After Markshies lays out a less anachronistic understanding of theology he moves on to the second term relevant to his study: institution. He notes that earlier historians such as Harnack had too narrow a definition of institutions. Instead of institutions being primarily legal bodies, Markschies defines them more openly:
Thus, in the history of ancient Christianity, one speaks of the papacy, a monastery, or the imperial councils as ‘institutions’ and does not mean by this legal contexts so much as organized social structures that show the same enduring characteristics as governing bodies—namely, explicit norm structures, regular membership, transpersonal goals of action, and corporate power. Admittedly, the range of combinations of these formal criteria is not fixed and naturally also varies with regard to the Christian instutions. We understand ‘institution’ in this sense as an anthropological basic category and as an inevitable ordering and reference pattern of every social action. By contrast, we understand ‘instutionalization’ as the emergence of an organizational framework (and not merely the consolidation of formally regulated interactions into the form, for example, of a decision-making body that exists over time).
As an anthropologically basic category, institutions are natural phenomenon and not artificially imposed upon something preexisting.