If I were a betting man I’d wager a considerable sum of money that there are no linguists in Pastor Nathan Hedt’s congregation.
The fact is, Nathan’s exegesis totally fails to account for the variation that can occur within and between languages. This includes their use of pronouns and plurals. In standard modern English, a change from “she” to “they” always indicates a change in the subject of the sentence. That means that “she” and “they” can never refer to the same thing. But in other languages that may very well not be the case.
This might seem strange to us. We might think, “How can modern English and ancient Greek be that different? Of course, there will sometimes be big differences between the two languages. But surely at the most basic level there must be an underlying logic which they both share”.
Well, in fact language differences on that scale do occur. They are actually pretty common. They are especially frequent when you go from the thought forms of one language family to another, as St Paul seems to be doing here. He is probably using a Hebrew or Aramaic idiom or thought pattern in a Greek language context. So the change from “she” to “they” is very likely just a stylistic variation.
In trying to make his case, the one obvious counterargument that Nathan doesn’t mention, is the question, “Why hasn’t anybody come up with Margaret Mowczko’s exegesis before?” With all the experts throughout the world pouring over these texts for so many years, with all the argumentation in the women’s ordination debate, with all the stress on Bible translation in the last sixty years, and with the active presence of the Holy Spirit in the church for many centuries, why has NOBODY come up with this angle before? Is it just possible that the experts know something that Margaret and Nathan don’t?
I do want to commend Margaret Mowczko for being willing to try out a daring and novel exegetical line. If she had just said, “OK, everyone, I know that this is farfetched, but I’m just putting it out there as a discussion point; what do you all think?” that would have been fine. But instead she is asserting a highly improbable exegetical perspective as the definitive line on that passage. She is not being at all realistic.
Despite my criticisms, I do want to commend Nathan for one thing. He bases his argument on the work of an Australian exegete. In my view there has not been enough space given to Australian and New Zealand scholarship in the LCA’s women’s ordination discussion. So I very much appreciate that aspect of Nathan’s contribution.