Because the Bible says quite clearly that it is “God-breathed” (2 Tim. 3:16), Christians tend to think of inspiration as some sort of otherworldly event. In the course of many years of teaching biblical studies (and chit-chat that happens at church) I’ve heard some pretty strange explanations of inspiration—about how God took control of the hand and mind of the writer, or how the authors slipped into a heaven-sent trance state, or how the Spirit whispered the precise words into their minds (or maybe just “impressed” them into their consciousness). Frankly, all of that sounds more like an episode of The X-Files than biblical theology. And it absolutely doesn’t reflect what you actually find in Scripture upon close examination.
There are some transparent examples of why the “paranormal event” view of inspiration makes no sense. There are four gospels in the New Testament. Three of them (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) overlap with respect to the events they include about the life of Jesus. But those events may be dissimilar in the level of detail or arranged in a different sequence. Dialogue within shared episodes also diverges in vocabulary, length of statements, and who speaks when. And even when the dialogue (in English translations) appears identical, it isn’t. In the Greek text writers can use different lemmas, verb tenses, noun cases, conjunctions, and participles over verbs. If the stories of Jesus were “whispered” to the writers or downloaded into their semiconscious minds, divergences like these are the last thing one would expect. Would the Holy Spirit really want to yank our theological chains like that? I doubt it.