Matthew 24:20 But pray you that your flight be not in the winter,

KJV Verse: 

Mat 24:20 But pray you that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day:

Greek Verse: 

Literal Alternative: 

Pray to God, so that your escape won't come into bad weather, your flight, or the Sabbath.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

This is the first time Christ speaks as if his followers will see the escape he has been describing. Until this verse, those events have been described in the third person, including third person commands.

The Greek word translated as "but" joins phrases in an adversarial way. However, it also can act as the word "so" explaining a cause, which is what it seems to do here. When used in writing, it creates complex sentences, but when spoken, it makes a good pausing point so that an important or humorous word can follow.

Pray" is a compound Greek word meaning "to pray to God towards" or "pray to God by reason of." It has the sense of praying for something specific rather than praying as a conversation or worship. Christ has been using the third person command until this point. This is a second person command, as we would see in English.

The word translated as "that" is not the simple demonstrative pronoun, but a word that means "there", "where," and "in order that."

The Greek word translated as "flight" means "escape", and "banishment."

The word translated as "be" means "to become," that is, to enter into a new state. In Greek, especially as used by Christ, it is the opposite of "being," which is existence in the current state. It doesn't equate two things, as does "to be" but describe one thing becoming another, in this case, the flight becoming bad weather. In English, we would say "your flight comes into bad weather."

The negative used here is the Greek negative of a subjective opinion. The sense is that "you don't want" to do something, not that it isn't done or don't think something that might be true. If it wasn't done or wasn't true, the objective negative of fact would be used.

"Winter" is a noun that means primarily "winter" but also "wintry, stormy weather." It is a metaphor for a calamity sent by the gods. We know Christ uses it to mean "stormy weather" because it is the word he uses to in the "red sky in the morning" verse. However, the fact that it also means a calamity "sent by the gods" is humorous because Christ is describing just such a calamity. Because this word describes what the flight becomes "calamity" would certainly be implied.

The word for "neither" is the Greek subjective negative plus the Greek word for "but."

"The Sabbath " is from the Greek word for the "Sabbath". Of course, Christ and his followers were frequently criticized by his opponents for doing more on the Sabbath than the religious elites thought proper.

Greek Vocabulary: 

προσεύχεσθε (verb 2nd pl pres impera) "Pray" is from proseuchomai (proseuchomai), which means "to offer prayers or vows", "to worship," and "to pray for a thing. It is the combination of two Greek word, pros, meaning "towards" or "by reason of," and euchomai, meaning "to pray to God."

δὲ (conj) "But" is from de which means "but" and "on the other hand." It is the particle that joins sentences in an adversarial way but can also be a weak connective ("and") and explanation of cause ("so") and a condition ("if").

ἵνα "That" is from hina, which means "in that place", "there", "where", "when", "that", "in order that", "when," and "because."

μὴ "Not" is from me , which is the negative used in prohibitions and expressions of doubt meaning "not" and "no." As οὐ (ou) negates fact and statement; μή rejects, οὐ denies; μή is relative, οὐ absolute; μή subjective, οὐ objective.

γένηται (verb 3rd sg aor subj) "Be" is from ginomai, which means "to become", "to come into being", "to be produced," and "to be." It means changing into a new state of being. It is the complementary opposite of the verb "to be" (eimi)which indicates existence in the same state.

φυγὴ (noun sg fem nom) "Flight" is from φυγή phyge (does not appear in my Greek above), which means "flight", "escape", "banishment," and "exile."

ὑμῶν (pron 2nd pl gen) "Your" is from humon, the plural possessive form of su the pronoun of the second person, "you."

χειμῶνος (noun sg masc nom) "Winter" is from cheimon, which means "winter", "wintery", "storm", "stormy" and it is a metaphor for a calamity sent by the gods.

μηδὲ "Neither" is from mede, which means "and not", "but not", "nor," and "not."

σαββάτῳ: (noun sg neut dat) "The Sabbath " is from sabbaton, which means "Sabbath", "seven days of week," and "first day of week."

Wordplay: 

The word "winter" means "a calamity sent by the gods." 

The Spoken Version: 

"Pray to God" he said, addressing his followers. "So your escape won't become...."

Here, he smiled.

"A storm of divine calamity," he said, throwing up his hands .

The idea seemed funny since he was describing exactly that.

"Or..." he said, pausing as if he was envisioning something even worse.

"The Sabbath," he whispered in horror.

His followers laughed despite themselves. His opponents were on them all constantly about not keeping the Sabbath.

Related Verses: 

Jul 27 2016