Saturday, February 05, 2022

Response to Jerome's Response to Helvidius - Part 4e

Jerome wrote a response to Helvidius regarding the virginity of Mary.  This post is the fifth part of a fourth in a series of responses to what Jerome wrote.

Jerome wrote:

Lastly, excepting Joseph, and Elizabeth, and Mary herself, and some few others who, we may suppose, heard the truth from them, all considered Jesus to be the son of Joseph. And so far was this the case that even the Evangelists, expressing the prevailing opinion, which is the correct rule for a historian, call him the father of the Saviour, as, for instance, “And he (that is, Simeon) came in the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, that they might do concerning him after the custom of the law;” and elsewhere, “And his parents went every year to Jerusalem at the feast of the passover.” And afterwards, “And when they had fulfilled the days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and his parents knew not of it.” Observe also what Mary herself, who had replied to Gabriel with the words, “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” says concerning Joseph, “Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I sought thee sorrowing.” We have not here, as many maintain, the utterance of Jews or of mockers. The Evangelists call Joseph father: Mary confesses he was father. Not (as I said before) that Joseph was really the father of the Saviour: but that, to preserve the reputation of Mary, he was regarded by all as his father, although, before he heard the admonition of the angel, “Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost,” he had thoughts of putting her away privily; which shows that he well knew that the child conceived was not his. But we have said enough, more with the aim of imparting instruction than of answering an opponent, to show why Joseph is called the father of our Lord, and why Mary is called Joseph’s wife. This also at once answers the question why certain persons are called his brethren. 
Jerome misses the point, though.  The fact that everyone thought Joseph was the father was because Joseph was Mary's husband: they lived together.  Joseph was not Jesus' biological father, but he was the husband of Jesus' mother, and he accepted Jesus as his son.  

The reason that "certain persons" were called Jesus' brothers is that they were Joseph and Mary's boys, and it was presumed that Jesus was also Joseph's boy. 


Response to Jerome's Response to Helvidius - Part 4d

Jerome wrote a response to Helvidius regarding the virginity of Mary.  This post is the fourth part of a fourth in a series of responses to what Jerome wrote.

Jerome wrote:

But if anyone feels a doubt as to why the Virgin conceived after she was betrothed rather than when she had no one betrothed to her, or, to use the Scripture phrase, no husband, let me explain that there were three reasons. First, that by the genealogy of Joseph, whose kinswoman Mary was, Mary’s origin might also be shown. Secondly, that she might not in accordance with the law of Moses be stoned as an adulteress. Thirdly, that in her flight to Egypt she might have some solace, though it was that of a guardian rather than a husband. For who at that time would have believed the Virgin’s word that she had conceived of the Holy Ghost, and that the angel Gabriel had come and announced the purpose of God? and would not all have given their opinion against her as an adulteress, like Susanna? for at the present day, now that the whole world has embraced the faith, the Jews argue that when Isaiah says, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son,” the Hebrew word denotes a young woman, not a virgin, that is to say, the word is Almah, not Bethulah, a position which, farther on, we shall dispute more in detail. 
As to Jerome's reasons, they fail for several reasons.  First, Mary's genealogy can (and was) shown by reference to her father Heli (Luke 3:23), as distinct from Joseph's father, Jacob (Matthew 1:16).  Second, a single woman who conceived outside of marriage was not guilty of adultery under the law of Moses (Deuteronomy 22:28).  Third, while it may indeed be true that Joseph cared for Mary in Egypt, it is not true that Joseph was merely a guardian and not a husband to Mary.  Moreover, if God merely needed a guardian for Mary, God could easily provide that without providing a husband.   For example, God could have supernaturally strengthened a woman for that task, or God could have sent an angel, or even a lion.

Moreover, there is some irony in Jerome's defense of the correct understanding of the Hebrew word.  Recall that Jerome tried to prove that "before they came together" didn't imply they came together, on the basis that sometimes the consequent act does not happen.  The same is true of the Hebrew word in Isaiah.  In context it means virgin, which is the usual implication of being a young woman, because it is to be a sign.  


Response to Jerome's Response to Helvidius - Part 4c

Jerome wrote a response to Helvidius regarding the virginity of Mary.  This post is the third part of a fourth in a series of responses to what Jerome wrote.

Jerome wrote:

And although we find it said to Joseph in a dream, “Fear not to take Mary thy wife”; and again, “Joseph arose from his sleep, and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took unto him his wife,” no one ought to be disturbed by this, as though, inasmuch as she is called wife, she ceases to be betrothed, for we know it is usual in Scripture to give the title to those who are betrothed. The following evidence from Deuteronomy establishes the point. “If the man,” says the writer, “find the damsel that is betrothed in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her, he shall surely die, because he hath humbled his neighbour’s wife.” And in another place, “If there be a damsel that is a virgin betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour’s wife: so thou shalt put away the evil from the midst of thee.” Elsewhere also, “And what man is there that hath betrothed a wife, and hath not taken her? let him go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man take her.” 
Although the editors treat this as Jerome, it seems as though it is Helvidius' argument.  For it is the answer to the alleged self-contradiction between wife and betrothed.  Although now we use betrothal differently than then, the term "wife" was sometimes used of a betrothed woman, and she was treated as a wife for purposes of, for example, the law against adultery.  Thus, we can understand that she was Joseph's wife, although they were still in the betrothal period. 


Response to Jerome's Response to Helvidius - Part 4b

Jerome wrote a response to Helvidius regarding the virginity of Mary.  This post is the second part of a fourth in a series of responses to what Jerome wrote.

Jerome wrote:

But when he continues, “the Evangelist would never have applied the words, before they came together to persons who were not to come together, any more than one says, before he dined, when the man is not going to dine,” I know not whether to grieve or laugh. Shall I convict him of ignorance, or accuse him of rashness? Just as if, supposing a person to say, “Before dining in harbour I sailed to Africa,” his words could not hold good unless he were compelled some day to dine in harbour. If I choose to say, “the apostle Paul before he went to Spain was put in fetters at Rome,” or (as I certainly might) “Helvidius, before he repented, was cut off by death,” must Paul on being released at once go to Spain, or must Helvidius repent after death, although the Scripture says “In sheol who shall give thee thanks?” Must we not rather understand that the preposition before, although it frequently denotes order in time, yet sometimes refers only to order in thought? So that there is no necessity, if sufficient cause intervened to prevent it, for our thoughts to be realized. When, then, the Evangelist says before they came together, he indicates the time immediately preceding marriage, and shows that matters were so far advanced that she who had been betrothed was on the point of becoming a wife. As though he said, before they kissed and embraced, before the consummation of marriage, she was found to be with child. And she was found to be so by none other than Joseph, who watched the swelling womb of his betrothed with the anxious glances, and, at this time, almost the privilege, of a husband. Yet it does not follow, as the previous examples showed, that he had intercourse with Mary after her delivery, when his desires had been quenched by the fact that she had already conceived.
Jerome's laughter is based on treating grammar incorrectly.  While it is true that there are times that "before he acted" can be used when the action does not follow, Helvidius point is nevertheless correct.  What governs the interpretation of a phrase like, "before he acted," is the context.  In this context, of course, we have a man who waits until Jesus is born, not until Joseph himself dies.  The idea that Joseph's desires for Mary were quenched by the fact that Mary had conceived is the argument we can laugh at, although we would not want to make fun of Jerome.  It is simply clueless as to the nature of heterosexual desire.


Thursday, February 03, 2022

Eusebius on Psalm 69:7-9

The following is a machine translation of Eusebius' Commentary on the Psalms, at Septuagint Psalm 68 (Psalm 69), Section 5 (corresponding to Psalm 69:7-9).  As a huge word of caution.  This is a machine translation of an underlying text that is in process of scholarly review.  The Greek text may not be perfect, and the English translation thereof may leave a lot to be desired.  I present this here mainly for my own convenience, although also for the curiosity of folks who may have an interest in the subject

 That thou hast been a reproachful man, face hath revealed shame.

I was born a stranger to my brethren,

and a stranger to my mother's sons.

that the jealousy of thy house hath devoured me.

and the dreams of the dreamers have fallen upon me.

Other men, say they, are subject to trials and reproaches for their sins: but I, who have not sinned against thee, have suffered reproaches: for thou, O benevolent God, hast made me sin for the race of men, as they that believe in us are born unto righteousness.

But even thine own self-suffering dreaming, for the sake of thy counsel thou hast emptily and unto death humbled him, while they that stood before me blasphemed, moving their heads, and saying, O thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself: if thou be the son of God, come down from the cross. And likewise the chief priests also, mocking after the priests and scribes and Pharisees, said, He hath saved others, he cannot save himself. If he be king of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and let us believe on him.

That thou hast been in thy mind a reverie,

...that my face may be revealed in shame.

For not for our sins, nor for unlawful deeds, but for thy sake, and for thy foreknowledge, I have suffered reproach, and my face hath revealed shame; or, according to the Confederate,

I have uncovered his face in ugliness.

And all these things I have endured. I have endured them all. But also...

I was born an alien to my brethren,

and a stranger to my mother's sons.

And there were two orders in this place: the one of his brethren indeed, to whom he was born a stranger; and the other of his mother's sons, not of his brethren, to whom he was born a stranger. And have no sons of his mother's mother, being brethren, and serve them in like manner to the former. But he called not her mother's sons brethren, as being in the first order of his brethren that were called, that is to say, in the first order of his brethren that were called.

To his brethren also his disciples, of whom also he saith hereafter, I will call thy name unto my brethren, and in the midst of the church will I sing praises unto thee. and in the gospel of Mary, which appeared after the resurrection from the dead, he said, Go unto my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my father, and the father of you, and my god, and the god of you. But he was born an alienated man to his brethren in the time of the passion which was declared, when all his disciples, being his masters, fled from him, even he, and Peter the chief of the apostles, denied him the third time.

To these he was born a stranger and an alienated man; and to his mother's children, not being his brothers, he became a stranger. Now the gospel of his brethren and his mother is remembered, when he came to his own country, and taught in the synagogue, as if to astonish them, saying, Whence is this wisdom and these powers? is not this the son of the slayer? is not his mother, and his brethren, and his sisters, and his brethren all of them, coming to us? Whence is all this? If we take the sons that are called by the name of his mother in the hand, we must take the holy virgin mother and the rest of his brethren.

But it appears that James his brother, his brother of the oracle, was not alienated from his cause, nor alienated from his faith, nor from his very true disciples, as well as the first to receive the throne of the church in Jerusalem. And the rest of his brethren, though they believed not in him at the first, but afterward professed to believe in him. And they have told the gospel, as his mother and his brethren came out seeking to hear it. And in the Acts of the apostles it is said, as if the apostles were all together, worshipping prayer with Mary his mother and his brethren. So that it is not lawful to speak of them,

I was born an alien to my brethren,

and a stranger to my mother's children.

For he is not a stranger of these, but an honest man: for as a mother, so his chosen brethren, his sons, are of Mary: but if there be beside them the sons of his mother, called by the psalm, to whom he was born a stranger.

Now we know not the mother of the congregation of the Jews, and all the kindred in the flesh of the circumcision: but the sons of this mother, which denied him, and the peacemakers: and him we know not whence he is: for he said unto them, because they thought him a stranger, Why do ye not think of the woman of the Lamb? That ye cannot hear my word. and he that knew him spake again, saying, How shall we say that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil? he said unto them, I have spoken in my father's name, and ye receive me not: if any man come in my own name, him ye shall receive.

So he became a stranger and an alien to the sons of his mother's womb: and all these things he suffered for the cause chosen, which he necessarily presented, saying.

Translation Credit:

Translated with (free version)

Based on the following Greek Text:

Ὅτι ἕνεκά σου ὑπήνεγκα ὀνειδισμόν,

ἐκάλυψεν ἐντροπὴ τὸ πρόσωπόν μου.

ἀπηλλοτριωμένος ἐγενήθην τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς μου,

καὶ ξένος τοῖς υἱοῖς τῆς μητρός μου·

ὅτι ὁ ζῆλος τοῦ οἴκου σου κατέφαγέν με

καὶ οἱ ὀνειδισμοὶ τῶν ὀνειδιζόντων σε ἐπέπεσαν ἐπ᾽ ἐμέ.

Οἱ μὲν λοιποὶ, φησὶν, ἄνθρωποι δι’ οἰκείας ἁμαρτίας ἐλέγχοις καὶ ὀνειδισμοῖς ὑποβάλλονται· ἐγὼ δὲ ὁ μὴ γνοὺς ἁμαρτίαν ἕνεκά σου ὑπήνεγκα ὀνειδισμόν· ἐπειδήπερ σὺ αὐτὸς ὁ φιλάνθρωπος θεὸς ὑπὲρ τοῦ τῶν ἀνθρώπων γένους ἁμαρτίαν με ἐποίησας, ὅπως οἱ πιστεύοντες εἰς ἐμὲ γένωνται δικαιοσύνη.

Ἀλλὰ καὶ ἕνεκά σου ὑπήνεγκα ὀνειδισμὸν, διὰ τὴν σὴν βουλὴν κενώσας ἐμαυτὸν καὶ μέχρις θανάτου ταπεινώσας, καθ’ ὃν καιρὸν οἱ παραπορευόμενοι ἐβλασφήμουν κινοῦντες τὰς κεφαλὰς αὐτῶν καὶ λέγοντες· οὐὰ ὁ καταλύων τὸν ναὸν, καὶ ἐν τρισὶν ἡμέραις οἰκοδομῶν, σῶσον σεαυτόν. εἰ υἱὸς εἶ τοῦ θεοῦ, κατάβηθι ἀπὸ τοῦ σταυροῦ. ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς ἐμπαίζοντες μετὰ τῶν ἱερέων καὶ Γραμματέων καὶ Φαρισαίων ἔλεγον· ἄλλους ἔσωσεν, ἑαυτὸν οὐ δύναται σῶσαι. εἰ βασιλεὺς Ἰσραήλ ἐστι, καταβάτω νῦν ἀπὸ τοῦ σταυροῦ, καὶ πιστεύσομεν αὐτῷ. πέποιθεν ἐπὶ τὸν θεόν· ῥυσάσθω αὐτὸν, εἰ θέλει αὐτόν. εἶπε γὰρ, ὅτι θεοῦ υἱός εἰμι. ταῦτα δὴ οὖν θεσπίζων ἐπὶ τοῦ παρόντος, φησίν·

Ὅτι ἕνεκά σου ὑπήνεγκα ὀνειδισμόν,

ἐκάλυψεν ἐντροπὴ τὸ πρόσωπόν μου.

Οὐ γὰρ δι’ ἁμαρτίας ἐμὰς, οὐδὲ διὰ παρανόμους πράξεις, ἀλλ’, ἕνεκά σου καὶ τὸν προλεχθέντα ὀνειδισμὸν ὑπέμεινα, καὶ τὸ πρόσωπόν μου ἐκάλυψεν ἐντροπή· ἢ, κατὰ τὸν Σύμμαχον,

Ἐκάλυψεν ἀσχημόνησις τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ.

Καὶ ταῦτα πάντα ὑπέμεινα. φησὶν, ἕνεκά σου, τουτέστιν ἕνεκα τοῦ σοῦ θελήματος. ἀλλὰ καί·

ἀπηλλοτριωμένος ἐγενήθην τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς μου,

καὶ ξένος τοῖς υἱοῖς τῆς μητρός μου.

Δύο δὲ τάγματα ἐν τούτοις παρίστησιν· ἓν μὲν τὸ τῶν ἀληθῶς ἀδελφῶν αὐτοῦ, οἷς ἐγενήθη ἀπηλλοτριωμένος· ἕτερον δὲ τὸ τῶν υἱῶν τῆς μητρὸς αὐτοῦ, οὐ μὴν ἀδελφῶν αὐτοῦ, οἷς ἐγενήθη ξένος. καὶ μὴν ἐχρῆν υἱοὺς μητρὸς αὐτοῦ, ὄντας ἀδελφοὺς, καὶ αὐτοὺς ὁμοίως τοῖς προτέροις χρηματίζειν. ἀλλ’ οὐκ ὠνόμασε τοὺς υἱοὺς τῆς μητρὸς ἀδελφοὺς, ὡς ἑτέρους ὄντας δηλαδὴ παρὰ τὸ πρῶτον τάγμα τῶν ὀνομασθέντων ἀδελφῶν αὐτοῦ.

Εἰς οὖν ἀδελφοὺς μὲν αὐτοῦ γεγονέναι τοὺς αὐτοῦ μαθητὰς, περὶ ὧν καὶ ἐν ἑτέρῳ φησίν· ἀπαγγελῶ τὸ ὄνομά σου τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς μου, καὶ ἐν μέσῳ ἐκκλησίας ὑμνήσω σε. καὶ ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ τῇ Μαρίᾳ φανεὶς μετὰ τὴν ἐκ νεκρῶν ἀνάστασιν ἔλεγε· πορεύου πρὸς τοὺς ἀδελφούς μου, καὶ εἶπον αὐτοῖς· ἀναβαίνω πρὸς τὸν πατέρα μου καὶ πατέρα ὑμῶν, καὶ θεόν μου καὶ θεὸν ὑμῶν. τούτοις οὖν τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς αὐτοῦ ἀπηλλοτριωμένος ἐγενήθη κατὰ τὸν καιρὸν τοῦ δηλουμένου πάθους, ὅτε πάντες οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ ἀφέντες αὐτὸν ἔφυγον, αὐτός τε ὁ κορυφαῖος τῶν ἀποστόλων Πέτρος ἠρνήσατο αὐτὸν τρίτον.

Τούτοις ξένος καὶ ἀπηλλοτριωμένος ἐγενήθη· τοῖς δὲ υἱοῖς τῆς μητρὸς αὐτοῦ, οὐ μὴν καὶ ἀδελφοῖς οὖσιν αὐτοῦ, ξένος γέγονε. μέμνηται δὲ τὸ εὐαγγέλιον ἀδελφῶν αὐτοῦ καὶ μητρὸς, ὅτε, ἐλθὼν εἰς τὴν πατρίδα αὐτοῦ, ἐδίδασκεν ἐν τῇ συναγωγῇ, ὡς ἐκπλήσσεσθαι αὐτοὺς καὶ λέγειν· πόθεν τούτῳ ἡ σοφία αὕτη καὶ αἱ δυνάμεις· οὐχ οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ τοῦ τέκτονος υἱός; οὐχ ἡ μήτηρ αὐτοῦ καὶ οἱ ἀδελφοὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ αἱ ἀδελφαὶ αὐτοῦ πᾶσαι πρὸς ἡμᾶς εἰσι; πόθεν τούτῳ ταῦτα πάντα; ἐὰν μὲν οὖν τοὺς ἐν τῷ μετὰ χεῖρας λεγομένους υἱοὺς μητρὸς αὐτοῦ τούτοις εἶναι ἐκλάβοιμεν, ἀνάγκη τὴν ἁγίαν παρθένον μητέρα φάναι γεγονέναι τῶν λοιπῶν ἀδελφῶν αὐτοῦ.

Ἀλλ’ ἐπιφαίνεται Ἰάκωβος ὁ χρηματίσας αὐτοῦ ἀδελφὸς οὐκ ἀπεξενωμένος αὐτοῦ γεγονὼς, οὐδὲ ἀλλότριος τῆς εἰς αὐτὸν πίστεως, εἷς δὲ τῶν σφόδρα γνησίων αὐτοῦ μαθητῶν· ὡς καὶ τὸν θρόνον ἀναδέξασθαι πρῶτον τῆς ἐν Ἱεροσολύμοις ἐκκλησίας. καὶ οἱ λοιποὶ δὲ αὐτοῦ ἀδελφοὶ, εἰ καὶ τὰ μάλιστα κατ’ ἀρχὰς οὐκ ἐπίστευον εἰς αὐτὸν, ἀλλὰ μετὰ ταῦτα δῆλοί εἰσι πιστεύσαντες. ἱστορεῖ δ’ οὖν τὸ εὐαγγέλιον, ὡς ἄρα ἡ μήτηρ αὐτοῦ καὶ οἱ ἀδελφοὶ αὐτοῦ εἱστήκεισαν ἔξω ζητοῦντες λαλῆσαι αὐτῷ. καὶ ἐν ταῖς Πράξεσι δὲ τῶν ἀποστόλων λέλεκται, ὡς ἄρα ἦσαν οἱ ἀπόστολοι κοινῇ πάντες προσκαρτεροῦντες τῇ προσευχῇ σὺν Μαριὰμ τῇ μητρὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς αὐτοῦ. πῶς οὖν δύναται τούτοις ξένος εἶναι νομίζεσθαι; ὥστε μὴ χώραν ἔχειν περὶ τούτων λέγεσθαι τὸ,

Ἀπηλλοτριωμένος ἐγενήθην τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς μου,

καὶ ξένος τοῖς υἱοῖς τῆς μητρός μου.

Οὐ γὰρ ἦν τούτων ξένος, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἄγαν τίμιος· ὡς μηκέτι τοὺς προλεχθέντας αὐτοῦ ἀδελφοὺς υἱοὺς εἶναι τῆς Μαρίας ἡγεῖσθαι, ἕτεροι δ’ ἂν εἶεν παρὰ τούτους οἱ διὰ τοῦ ψαλμοῦ λεγόμενοι υἱοὶ τῆς μητρὸς αὐτοῦ, οἷς ξένος ἐγενήθη.

Νοήσεις δὲ μητέρα μὲν τὴν τῶν Ἰουδαίων συναγωγὴν καὶ πᾶσαν τὴν κατὰ σάρκα συγγένειαν τῶν ἐκ περιτομῆς· υἱοὺς δὲ τῆς τοιαύτης μητρὸς τοὺς ἀρνησαμένους αὐτὸν, καὶ εἰρηκότας· τοῦτον δὲ οὐκ οἴδαμεν πόθεν ἐστίν· διὸ ἔλεγεν αὐτοῖς, ἐπειδὴ ξένον αὐτὸν ἐνόμιζον· διὰ τί τὴν λαλιὰν τὴν ἐμὴν οὐ γινώσκετε; ὅτι οὐ δύνασθε ἀκούειν τὸν λόγον τὸν ἐμόν. ξένον δὲ αὐτὸν πάλιν ἡγοῦντο λέγοντες· οὐ καλῶς ἡμεῖς λέγομεν ὅτι Σαμαρείτης εἶ σὺ, καὶ δαιμόνιον ἔχεις; διὸ ἔλεγε πρὸς αὐτούς· ἐγὼ ἐλήλυθα ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι τοῦ πατρός μου, καὶ οὐ λαμβάνετέ με· ἐὰν ἄλλος ἔλθῃ ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι τῷ ἰδίῳ, ἐκεῖνον λήψεσθε.

Οὕτω τοίνυν ξένος καὶ ἀλλότριος γέγονε τοῖς υἱοῖς τῆς μητρὸς αὐτοῦ. ταῦτα δὲ πάντα ὑπέμενεν διὰ τὴν ἐπιλεγομένην αἰτίαν, ἣν ἀναγκαίως παρίστησι λέγων·

Greek Text courtesy of:


Cordula Bandt (Editor), Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften / Magali Coullet (Editor)

Status of edition

Preview/Preliminary edition (work in progress!)


Tuesday, February 01, 2022

There's Something about ... Luigi Gambero

 Luigi Gambero is one of the leading Mariologists of our time.  His book, "Mary and the Fathers of the Church," (Ignatius Press, 1999 based on the Italian original of 1991) is one of the more exhaustive treatments of the subject that one can find from a Roman Catholic perspective.  Sorry to my younger readers for whom the 1990s are not "our time."  Gambero's work received cover endorsements from folks like Peter Stravinskas.  He's not some random guy who happens to be Roman Catholic.

The subject matter index of his book (p. 428), however, reveals a paucity of citations on the topic of the immaculate conception.  Only six authors are identified.  I have rearranged the list from alphabetical order to appearance order in the book (which is also approximately chronological order of birth of the various authors):
1. Ephrem the Syrian (c. A.D. 306-73) p. 110
Gambero writes:

Ephrem's insistence on Mary's spiritual beauty and holiness, and on her freedom from any stain of sin, has led some scholars to hold that he was aware of the privilege of the Immaculate Conception and to point to him as a witness to the dogma. Yet it does not appear that our author was familiar with the problem, at least not in the terms in which it was made clear by later tradition and the dogmatic definition of 1854. In one passage he even uses the term "baptized" to indicate her Son's saving intervention in her regard:

Handmaid and daughter of blood and water [am I] whom You redeemed and baptized.

(Hymns on the Nativity 16, 10)

There's not much to respond to here.  I agree that Ephrem represents one of the earlier examples of high views of Mary.  I also agree that Ephrem did not know of the idea of an immaculate conception of Mary.  Terms like "redeemed" and "baptized" imply that Mary was not always pure, but became so.  As such, while Ephrem does not represent a "Protestant" position, He also does not reflect a view of accepting Mary as always sinless, even with respect to her conception.
I would add that "redeemed" is poetically paired with "blood" and "baptized" with "water."  So, we are not talking about redemption in some other sense than the sacrifice of Christ, and - of course - the Baptism is a baptism related to the forgiveness of sins.

2. Gregory Nazianzen (c. A.D. 329-90) pp. 162-63
Gambero writes:

In the mystery of the Incarnation, the bishop of Nazianzus discerns a wondrous exchange between God and Mary. She offered him the gift of her undiminished virginity, while the Lord, for his part, intervened in an extraordinary manner to bring about her purification, in advance. He empowered her human abilities, to make her worthy of the unique event of the Incarnation:

He was conceived by the Virgin, who had first been purified by the Spirit in soul and body; for, as it was fitting that childbearing should receive its share of honor, so it was necessary that virginity should receive even greater honor.[fn3]

From this doctrine of Mary's purification before the conception of Christ emerges an intuition of the truth which, in 1854, the Church would define as the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.

[fn3: Sermon 38, 13; PG 36, 325B]

The sense in which Gambero's claim that from Gregory's sermon "emerges an intuition of ..." the Immaculate Conception, is that the Immaculate Conception goes far beyond what Gregory claims.  For Gregory, Mary is in need of purification, body and soul, and she receives it prior to Christ's conception.  The dogma of the Immaculate Conception goes much further.  That dogma does not teach that Mary was purified from original sin, but that she was preserved from original.  Gregory's elevation of Mary to being specially purified is a step in the wrong direction toward the immaculate conception, perhaps, but it is still fundamentally inconsistent with the immaculate conception.  So is every author, patristic or otherwise, that takes the position that Mary was purified from something that she had, rather than taking the position that Mary was preserved from ever having original sin the in the first place.

3. Augustine of Hippo(A.D. 354-430) p. 226 (and 226 n. 25)

There seems no doubt that Augustine considered Mary's exemption from sin to be a great grace. But what sins does he mean? Undoubtedly he excludes any personal sin from Mary. Is it possible to hypothesize that Augustine also intended to exclude original sin? Some scholars think so and make him a forerunner of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. A full treatment of the question would call for a lengthy discussion. To us it seems safer to adopt the contrary position, which held by many experts and appears more in accord with numerous Augustinian texts. [fn25]

I would disagree with Gambero's contention that Augustine was saying that Mary was exempt from personal sin.  That said, as Gambero correctly concedes, Augustine nowhere teaches that Mary was exempt from original sin, rather he held the contrary view.  Perhaps in another post, we will consider the question of the famous place where Augustine says he will not discuss the sins of Mary.

4. Romanos the Melodist (Late 5th century to late 6th century) pp. 328-29 (and 329 n. 8)
Gambero has a section entitled, "The Birth of Mary." Gambero writes:

Romans' hymn on the birth of the Virgin may serve as an ancient witness to the introduction of the feast (September 8) in the Church of Constantinople, under the emperor Justinian. The poet sings of this event as a triumph of grace over the weakness and failings of human nature, as revealed in the sterility of Mary's aged parents:

The prayers of Joachim and Anna and the weeping of sterility reached the ears of God and were well received. Thus they gave a life-giving fruit to the world. For while he [Joachim] was praying on the mountain, she [Anna] hid her mortification in the garden. But the barren woman then joyfully brings to light the Mother of God, the nourisher of life.[FN: On the Birth of Mary 1.]

Considering the future mission of Mary, her birth to barren parents is considered a reason for great rejoicing, which the people of Israel already share by anticipation, unwittingly:

Then the tribes of Israel heard that Anna had conceived the immaculate one. So everyone took part in the rejoicing. Joachim gave a banquet, and great was the merriment in the garden. He invited the priests and Levites to prayer; then he called Mary into the center of the crowd, that she might be magnified. [FN: Ibid. 4.]

In this hymn, Romanos recalls two important moments of Mary's infancy and youth: the years she spent in the Temple and  her betrothal to Joseph. Apparently Romanos takes his inspiration from the apocrypha, in particular from the Protoevangelium of James. Later on, addressing Anna directly, the poet weaves a marvelous praise of her extraordinary little daughter:

Your birth is worthy of veneration, O holy woman, because you brought to light the joy of the world, the powerful mediatrix of graces for men. Indeed she is the rampart, the defense, and the haven of whoever trusts in her. Every Christian finds in her, in your fruit, a protector, a defense, and the hope of salvation [FN: Ibid., 10.]

I certainly agree that literary source of this ode is the heretical forgery, the Protoevangelium of James.  Romanos does have a song on the Nativity of the Virgin Mary.  It's listed as hymn 35 in Maas' and Trypanis' edition (they also note it is 28 in Krumbacher's).  Based on a quick check, I think this is the same one quoted by Gambero.

The song does seem to be the first hint in history of any Christians celebrating the Birth of Mary.  Later, with Andrew of Crete and John of Damascus, we see that the practice apparently begun in the 6th century had caught on more widely in the 7th and 8th centuries.  Note, however, that this is the feast of the Birth of Mary, not her Conception.  There is a reason that Bernard of Clairvaux expressed concerns over the idea of celebrating such a feast, centuries later.

Of the presented material, the phrase, "ἒτεκεν τὴν ἄχραντον," translated by Gambero (or his source or his translator from Italian to English) as "had conceived the immaculate one" is the more obviously interesting.  The first issue with this translation is that ἒτεκεν means to give birth, not to conceive.  The second issue is that while ἄχραντον, which means "undefiled," can reasonably be translated here as "immaculate," it does not necessarily have anything to do with Mary's connection to original sin (or not).  That's only an issue for folks who are eager to see her as immaculately conceived and who forget that she was also viewed as an immaculate virgin.  

Moreover, while the text says that Anna gave birth to the Immaculate, this is not a commentary on when Mary became (in Romanos' understanding) Immaculate.  For example, in the first stanza we see: "But the barren woman then joyfully brings to light the Mother of God."  Surely no one would be so foolish as to think that Mary was born already a mother.  So, if one does not assume that, one should be careful what one assumes about the title, Immaculate.  

So, while Romanos is an example of relatively high Mariology, particularly for his century, he still falls short of knowing of the immaculate conception.

5. Andrew of Crete (A.D. 650-740) pp. 392-95
In a section entitled, "Mary, Spotless Creature," Gambero writes:

Andrew's witness to the Church's faith in the exceptional holiness of the Mother of the Lord is absolutely remarkable. He affirms more than once that the Blessed Virgin lived her whole life without being contaminated by any moral sin. The insistence with which the bishop of Crete returns to this point is so strong that some have seen him as an exponent of the Immaculate Conception. Even if we cannot accept this thesis without hesitation, we must at least recognize that Andrew had a highly elevated concept of the Virgin's sinlessness and holiness. We cite one of the numerous texts:

It was right, then, that the admirable Joachim and his spouse, Anna, inspired by divine thoughts, did obtain her as the fruit of their prayer, her, I say, the queen of nature, the firstfruits of our race, whose birthday we celebrate, whose swaddling clothes we honor, and whom we venerate as the source of the restoration of our fallen race. [FN: Homily 3 on Mary's Nativity, PG 97, 860 B-C]

This text presents Mary as the firstfruits of the human race; that is, the first creature who received the gift of salvation. But Andrew explains it even more clearly:

This Mary the Theotokos, the common refuge of all Christians, the first to be liberated from the original fall of our first parents. [FN: Homily 4 on Mary's Nativity, PG 97, 880 C]

We could present many more passages in which Andrew expresses this concept. However, when our author speaks of Mary as the first person to be redeemed, or as the first to be liberated from original sin, he does not define the nature of the intervention God wrought in her. Hence we would not be justified to attribute to him the concept of preservation from original sin as we understand the concept today, precisely as the solemn Magisterium of the Church has defined it. It is true that Andrew is mentioned in the bull Ineffabilis Deus as being among the witnesses to the Immaculate Conception. More than anything else, however, his testimony witness to the development of the faith of the Christian people, on their journey toward a light that would illuminate the mystery ever more clearly.

I interrupt the section here to comment.  Mary being "liberated from the original fall" seems to imply that she was under it and then subsequently freed, not preserved from it.  While Andrew's excessively high view of Mary is definitely a step in the direction that ultimately became the error of the Immaculate Conception, the evidence of him adopting such a view is not there. 

Gambero continues:

Also, we have to keep in mind that the bishop of Crete did not share the notion of original sin that the Latin theologians had already formed. Therefore, it is understandable that he could speak in these terms without considering the problem of the presence or absence of original sin in Mary.

Instead, Andrew appears to have believed that God prepared the holy Virgin in advance, on both the moral and personal level, to make her worthy and capable of being God's Mother:

A place had to be prepared before the King's arrival. The royal garments had to be woven before they could receive the royal Child at his birth. Finally, the clay had to be prepared before the Potter's arrival.[FN: Homily 3 on the Nativity, PG 97, 860 B]

We have already seen, in more than one place, how this concept of Mary's purification at the moment of the Annunciation was shared by other Fathers of the Church in preceding centuries.

This acknowledges the key point: one of the early stages of the increasing Marian devotion was to say that Mary was purified at the Annunciation, namely just before Christ's conception.  This view is inconsistent with the doctrine of the immaculate conception.  While people can certainly speculate a notion of Mary being already perfectly pure and just getting more "grace" infused into her, it is hard to conceptualize the purification of something already perfectly pure.  

6. John Damascene (c. A.D. 675 - c. A.D. 749) pp. 401-02
Gambero writes:

John Damascene often speaks of Mary as a sublime creature, filled with spiritual treasures. Accordingly, his homily on the Nativity, for example, goes so far as to make clear and explicit allusions--unprecedented in previous centuries--to the mystery of the Immaculate Conception. Naturally, it is necessary to keep in mind the different view of original sin that already divided Byzantine theology from Western thought.

For John, both the Virgin Mary's conception and her birth took place completely under the influence of divine grace. These two events also shaped the role played by her parents, Joachim and Anna. Their previous sterility is explained thus:

Because it would come to pass that the Virgin Theotokos would be born of Anna, nature did not dare anticipate the seed of grace but remained unfruitful until grace bore fruit.[FN: Homily on the Nativity 2, PG 96, 664A]

Anna's sterility was, therefore, a condition previously arranged in the divine plan, so that the role of grace would appear fully predominant. This is why Damascene always names the Virgin's parents with profound respect: they would offer themselves as the passive instruments of God's miraculous intervention:

O blessed loins of Joachim, whence the all-pure seed was poured out! O glorious womb of Anna, in which the most holy fetus grew and was formed, silently increasing! O womb in which was conceived the living heaven, wider than the wideness of the heavens [FN: Ibid., 2, PG 96, 664B]

It is worth noting here that even at the very end of the Patristic era, one must look to the very high Marian views of John of Damascus to find something approaching the Immaculate Conception.  This is not the actual doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, because of John of Damascus different view on original sin, but it is at least close.

You may recall from other discussions that for most of the fathers, Mary was not an exception because was generated the usual way: from a physical relationship between her parents.  John of Damascus finds a way around this by naming and claiming the immaculate ejaculate of Joachim.  Thankfully, that's not a dogma that Rome adopted.  If it was ever considered in Western thought, I would speculate that they would realize that this escape clause would eliminate the original need for Mary's virginity.  If Jesus could be born of Joseph's seed, some how immaculate-d beforehand, and if that would have resolved the issue, there would not have been a need for Jesus to be born of a virgin in the first place.  

We have now completed this particular survey.  Consider how little there was to review, and how far it was from demonstrating a continuous belief in the immaculate conception in the church from the time of the apostles onward.