This is the Greek text of Eph 5:13:

BGB τὰ δὲ πάντα ἐλεγχόμενα ὑπὸ τοῦ φωτὸς φανεροῦται· πᾶν γὰρ τὸ φανερούμενον φῶς ἐστιν.

Here are the English translations:

NHEB But all things, when they are reproved, are revealed by the light, for everything that reveals is light.

SLT And all things refuted, by light are made manifest: for everything made manifest is light.

WEB But all things, when they are reproved, are revealed by the light, for everything that reveals is light.

YLT and all the things reproved by the light are manifested, for everything that is manifested is light;

ISV But everything that is exposed to the light becomes visible,

BSB But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, b for everything that is illuminated becomes a light itself

BBE But all things, when their true quality is seen, are made clear by the light: because everything which is made clear is light.

Each of these translations gives a different sense to the verse.

Which is the correct translation? And what is the clear meaning of the last part of the verse?

  • The verse arrangement in ISV ESV NET is different in which it puts the last phrase in the next verse.
    – Michael16
    Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 4:08
  • ISV is not literal so it's simplifying like NLT. In Nrsv and ESV "that becomes visible" is perhaps middle: becomes visible by itself, or perhaps it is being neutral and ambiguous concerning the source of making visible.
    – Michael16
    Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 4:20

5 Answers 5


It simply means that just as light chases out all darkness, Christ exposes all evil. We understand meaning not by digging into the English or Greek meanings (man's language - 1 Co 2:13), but by understanding the language of the Spirit (God's word).

Paul uses a basic, common, temporal example of light exposing darkness to make his point. Any reader can understand this w/o going to the Greek language, just keep reading. They were "darkness", but now are of the "light" (5:8). Christ is light of the world (Jn 9:5) and was the Word of light (Jn 1:1-5). They should "Look carefully how you walk" (5:15) because darkness is all around (5:16). You do it by "understanding the will of the Lord" (5:17).


A good literal translation of Eph 5:13 is provided by the BLB:

But everything being exposed by the light is made visible, for everything becoming visible is light.

The only (slightly) tricky word is the verb ἐλέγχω (elegcho) which is highlighted above. According to BDB, the meaning of this word in Eph 5:13 is:

to scrutinize or examine carefully, bring to light, expose, eg, John 3:20, Eph 5:11, 13, Titus 2:15.

(For other shades of meaning see BDAG for details.)

Thus, Paul appears to be saying that the best way to expose evil is to expose it to the light of truth.

Some the OP's translations appear to be very free and somewhat interpretive.

Note that in this verse, Paul is using "light" as a metaphor for information and truth. That is, what is visible is known by being exposed to the light. Conversely, what can be seen/understood adds to knowledge by providing more information/truth.

Thus, the two halves of the verse are uttering the same truth in different ways using a rhetorical flourish.

  • I edited my question to add another area of Interest Commented Jan 24, 2023 at 11:03
  • By BLB do you mean blueletterbible.org This has many translations, but not its own translation.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Jan 24, 2023 at 11:09
  • 1
    @PerryWebb - BLB = Berean Literal Bible as per biblehub.com/ephesians/5-13.htm
    – Dottard
    Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 10:02

However, by the manifestation of the light all these things are censured and also discriminated against by the manifestation of the same light. Ephesians 5:13 A personal interpretation of the version: LTT, Literal Bible of the Traditional Text is a rigorously literal and accurate translation of the Traditional Text (TT) into Portuguese

I understand that Ephesians 5:13 alludes to the same concept described in John 3:20-21 and 1 Timothy 5:20

For everyone who does evil hates the light and does not approach the light, lest his deeds be exposed. But he that doeth the truth cometh to the light, that in like manner his works wrought in God may be manifested. John 3:20-21: A personal interpretation of the version: Interlinear Greek Spanish from the Nestle-Aland Master Text 27 A literal word-for-word translation into Spanish GALEED 2009 -RCB

As for those who live in the practice of sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that others, likewise, are filled with fear. 1 Timothy 5:20 A personal interpretation of the version: An achievement of the Bible Society Ibero American from Brazil and Abba Press Editora. King James Bible Updated (KJA) The KJV Update Project.

  • What version did you quote Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 7:26

A bit of meditation on the power of God's word to illuminate truth clarifies the subtle nuances of the different wording of Eph 5:13. The key seems to be the word "all". Also a reading of the context surrounding vs 13 in any translation, shows that this discussion is pointing to the clarity of the truth of God's word being able to assist a follower of Christ to discern between unfruitful habits that originate in the hearts of the unenlightened, and exposes the enmity between the fruitage of "the light" and of "the darkness" encouraging Christians to, as vs 11,12 KJV tell us, "11 have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. 12 For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret." Please note the wording of Heb 4:12 as noted in The New International version, " For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing of soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account" So each person has free will to choose their course of conduct, but God has given all humans access to, as 2 Tim 1:13 ASV says, a ".....pattern of sound words which thou hast heard from me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus." which by adopting as our own standard of conduct enlightens our path that leads to eternal life.


The difference is the consequence of interpreting the participle φανερουμενον "being made manifest" as either passive or middle (middle: themselves make manifest). The word form is passive, but sometimes passive form also covers the middle. Majority of versions are taking it passive: made manifest, illuminated. WEB and NHEB: treats it as active, as in whatever reveals others is light. KJV seemingly middle. I think the word light is simply used as a simplified adjective bright G5460 φωτεινός photeinos meaning full of light. Cf Luke 11:34 when your eye is good, your whole body is also full of light; but when it is bad, your body also is full of darkness. The word should be treated as passive.

So, the meaning in most translations should be: which has beeen made manifested, is light, as it brightens others as a lamp acting as light. BSB has put it nicely for everything that is illuminated becomes a light itself.

Word Studies Vincent comments:

Whatsoever doth make manifest is light [παν το φανερουμενον φως εστιν] Wrong. The A. V. renders doth make manifest, as in the middle voice, but the verb is in the passive voice. It occurs nearly fifty times in the New Testament, and never as middle. Hence, RV., correctly, everything that is made manifest.


13.] but (opposition to τὰ κρυφῆ γιν.) all things (not only, all the κρυφῆ γινόμενα, as Ellic. after Jer. al.: the Apostle is treating of the general detecting power of light, as is evident by the resumption of the πᾶν in the next clause) being reproved, are made manifest by the light: for every thing which is made manifest is light (the meaning being, ‘the light of your Christian life, which will be by your reproof shed upon these deeds of darkness, will bring them out of the category of darkness into light’ (ἐπειδὰν φανερωθῇ, γίνεται φῶς, Chr.). They themselves were thus once darkness,’ but having been ‘reproved’ by God’s Spirit, had become ‘light in the Lord.’ There is in reality no difficulty, nor any occasion for a long note here. The only matters to be insisted on are, 1) ὑπὸ τοῦ φωτός belongs to φανεροῦται, not to ἐλεγχόμενα: for it is not the fact of φανεροῦται that he is insisting on, but the fact that if they reproved the works of darkness, these would become no longer works of darkness, but would be ὑπὸ τοῦ φωτὸς φανερούμενα. And 2) φανερούμενον is passive, not middle, in which sense it is never used in N. T.; ‘every thing which is made manifest, is no longer darkness, but light: and thus you will be, not compromised to these works of darkness, but making an inroad upon the territory of darkness with the ὅπλα τοῦ φωτός.’ And thus the context leads on easily and naturally to the next verse. The objection to this (Eadie) that ‘light does not always exercise this transforming influence, for the devil and all the wicked are themselves condemned by the light, without becoming themselves light,’ is null, being founded on misapprehension of the φῶς ἐστιν. Objectively taken, it is universally true: every thing shone upon IS LIGHT. Whether this tend to condemnation or otherwise, depends just on whether the transforming influence takes place. The key-text to this is Joh 3:20, πᾶς γὰρ ὁ φαῦλα πράσσων μισεῖ τὸ φῶς, κ. οὐκ ἔρχεται πρὸς τὸ φῶς, ἵνα μὴ ἐλεγχθῇ τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ,—His works being thus brought into the light,—made light, and he being thus put to shame. Notice also φανερωθῇ in the next verse, which is the desire of him who ποιεῖ τὴν ἀλήθειαν. The E. V. is doubly wrong—1) in ‘all things that are reproved’ (π. τὰ ἐλεγχόμενα): 2) in ‘whatsoever doth make manifest is light’ (πᾶν τὸ φανεροῦν): besides that such a proposition has absolutely no meaning in the context. The meaning is discussed at length in Harl., Eadie, who however fall into the error of rendering φανερούμενον active (not middle),—Stier, Ellicott,—and best of all, Meyer)


πᾶν γὰρ τὸ φανερούμενον φῶς ἐστιν. Πᾶν τό. Winer, § 18, 4. The meaning depends greatly on this-whether φανερούμενον be taken in a middle or passive sense. Many prefer the passive sense, which is certainly the prevailing one in the New Testament, and occurs in the previous clause. The exposition of Olshausen, Stier, Ellicott, and Alford is—“whatever is made manifest is light”—“all things illuminated by the light are themselves light.” Well may Olshausen add—“this idea has somewhat strange in it,” for he is compelled to admit “that light does not always exercise this transforming influence, for the devil and all the wicked are reproved by the light, without becoming themselves light.” Alford calls this objection “null,” as being a misapprehension of φῶς ἐστι, but φῶς in his exegesis changes its meaning from the previous verse. This opinion of Olshausen is virtually that of the Greek patristic expositors, who are followed by Peter Lombard. Theophylact says-ἐπειδὰν δὲ φανερωθῇ, γίνεται φῶς. Harless renders, “what has been revealed is no longer a hidden work of darkness: it is light.” The view of Röell, Robinson, and Wilke is not dissimilar. Thus also Ellicott—“becomes light, as of the nature of light.” A dark object suddenly illumined may indeed be said to be all light, because it is surrounded with light, and this is the notion of Bretschneider. But if this be the view, it seems to make the apostle use a tautology, “whatever is revealed, is enlightened;” unless you understand the apostle to say, that by such a process they themselves who were once darkness become light. De Wette's explanation of the same rendering is-without φῶς there is no φανερούμενον, and where there is φανερούμενον there is light. But the apostle doe s not utter such a truism-where everything is manifested there is light. Piscator's hypothesis is equally baseless—“whatever is manifested is light, that is, is manifested by the light.” The passive meaning may be adopted, with the proviso that the apostle does not say whether the light be for conversion or condemnation. But while this view may thus be grammatically defended, still we feel as if the context led us to take the last clause as a reason of the statement contained in the first. Thus, some prefer, with Beza, Calvin, Vatablus, Grotius, Rollock, Zanchius, Morus, Wahl, Turner, and the Peschito, to give the participle a reflexive or medial signification. Meyer affirms that φανεροῦμαι is always passive, but the passive may have a medial signification, as it seems to have sometimes in the New Testament. Mar 16:12; Joh 1:31; Joh 9:3; 2Co 4:10-11; Jelf, § 367, 2. Olshausen takes up the exegesis of Grotius, which is also that of Bodius and Dickson—“for the light is the element that makes all clear,” and then argues grammatically against such a rendering. But according to the accurate position of subject and predicate, the meaning is—“whatever makes manifest or renders apparent, is light.” Such manifestation is the nature and function of light. These clandestine sins, when reproved, are disclosed by the light so cast upon them, for it belongs to light to make such disclosures. The apostle urges his readers to reprove such sins, which, though done in secret, will and must be exposed; yea, all of them being reproved, are shone upon by the light-that light which radiates from Christianity. And this power of unveiling in Christianity is properly called “light,” for whatever causes such things to disclose themselves is of the essence of light. Such is a natural and simple view of the verse. See Lücke-Commentar, Joh 3:21, vol. i. p. 550, 3rd ed.

  • 1
    Great. Now add to this, what will be the meaning of the phrase in it's passive sense. And I will accept your answer Commented Feb 5, 2023 at 20:51

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