I don't have the references handy, but I recall a number of times when the Fathers have said that it is wrong for Christians to retain Jewish customs.
It is interesting to note that after the Jerusalem Synod Paul himself circumcised Timothy a mixed Jewish and Greek disciple. “Paul wanted to have him go on with him. And he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew his father was a Greek.” (Acts 16:3).
Nevertheless some Pharisees falsely accused Paul of still teaching otherwise. So when he returned to Jerusalem the Council made an interesting decision, which I believe settles the whole matter:
“But they have been informed about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles
to forsake Moses, saying they ought not to circumcise their children nor walk according to the customs.” The council then told Paul to demonstrate that the accusations were false by demonstrating that he is a faithful Jew that does “walk orderly and keep the law.” He was told to undergo a purification ritual of seven days and an offering in the Jewish temple and Paul agreed and underwent it, only to be interrupted when a crowd of Pharisees recognized him and started to beat him (Acts 21:22-40).
So contrary to being wrong the Apostles themselves maintained Jewish custom, it became wrong when some of them tried to impose this practice on Gentiles coming to the Church as some kind of a pre-condition. And it is that practice which the Jerusalem Synod rejected. As far as the Church fathers are concerned, their comments must be balanced with the exact historical circumstances and contexts in which they made them.
Ultimately, natural descent from Jacob is not what's important.
Of course. And St. Peter made it abundantly clear that the mantle of Jacob’s seed has been passed on spiritually to the Church. We, as the Body of Christ, are the Holy Nation, the Royal Priesthood. The biological significance of Abraham’s seed became insignificant after Jesus was born.
Customs are fine, as long as they are not elevated to some sort of indispensable religious status.
That is all that we have been saying. They are simply a part of the continuous culture maintained by a vibrant tradition.
There is nothing religiously mandatory about it. There is no law, say, that requires that I have a priest come and bless my house before I move in it. That is just a part of my custom. At some Ethiopian restaurants you may notice the owner, in the early hours of the morning, pouring tebel
(‘holy water’) around the premises. But there is nothing in any cannons or Church edicts that say this must
be done, it is just what IS done. It is part of the small ‘t’ traditions that all Old World churches have, something to fully integrate the Church in every aspect of your life and culture, praxis, to borrow a favorite word from Samer. It is a way to make Christianity holistic and a total way of life. In contrast, in societies like ours, the life of a Christian has been reduced to a Sunday service (and maybe a Wednesday and Friday service for the pious) but still nothing resembling the ‘old days.’
It is interesting to speculate on the origins of many Palestinian Christians. They may have a greater claim to natural descent from Jacob than most of today's Jews.
Yes of course they do, and as surprising as it sounds that is not a controversial perspective in professional circles the way it is in political circles. Anthropologists use indigenous Palestinians, and not Israeli immigrants, as reference populations for research. Palestinian x-rays and available skeletons are used to compare with ancient Israelite skeletons found in excavations. Traditional aspects of modern Palestinian culture are referred to for throwing light on ancient customs in the Holy Land.
I also enjoy Blutwurst (blood sausage).
I am not familiar with that but it sounds