As discussed in another question, on why Matthew, Mark, and Luke didn't mention the raising of Lazarus, this miracle is only related in John 11 – the Synoptics, though they presumably knew about it, didn't include such an apparently spectacular and pivotal miracle.
A number of explanations have been provided, but one in particular has been around a long time: that Matthew, Mark, and Luke were written during Lazarus's (second) lifetime, and that they did not want to expose Lazarus to persecution from the Jews (cf. John 12:9–11).
Two Methodist commentators, Adam Clarke and Daniel Whedon, offer this as their primary explanation for the silence of the Synoptics. Adam Clarke attributes it to Hugo Grotius, a 17th century theologian. But Whedon seems to go further:
The ancient reply is, (and perhaps no better can be given,) that the other Evangelists wrote while Lazarus was still living, and from delicacy, or for safety, avoided exposing him to notoriety and danger from the hostile Jews. [bold added]
In the context of church history, the word "ancient," at least to me, indicates the early church period – ending around the 6th century. However, I've not found any reference to this theory in the several early commentators I've checked – Augustine, Chrysostom, Eusebius – or in Aquinas's commentary on John.
What is the origin of this particular explanation of the Synoptic silence on Lazarus? Does it have truly "ancient" origins, or is Hugo Grotius its originator?