Thank you, David H. Stern, for everything

15 years ago this month, I ran across the Jewish New Testament, and God changed my life. The translator of the Jewish New Testament died Shabbat morning, Oct. 8, 2022. He was 86.

By Rev. Cariño Casas
CMJ USA

David H. Stern chants the Aaronic Blessing - Screen cap from FB
David. H. Stern

Last week, while on a trip to Minnesota to see an ailing aunt, I learned of the death of David H. Stern, the translator of the Jewish New Testament and writer of the Jewish New Testament Commentary. Here I was traveling and preparing for the death of a beloved aunt, and God had brought me back to the area where I first encountered the testimony and work of David, my elder brother in Messiah, just as he passed into eternity.  

The LORD used the work of David Stern to kick start an adventure I never saw coming, that brought me to CMJ, and that I’m still exploring, unsure what surprise the LORD has next.  

I was a newspaper journalist by call and training. In 2006, I left my last full-time newspaper job near Los Angeles to move to Minneapolis. My friends were starting a business, and the LORD called me to help them 

The years in southern California were the best of my newspaper career, yet they were the driest spiritually in my life. In Minnesota, I was among believers, and I began to study the Word deeply again. I encountered a Christology course online that highlighted the Jewishness of the Messiah. My interest was piqued, and I needed to know more. 

Browsing in my local Christian bookstore, a bright cover caught my eye: The Jewish New Testament, a translation by David H. Stern. Then I saw his commentary and the Complete Jewish Bible, in which Stern’s New Testament translation was paired with a translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. I bought the Complete Jewish Bible and began reading Mattiyahu (Matthew). The simple act of putting the names of the biblical personalities back into Hebrew reframed the Gospel text I thought I knew well. Stern also put keywords in Hebrew, forcing me to keep a finger in the glossary in the back. The more I read the more there was no denying that this Jesus – Yeshua – is a Jew and his story, his message is Jewish! 

Cover of Jewish New Testament Commentary

I soon went back to the bookstore and bought Stern’s commentary. What a joy to read Paul – Rabbi Shaul – in his Jewish context, to see how his teachings line up or debate rabbinical readings of the Hebrew Scriptures. 

One of my favorite features of Stern’s Bible translation is that any reference to the Hebrew Scriptures in the New Testament is bolded. Very quickly one sees how much of the Hebrew Bible Jesus, Paul and the Gospel writers quote. The Gospel of John’s conclusion is undeniable: what the Gospels record is “so that you may trust that Yeshua is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by this trust you may have life because of who he is” (John 20:31 CJB). 

That Jesus is the Prophet Like Moses, the Son of David, the Messiah is so plain. Then I wondered why Jesus’ kinsmen, the Sons of Jacob, cannot recognize that he is the long-awaited Redeemer of Israel. This question drove me to prayer. I prayed alone in my room that the eyes of the Sons of Jacob would be opened to Yeshua’s identity.  

In those prayer times, the LORD ministered to me, spoke deep into my heart and told me he had a job for me in Israel. It was one of the clearest things I’d ever heard from him. So I packed up my life in Minnesota and flew to Israel in May of 2009. I cannot here detail how the LORD guided me and cared for me, taught me and used me. The short version is that I spent four years in intercession, worship, and service at a house of prayer. There the LORD broadened my heart and deepened my love when he taught me about his Middle East peace plan at the end of Isaiah 19.  

It was an Isaiah 19 conference that took me to Christ Church Jerusalem, founded by CMJ in 1849. There I learned the history of CMJ and how Jewish and Gentile disciples of Jesus had come to the Holy Land from the 1820s to proclaim Yeshua to the Jews of Ottoman Palestine. It was the LORD’s hand that put me on the Christ Church staff in 2014 as the media coordinator. It was the LORD who drove me back to the States to prepare me for ordained ministry as a deacon in the Anglican church and to serve now as the communications director of CMJ USA. Only God knows what's next.

Thank you, David Stern, for running with the vision of the Messiah, for making his identity plain so that those of us who see it can run with it. Thank you for teaching me my first Hebrew words, for introducing me to rabbinical thought, for showing me Jesus and Paul and the other disciples draped in their tallits, good Jewish men and women announcing the great news that the Messiah has arrived – not just for Israel but for ALL the nations. Thank you for helping me get to know my Lord and Savior much more intimately so that I could hear his invitation to my ongoing adventure. 

Photo: David H. Stern with his wife Martha (Facebook)

David H. Stern with his wife Martha

I came really close to meeting David in 2009. By the Spirit, I found myself at the congregation where he worshiped. I was maybe too eager to show my gratitude, so his friends and family did not allow me to speak with him. But we worshipped together in that congregation on several occasions.  

For a disciple of the resurrected Messiah, death prompts so many mixed emotions. We’re wired to live forever, but the sin curse wracks our aching bodies.  As followers of the Resurrected Messiah, we live in the hope of the age to come but we must endure the suffering of watching each other die and then dying ourselves. Jesus goes before us in death and in resurrection life. Hallelujah! 

So long, David. You have sent out the LORD’s word from Zion, and it will NOT return void.  

Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant, David. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive him into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting shalom, and into the glorious company of the holy ones in light. 

In the Name of God the Father Almighty who created us; 
In the Name of Yeshua HaMashiach who redeemed us; 
In the Name of the Ruach HaKodesh who sanctifies us. Amen. 

The Complete Jewish Bible is available online free at BibleGateway.com. The Jewish New Testament Commentary is available printed or as an ebook via Amazon/Kindle, Logos, and other booksellers. Visit Messianic Jewish Publishers for other titles by David H. Stern.

The Rev. Cariño Casas is the Communications Director of CMJ USA. She began as the media coordinator of Christ Church Jerusalem in 2014. She previously worked as a newspaper copy editor and photojournalist. Cariño serves as a deacon in the Anglican church in the Pittsburgh area. 

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Article published on 10/10/2022