going to be a much more volatile discussion than it actually was. I said as much to Adam, and he responded:
Yes I think he was fair with me. I just think its [sic] silly to say his version of Christianity is right because he can interpate [sic] the bible better. That's rediculous[sic]. Luther and Calvin both great Protestant scholars claimed they where [sic] both right because the[sic] could interpate [sic] the bible better and they argued who is right. I used to go to bible study fellowship when I was a Protestant and all they did was argue.
I responded as follows:
I don't recall Calvin and Luther ever arguing about anything with each other. Keep in mind, during the 16th century, everyone argued with everyone, including those attached to the Roman church. One need only search out the squabbles between the different orders of monks. Steve Gregg makes some good points to you, while other points were not so good. For instance, the claim that Tim Staples did not "know" his Bible previous to becoming Roman Catholic is simply untrue. As much as I may disagree with Mr. Staples, it certainly is the case he has quite a lot of Scripture memorized, and had this before joining Rome.
According to the Catholic Answers moderator Eric Hilbert, this comment of mine crossed the line and I received an "infraction." He stated, "After reviewing your post, and your explaination [sic] for it, I have reached the conclusion that, although this post does not reach the level of contempt for Catholicism, it does show a general disrespect." Was it because I pointed out monks fought each other in the sixteenth-century? No. Was it because I mentioned Steve Gregg made some good points? No. Was it because I actually defended Tim Staples against the charge of Mr. Gregg? No. My crime appears to be using these words: "Roman church," "Roman Catholic," and "joining Rome." Another Catholic Answers participant informed me of how offensive I was: "The terms 'Roman church' and 'joining Rome' are highly offensive. What Staples joined was the Catholic Church."
Certainly two can play at this game. I'm highly offended that those dedicated to the Roman rite think they are the Catholic church, when in fact Rome has anathematized the Gospel and set up another infallible authority over the Scriptures. Any group doing such things is not a member of the Catholic church. Certainly posting such a comment though would've violated the rules of the Catholic Answers forums, rules I agreed to when I signed up. Instead, I posted the following explanation from something written by... Catholic Answers:
Within the Catholic Church there are a number of individual churches, sometimes called rites. One of these is the Roman rite or Roman church. It includes most of the Catholics in the Western world. A Roman Catholic is a Catholic who is a member of the Roman rite [What is the difference between the Roman Catholic and the Catholic religion?]
I've replied back to Eric Hilbert's infraction summons:
I try to abide by the CA rules as much as possible, and did not realize what I had posted while I was defending Mr. Staples had violated the rules. In the future, can I use the phrase, "Roman rite" or "Roman church" as described by this CA link? If so, had I revised my sentence using these phrases instead, would my words still show "general disrespect" and if so, Why? The CA link in question uses both terms, and does not capitalize the word, "church." If I'm missing something, please let me know. Keep in mind, the link in question, written by someone on staff for Catholic Answers uses the term, "Roman Catholic."
What's interesting as well is Pope Leo XIII didn't have any problem with the word "Roman" or "Roman Church" as this encyclical shows.
Mr. Hilbert also stated, "I would highly suggest you change your tone to be in accordance with CAF rules in the future." Now the ironic part of this is that the Catholic Answers moderators are allowing this multiple rule-breaking post, Answers to James White, shame on them. The Catholic Answers moderators have done some odd moderating on me before. Back in March I defended Dr. White using the Catholic Answers rules, only to have all my comments deleted (one can still read them here). Even with this current incident, Hilbert actually deleted my last 14 posts, including comments that didn't break any rules. Again though, I suspected this would happen, so I posted them on my blog.
I've been a member of the Catholic Answers discussion forums since 2004. Some of you may wonder why I would be a member, others of you are probably wondering how it is I was never booted off Catholic Answers. I became a member to interact with Roman Catholics on Reformation history. I have a special interest in historical presuppositions and the use of the facts of history put forth by Roman Catholics in regard to the Reformation. I probably haven't been kicked off because I don't post often. If Mr. Hilbert happens to see this, I challenge him to respond back to me as to why my defense of Tim Staples while using the word "Roman" is disrespectful and this official Catholic Answers page is not. It appears to me that either Mr. Hilbert simply applies rules haphazardly, or perhaps he's simply looking for a reason to boot me off Catholic Answers. Perhaps this very post is the reason he's been looking for.
All Have Sinned - Except Mary? (Responding to Steve Ray)
04/03/2013 - Tur8infanSteve Ray (Roman Catholic) writes:
From the early centuries Mary was considered the All Holy One and considered as without sin. Rom 3:23 is a general statement but does not mention exceptions to the rule. For example, Jesus was a man without sin, therefore an exception.
Jesus did not come short of the glory of God, because Jesus is God. Recall that the text says:
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
Moreover, it's not just Romans 3:23.
As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:
How then can man be justified with God? or how can he be clean that is born of a woman?
And enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.
This falls into the category of manifest exceptions. A similar manifest exception is explained here:
1 Corinthians 15:27
For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him.
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Talking to Dead People: Tim Staples Refuted
03/26/2013 - James WhiteOn March 17, Tim Staples posted a blog article titled "praying to dead folks" on the Catholic Answers blog. In it, he quoted very briefly from one of my books that has been out of print for nearly two decades. Here is his citation:
In his book, Answers to Catholic Claims, A Discussion of Biblical Authority, James White attempts to make that discussion a moot point because he says there shouldn’t be any of this praying to dead folks to begin with:
The Bible strongly condemns communication with the dead. It does not matter if those who died were good or bad, saintly or evil, there is to be no communication between the living and the dead. The only communication with spirit beings that originates with man that is allowed in Scripture is that of prayer to God and He alone.
Biblical texts like Deut. 18:10-11 and Isaiah 19:3—each of which condemns necromancy—are employed to say “communication with the dead” is condemned absolutely.
Ironically, even when citing from a book that is not available to his audience any longer, Tim Staples managed to misrepresent even this resource. First, I should note, for the few that do have that book, that the proper page reference is page 126. Allow me to provide the full citation: ...
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Special Reformed Dividing Line TODAY at 7pm EDT
03/13/2013 - James WhiteI know, I know, it is Wednesday and those of you in the Eastern time zone might be at church. Well, nothing we can do about that. I travel to the Socialist Republic of California tomorrow, and the Twitter replies I saw today during my running commentary on the papal election convinced me that today's "evangelicals" are woefully, woefully ignorant of the realities of the papacy and the history of the church. As I have said many times, most non-Roman Catholics today are so not out of conviction but out of convenience. So we are going to address the issue head on: does Rome have the gospel? How must the Papacy be viewed? Is the Reformation over? Was it all just a big mistake? Am I just a trouble maker, a divider of the brethren? I invite those who were making just that point today to call in as well. Straight forward talk about a vital topic---which you won't be hearing almost anywhere else, to be sure. Join us!
Before We Were Separated Brethren...
02/04/2013 - James SwanThe Called to Communion blog recently presented a number of entries on "the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity" following a webpage from the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Maybe some Roman Catholics are interested in unity, but I guess it depends on exactly what you read. For instance, consider the following excerpts from this book with the Nihil obstat and Imprimatur: Familiar Explanation of Christian Doctrine For the Family and More Advanced Students in Catholic Schools (1875) (pp. 70, 91-93, 97-98).
Q. Does the Lord make use of apostate Catholics, such as Martin Luther, Calvin, John Knox, Henry VIII., King of England, to reform the manners of the people?
A. The thought is absurd. The lives of those men were evil, and it is only the devil that makes use of them to pervert the people still more. The Lord makes use of His saints, such as a St. Francis of Assisium, a St. Dominick, a St. Ignatius, a St. Alphonsus, to convert the people and reform their evil manners by explaining to them the truths of faith, the commandments, and the necessity of receiving the sacraments with proper dispositions, and by setting them in their own lives the loftiest example of faith, purity, and all Christian virtues.
Q. Are there any other reasons to show that heretics, or Protestants who die out of the Roman Catholic Church, are not saved?
A. There are several. They cannot be saved, because
1. They have no divine faith.
2. They make a liar of Jesus Christ, of the Holy Ghost, and of the Apostles.
3. They have no faith in Christ.
4. They fell away from the true Church of Christ.
5. They are too proud to submit to the Pope, the Vicar of Christ.
6. They cannot perform any good works whereby they can obtain heaven.
7. They do not receive the Body and Blood of Christ.
8. They die in their sins.
9. They ridicule and blaspheme the Mother of God and His saints.
10. They slander the spouse of Jesus Christ: the Catholic Church.
Q. What is the act of faith of a Protestant?
A. O my God, I believe nothing except what my own private judgment tells me to believe; therefore I believe that I can interpret Thy written word the Holy Scriptures as I choose. I believe that the Pope is anti-Christ; that any man can be saved, provided he is an honest man; I believe that faith alone is sufficient for salvation; that good works, and works of penance, and the confession of sins are not necessary, etc.
Q. Have Protestants any faith in Christ?
A. They never had.
Q. Why not?
A. Because there never lived such a Christ as they imagine and believe in.
Q. In what kind of a Christ do they believe?
A. In such a one of whom they can make a liar, with impunity, whose doctrine they can interpret as they please, and who does not care about what a man believes, provided he be an honest man before the public.
Q. Will such a faith in such a Christ save Protestants?
A. No sensible man will assert such an absurdity.
A CTC blog entry from last year asks, Do You Wan to Go to Heaven? which addresses, "So do you mean to say that if I decide to skip Mass on Sunday, and then drop dead on Monday, I will go to Hell?" Which, after various considerations, is affirmed (but not given the typical loopholes and qualifications that many other Roman websites do). The article presents an apologetic against "once saved always saved" etc. and explains to ill-informed Protestants why going to mass is so serious for Roman Catholics that if missed, qualifies as a mortal sin: "When we 'skip Mass' we are deciding that we would rather be elsewhere than in the presence of God the Father, with the angels and saints, in that perfect act of worship which is the presentation of the sacrificial Lamb of God to the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit."
Compare this to: Just Why Are Only 20% of Catholics Attending Mass? Here, a priest explains why only a small percentage of Roman Catholics actually go to mass (poor homilies, poor music, poor hospitality). "A Protestant once said: "If you Catholics really believed what the Church teaches about the Mass and the Most Holy Eucharist, your churches would be full and you would see Catholics crawling on their knees to attend Mass!"
Interesting. CTC is busy calling wayward Protestants to "communion," but 80% of their fellow brethren are in danger of hell. Most Protestants, according to a Roman paradigm, just don't know Rome is the true church. That is, many Protestants could at least make it to Purgatory due to ignorance. This seems to me to be a poor strategy for CTC. Their goal: "Our aim is to effect reconciliation and reunion between Catholics and Protestants, particularly those of the Reformed tradition." Perhaps calling their fellow brethren to actually attend communion would be a more consistent use of CTC's bandwidth.
Steve Ray Mis-identifies the Gates of Hell
02/01/2013 - Tur8infanPilgrimage panderer Steve Ray has some video clips up at his site (link). In the first video (starting around 4:50 into the clip, with the key portion beginning at 7:00), you can hear Steve Ray discussing the idea that Jesus' reference to "the gates of hell" is a reference to a deep crevice near the mouth of a cave at the back of a temple. It was sad to see one of the members of the pilgrimage spouting back the idea that the cave was the "gates of hell." The folks on the pilgrimage do seem very sincere, and it seems clear that Steve Ray is misleading them.
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Shea's Tangled Web in Defense of Tobit
01/25/2013 - Tur8infanOver at the "National Catholic Register," Mark Shea provided a piece responding to a reader's concerns about the apocryphal book of Tobit, which is included within the canon of Scripture by the Council of Trent. I'm afraid the reader of Shea's response has been seriously disserviced by Shea's misleading answer. ...
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Twenty-Four Elders - Twenty-Four Books
01/23/2013 - Tur8infanPeople sometimes see what they want in allegory. If the chapter divisions in Isaiah were original, we would be tempted to place significance on the fact that the number of chapters in Isaiah is equal to the number of books in the canon. If we see the number 27 or 39 in an allegory, we might (less obviously) see the number of books in the New and Old Testaments respectively.
The book of Revelation has a reference to "twenty-four elders" as well as "four beasts" or "four living creatures." A very ancient tradition (dating back at least to Irenaeus) links those four beasts to the four gospels. What is interesting to discover is that there is a very old Western tradition (dating back to the 3rd century) associating the twenty-four elders with the twenty-four books of the Old Testament.
Why 24 instead of 39? There were different ways of numbering the books then. For example, the 12 minor prophets (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi) were counted as a single book. (In a more full version of this post, I get into more detail.)
The earliest Greek commentators on Revelation that I read did not make any mention of this twenty-four elders to twenty-four Old Testament books correspondence, possibly because in the East, the way of counting the Old Testament books was twenty-two, not twenty-four (due to making a couple fewer combinations).
The earliest Latin commentators, however, provide the correspondence. The Western fathers or writers who mention this include Victorinus of Petovium (died c. A.D. 303); Apringius of Beja (6th Century); Caesarius of Arles (c. A.D. 470 – 542); Bede the Venerable (c. A.D. 673 – 735); Primasius (died. c. 560); and Ambrose Autpert (c. A.D. 730 – 784)
This Western patristic view continued in the West throughout the middle ages: Haymo of Halberstadt (died c. 853); Rupert, Abbot of Deutz (c. 1075–1129); Peter Cellensis (c. 1115-1183); Peter Blensensis (c. 1130 - 1203); and Glossa Ordinaria published 1498 based on earlier writings.
William Webster (see the fuller discussion here) also identified Richard of St. Victor, John of Salisbury, and Alphonsi Tostati, who identified the number of books of the Old Testament as twenty-four, apparently apart from a discussion of Revelation.
But of course, the key witness in the Western tradition is the great patristic advocate for excluding the apocrypha, Jerome (c. 347 - 420), who not only made the twenty-four elders to twenty-four books association, but also identified the relationship between the twenty-two book canon and the twenty-four book canon (based on counting Ruth and Lamentations separately rather than with other books).
How comprehensive is the survey above? As I detail in the more complete version of this post (see this link), the view represents a major portion of the identifiable Western commentators on Revelation (at least in the patristic period), with the Eastern commentators being entirely silent on this point.
These observations lead me to a few points of interest:
1. Obviously, this is one of many strands of Western tradition that Trent broke in treating the Apocrypha as part of the canon of the Old Testament. I'm not aware of any evidence that Trent considered this issue or addressed it. Certainly, Trent's canons and decrees do not explain the appropriate interpretation(s) of the twenty-four elders.
2. I'm not adopting this western tradition regarding the twenty-four elders. While it is an interesting view, and one of several meanings assigned to the text in the West, I doubt that the 24-book enumeration goes all the way back to the 1st century (the 22-book enumeration does, as evidenced by Josephus). Therefore, I doubt that the 24-book association was one that was originally intended by Jesus when he revealed this to John.
3. Nevertheless, if one trusts in the reliability of tradition when it comes to interpretation of Scripture, one cannot really accept Trent. Or, alternatively, if one can cast off a venerable and widespread Western tradition dating to the 3rd century simply because Trent says something that conflicts with it (without any explanation or discussion of the matter), what's the point of calling tradition an authority?
4. Furthermore, compare this tradition in terms of weight and popularity with the novel interpretations of the woman of Revelation 11 as some kind of evidence for a bodily assumption. The tradition of the twenty-four book canon as one of the meanings of the twenty-four elders is widespread amongst early Western commentators on Revelation, whereas the interpretation of the woman of Revelation 11 as evidence of a bodily assumption is something Mr. Albrecht couldn't identify even one instance of in the history of the church up to the Reformation.
5. And please note that the tradition of a short canon goes beyond those who viewed it as a twenty-four book canon. I have not included above the various other authors who taught that the canon is twenty-two books in length - a view that is represented not only in Josephus but in a variety of early Christian authors.