People (and I mean believers and unbelievers alike) are generally confused about the so-called “self-attestation” of Scripture. Let’s think about the concept of self-attestation outside of the context of Scripture.
To “attest” is to declare that something is the case. For example, “The sky appears to be blue.”
Now consider another example, “This sentence appears on a website.” The sentence declares something to be the case. But its declaration is about itself. The sentence makes the claim that it appears on a website. In this sense it is self-attesting.
Or consider one more example, “This sentence is true.” The sentence declares something to be the case as well. And again, its declaration is about itself. Namely, the sentence makes the claim that it is true. It is self-attesting.
Now, nobody is saying that we have to agree that the sentences above are true. Perhaps they are false. But they still attest to themselves. They are self-attesting.
There is nothing magical here. Self-attestation is not a mystical verification of the truth of various claims. Nor does “self-attesting” mean “self-evidently true.”
Now back to Scripture.
The self-attestation of Scripture refers to Scripture’s declarations concerning itself. So for example, Scripture claims that, “All Scripture is breathed out by God.” (2 Timothy 3.16) Notice that Scripture is making a declaration about Scripture. It is making an attestation concerning itself. In that sense it is self-attesting.
Another example, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word [Scripture] is truth.” (John 17.17) Here again Scripture makes a claim about itself. It claims that it is true. There are many, many other such examples of Scripture doing this.
Note again that one need not agree with the claims made by Scripture about itself in order to agree that Scripture does make claims about itself. The claim that Scripture is self-attesting is thus not nearly as controversial as people initially make it out to be. The claim taken on its own says little more than that Scripture makes some claims concerning itself. And that is quite obvious from the verses quoted above.
But there is more to be said, and I hope to do so in another post.