Thank you Bhante. Some thoughts of my own:
When evaluating the implications of these impossibilities, it needs to be kept in mind that in a patriarchal society like ancient India the idea of a female wheel-turning king would have been unthinkable. Similarly, it would have been out of the question for ancient Indians to conceive that a female Sakka, a female heavenly king, or a female Brahmā could be reigning in their respective heavenly worlds.47 The same reasoning would also apply to Māra, who according to the Pāli commentarial tradition occupied a position similar to a king or a prince in the highest heaven of the sense-sphere realm. The point behind the above mentioned impossibilities is that a woman cannot fulfill these functions in the present. Though she could become any of these in the future, as long as she is a female she cannot perform the function of any of these rulers since to assume these leadership positions would, from the perspective of ancient Indian patriarchal society, require being a male.
If we are take the sutta in question as being buddhavacana then the gender norms of ancient india are irrelevant. If we take the sutta to not be the word of the Buddha but of later monks, then the gender norms of ancient india are important if you think those monks had not achieved any level of awakening. Ven. Analaylo’s argument here invites us to take a secular academic look at the sutta instead of a faithful Buddhist one. The Buddha stated that it was impossible for a woman to become a Buddha, not that it was impossible within that time and culture. If we accept that he had knowledge of past lives then his statement of impossibility applies to any time and culture. However, even if we accept that the culture is the problem all it could mean is that Buddhas only come to be in societies which are also incidentally patriarchal thus still making a female Buddha impossible. That is another possibility.
In view of this evident tendency to devalue the abilities of women, it is quite significant that the Madhyama-āgama version does not mention any of the inabilities of women. An accidental loss of such a passage seems less probable in view of the recurrent tendency towards gradual expansion that appears to be at work in regard to other topics in all versions. A deliberate deletion of such a treatment is similarly improbable, since the five inabilities of a woman are listed in another Madhyamaāgama discourse
It is possible it is an expansion, yes. Even if we accept that additions have occurred in the sutta that does not mean that this passage is an expansion, and even if it were the result of an expansion that still does not mean that it is not buddhavacana. In his notes Ven. Analaylo states:
57 MĀ 116 at T I 607b10: “a woman cannot attain five objectives. That a woman should become a Tathāgata, free from attachment, rightly awakened; a wheel-turning king; Sakka, ruler of gods; King Māra; or Great Brahmā, that is impossible,” 女人不得行五事, 若女人作如來, 無所著, 等正覺, 及轉輪王, 天帝釋, 魔王, 大梵天者, 終無是處. A statement of the same type can also be found in the in many respects closely parallel account in T 61 at T I 858a1: “it is impossible and cannot come to be, a woman cannot at all attain five objectives: she cannot become a Tathāgata, free from attachment, rightly awakened; or a wheel-turning king; she cannot become Sakka; she cannot become Māra; and she cannot become Brahmā, [all] that is impossible,” 無有是處不可容女人, 終不得五事, 不得成如來無所著等正覺, 及轉輪王, 不得為釋, 不得為 魔, 不得為梵, 無有是處.
So the idea/statement that women cannot become Buddhas was accepted as being the word of the Buddha by the Sangha at the time, but the passage was edited into different suttas by different schools. That editing does not mean it did not come from the Buddha. It does not mean it came from patriarchal misogynistic monks. Personally I don’t think the Sangha at the time was devoid of so many Arahants to allow such tainted biases to be brought in. It is still entirely possible that it came from the Blessed One. Of course, if someone thinks the sangha was devoid of Arahants and was simply run by misogynistic and biased men then it becomes easier to dismiss the passage in question, not that I think that is Ven. Analaylo’s position. In short I see no reason to reject this passage/teaching as not being buddhavacana, even if we accept the idea of expansive editing.
It would be interesting to read the commentary on this particular passage.