Discovered in the ruins of a Pompeii house covered in the ash of Mount Vesuvius’ eruption in 79 AD, this was found etched into the wall of a home:
R O T A S
O P E R A
T E N E T
A P E R O
S A T O R
This Sator/Rotas Square has also appeared in the catacombs of Rome where Christians used this palindrome to communicate their faith in creative ways.
Included in this square are five words in Latin which roughly translate to: “The sower/farmer with his eye on the plow turns the wheel with care.”
Essentially a veiled reference [some argue] to the sower parable told by Jesus, with references to the “plow” as a nod to discipleship and keeping our eye [and our hands] to the plow [which is yet another metaphor used by Jesus in terms of discipleship].
But that’s not all.
Notice that the first word “ROTAS” runs left and right at the top of the square, but also runs north and south at the far left of the square.
Now, notice that “ROTAS” at the top and “SATOR” at the bottom are the same word written backwards and forwards.
Notice also that “OPERA” and “APERO” in the next rows are mirrors of each other.
Now, notice that the center word “TENET” is itself a palindrome [meaning it’s the same spelled forward or backwards].
Also note that “TENET” runs left and right and north and south which forms a cross in the center of the square.
And please also notice that the letter “T” is fixed at the center top and bottom, and the center-left and right. [The letter “T” was synonymous with the symbol for the cross].
So…what’s the big deal?
Well, if you take those letters and scramble them – keeping the letter “N” at the dead center – you end up with the phrase “PATER NOSTER” which, in Latin is the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father”.
And also, there are two sets of “Our Father” which form the shape of the cross with the two letters “A” and “O” left over.
Why are those significant? Because “A” and “O” map to the words “Alpha” and “Omega”.
For a more detailed explanation, watch this video:
Essentially, this First Century word puzzle was an early Christian way of sharing their faith in an interesting and creative way.
What do you think?
Leave your comments below.
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Keith Giles and his wife, Wendy, work with Peace Catalyst International to help build relationships between Christians and Muslims in El Paso, TX. Keith was formerly a licensed and ordained minister who walked away from organized church over a decade ago to start a home fellowship that gave away 100% of the offering to the poor in the community. Today he is the author of several best-selling books, including “Jesus Unexpected: Ending The End Times To Become The Second Coming” which is available now on Amazon.