March 04, 2007 Q & A

The Meaning of "Stews" in WLC #139


While reading the Larger Catechism of the Confession of Faith I encountered a term unfamiliar to me. In question number 139 the term "stew" is used, i.e., "allowing, tolerating, keeping of stews, and resorting to them...." Is this a reference to a male prostitute?


Thank you for your question, and thank you for your careful reading of the Westminster Standards. You have come upon one of the few uses of the "slang" of that age (1640s), the use of the term "stews." The term originally indicated a public bath house (where you "stewed" in hot water), but came to be used for a house of prostitution. It appears that the reputation of such establishments came to be similar to that which we attach today to "massage parlors" and the like.

The term does not refer specifically to male prostitutes, but to prostitutes in general. The catechism answer reflects that it is not only a sin to use prostitutes, but that it also is sin to "allow" or "tolerate" them as if they were OK for some people; God's law applies to all.



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